Leaks to WSJ highlight deteriorating US-Israel relationship

posted at 9:21 am on August 14, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

What are we to conclude from this lengthy analysis from the Wall Street Journal about the fight over Israeli munition purchases from the US and cooperation on policy? On the surface, Adam Entous’ report focuses on the supposed outrage over Israel bypassing the White House to buy much-needed replacements for mortar and tank shells, but it also shows that the relationship between the two governments — at least in regard to the executive branch in the US — has hit its lowest ebb in memory. And it might also be the result of a hostile White House trying to lash out at the Israelis for rebuking them over John Kerry’s cease-fire maneuvering, too.

First, the White House expressed alarm and outrage over Israel’s resupply of munitions that happened without their approval:

White House and State Department officials who were leading U.S. efforts to rein in Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval.

Since then the Obama administration has tightened its control on arms transfers to Israel. But Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —and that both sides know it. …

Unknown to many policy makers, Israel was moving on separate tracks to replenish supplies of lethal munitions being used in Gaza and to expedite approval of the Iron Dome funds on Capitol Hill.

On July 20, Israel’s defense ministry asked the U.S. military for a range of munitions, including 120-mm mortar shells and 40-mm illuminating rounds, which were already kept stored at a pre-positioned weapons stockpile in Israel.

The request was approved through military channels three days later but not made public. Under the terms of the deal, the Israelis used U.S. financing to pay for $3 million in tank rounds. No presidential approval or signoff by the secretary of state was required or sought, according to officials.

A U.S. defense official said the standard review process was properly followed.

If the standard review process was followed, then why was the White House “caught off guard”? Isn’t it incumbent on the Obama administration to know how the sale and transfer process works?  Israel had conducted a ground war — much to the chagrin of Obama and his “policymakers” — for a few weeks. Why wouldn’t anyone have expected Israel to replenish its supplies? Surely there are a few people who may have at least watched Patton if not studied Clausewitz in this administration. Resupply is a basic function for any army at war.

Surprise in this case springs from willful ignorance, as Jeff Dunetz notes. On Morning Joe today, Jim Miklaszewski told Joe Scarborough that the stockpiles in Israel are routinely tapped for resupply, and that the Pentagon knew all about it at the time — even discussing it openly with the press when the transfer occurred. Miklaszewski scoffed at the notion that the White House would have been caught off-guard about it unless they wanted some plausible deniability:

Miklaszewski: When this issue arose people at the Pentagon were discussing it openly because at the time it was considered a pro forma exchange. These weapons, primarily munitions actually are forward located in a stockpile in Israel that are under the control of the U.S. government so that in an emergency, if the Israeli government needs munitions in a hurry, it’s there.

Scarborough: but, Jim, doesn’t the Commander in Chief need to define what an emergency is and what an emergency is not doing? I mean, I’m surprised that somebody at the Pentagon, in a situation this political, you and I both know that the more stars are on a general’s shoulders, the more political they are, the more politically astute most of them are. I’m stunned they wouldn’t pick up the phone saying, hey, we got this request from Israel.

Miklaszewski: I don’t know that it happened that way but officials here [the Pentagon] at the time, described it as a prearranged pro forma exchange between the U.S. and Israel in terms of providing them ammunition. And I can tell you when we asked questions about it here at the time, there was nobody that was attempting to side step the issue, doing the tap dance. They said, oh, yeah, we did it, blah, blah, and here it is. So I can’t tell you if, in fact, there was anybody here at the Pentagon that was trying to undercut the State Department or the White House. And quite frankly, with the iron hand in which the White House rules this building, they don’t sneeze here without waiting for the White House to say gezuntheit. That is not far from the truth. For a minute I can’t believe personally that people here at the Pentagon were trying to purposely hide this transfer of munitions or undercut the White House.

So this leak from the White House about the Israelis sneaking around them is simply nonsense. Time’s Joe Klein wonders aloud why the Obama administration wants to make a stink about this now. “What it really calls into question,” Klein says, “is why the White House is so ticked off about this now.”

Let’s go back to the WSJ for an answer to that question:

Now, as Egyptian officials shuttle between representatives of Israel and Hamas seeking a long-term deal to end the fighting, U.S. officials are bystanders instead of in their historic role as mediators. The White House finds itself largely on the outside looking in.

