Last week, the Washington Free Beacon reported that the Obama administration has come to the point of mulling sanctions on Israel if Israel continues to build settlements. “I’m obviously not going to comment one way or another on reported internal deliberations,” a State Department spokeswoman said. “We’ve made clear our position on settlement activity publicly and that hasn’t changed.” Congress would never approve such a thing. So why the rumors? Tikvah faculty and board member Elliott Abrams has a simple hypothesis: The Obama administration is giving a signal to Europe.
The debate is hot and heavy in Europe right now about sanctions, BDS, and recognition of a Palestinian state. There is no way for the administration to intervene in that debate on the anti-Israel side–except these news stories suggesting how angry it is at the government of Israel. That support for Israel in Congress means no such sanctions are possible would not deter the Europeans; in fact it would spur them on to do what they might believe the president would do if he only could get past the “Israel lobby.”
It’s possible that even in Europe the energy behind such moves will diminish now, as Israeli elections near. But news stories about mulling of sanctions in Washington will always give additional ideas and energy to anti-Israel forces. The White House should make it crystal clear that it is considering no such action, was never considering such action, and believes that such sanctions are wrong and harmful.
• America, Israel, and the Middle East
• Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism
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