Tuesday, March 16, 2010

'Worst US-Israel crisis in 30 years': A self-fulfilling prophecy?

So who is really to blame for the depth of the current crisis between Israel and America?

I received an original and smart answer today from none other than Rabbi Avraham Pinter, principal of Yesodei Hatorah school in Stamford Hill.

He suggested that at least part of the blame must be shouldered by the Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren.

Oren was quoted as telling Israeli consuls general on a conference call that the crisis was the worst breakdown in US-Israeli relations since 1975, when Kissinger and Rabin fought over an American demand for a partial withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula.

The line was, in typical and 100 per cent predictable fashion, leaked to the media - and has been widely quoted, used in headlines across the world over the past few days.

But in a sense - his argument goes - Oren's characterisation of the spat made it into the mammoth crisis it is today, rather than reflected a reality. By bigging it up, Oren essentially 'made it so'; once the words were out there (or rather, out here, there and everywhere) that's how everyone began to relate to the crisis - as the largest in 30 years - whether he was right or not.

It seems to me there is an element of truth here. Not that the crisis would have disappeared without Oren - this was a biggie either way - but his words do seem to have defined this moment in an entirely unhelpful way, making it harder for everyone to play things down. When all this is done and dusted, this week will still be remembered as 'the worst crisis in 30 years', even if that is (imho) a vast exaggeration.

Did Oren say it deliberately, in order to stir things up? Rabbi Pinter suggested there must have been some kind of trouble-making agenda. I doubt it, particularly as he was talking to Israel's own diplomatic staff. But it was certainly a silly thing to say and I bet he regrets it now.

And there you have it; the political view from the other Hill.

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