U.S. officials said Mr. Obama had a particularly combative phone call on Wednesday with Mr. Netanyahu, who they say has pushed the administration aside but wants it to provide Israel with security assurances in exchange for signing onto a long-term deal.

The answer is simple, and easy to deconstruct by reverse-engineering this petulant leak to Entous. Israel (and probably Egypt too) has marginalized John Kerry after the Secretary of State attempted to legitimize Hamas by attempting to negotiate through Qatar and Turkey. That leaves Barack Obama out in the cold, but still making demands on Israel to be flexible in the final truce settlement. Netanyahu wants Obama to make concessions in exchange for that flexibility. That has angered Obama, who finds himself all but impotent in the matter — which is why we have this big leak about the deteriorating relations between Washington and Jerusalem.

The issue of munition resupply is simply a contrivance at this point. The White House wants to erode Israel’s influence on Congress to break out of its no-win position of the moment, but expressing outrage over their own incompetence at keeping up with routine transfers in a system designed to provide them won’t make Obama and his team look any more sympathetic. It just makes them look more incompetent, and gives Congress more reason to bypass the White House themselves as much as they can to keep the partnership with Israel going until Obama leaves office.


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Putin, Assad, et al, have already demonstrated that there is no downside to standing up to Obama. In any conflict, Obama folds faster than a cheap lawn chair.

Tom Servo on August 14, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Well, that’s one way to tweak Obama on his power grabs.

David Marcoe on August 14, 2014 at 9:31 AM

The WH expressed surprise because it may not be politically correct on the world scale to be seen as helping Israelis. The UK has already warned that it would cut any resupply if they attacked HamasGaza again. It may not be easy peasy the next time Bibi asks for more rockets.

Kissmygrits on August 14, 2014 at 9:34 AM

Leadership qualities are something you have or not. Nobody can give them to you. Obama is ignored for a reason.

crankyoldlady on August 14, 2014 at 9:34 AM

As usual this administration’s “outrage” is entirely self-serving and will not last past a news cycle. They just need to convince their insane voting base that Obama isn’t responsible for re-arming Israel. They couldn’t care less if the rest of the planet doesn’t believe them.

Mord on August 14, 2014 at 9:40 AM

If the standard review process was followed, then why was the White House “caught off guard”? Isn’t it incumbent on the Obama administration to know how the sale and transfer process works?

Ed, sometimes you just crack me up!

The “Administration” that complains about all the red tape (which it loves to generate by the way), and doesn’t have a clue about what shovel ready projects means, and thinks that Cash for Clunkers is a real economic program, that the Stimulus was actually going to create a job, that it could close Gitmo in a day with an executive order. Doesn’t have the first clue what the IRS is doing. Is clueless about the state of the VA hospital sysytem. Didn’t know that HealthCare.gov was an epic fail the day before the website launch, that still can’t tell you how many “enrollees” have actually paid their first premium…

I could go on for ever.

parke on August 14, 2014 at 9:41 AM

As usual this administration’s “outrage” is entirely self-serving and will not last past a news cycle. They just need to convince their insane voting base that Obama isn’t responsible for re-arming Israel. They couldn’t care less if the rest of the planet doesn’t believe them.

Mord on August 14, 2014 at 9:40 AM

100 points

rob verdi on August 14, 2014 at 9:41 AM

Surely there are a few people who may have at least watched Patton if not studied Clausewitz in this administration.

You aren’t serious, right? It is entirely possible that NO ONE in this administration knows who Clauswitz IS, let alone has read him. As for seeing Patton, what self-respecting modern leftist would do that?

Whitewolf7070 on August 14, 2014 at 9:42 AM

Netanyahu wants Obama to make concessions in exchange for that flexibility. That has angered Obama, who finds himself all but impotent in the matter

Nobody paints Barry into a corner! He does that all by himself.

Happy Nomad on August 14, 2014 at 9:43 AM

Love Netanyahu’s face in that photo. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Syzygy on August 14, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Obama was caught off-guard because he spends most of his time golfing and whatnot. No, I’m not making a gratuitous jab at Obama; he literally spends more time slacking off than doing his job.

Fenris on August 14, 2014 at 9:47 AM

You aren’t serious, right? It is entirely possible that NO ONE in this administration knows who Clauswitz IS, let alone has read him. As for seeing Patton, what self-respecting modern leftist would do that?

Whitewolf7070 on August 14, 2014 at 9:42 AM

As far as this administration is concerned,

Clauswitz is the fat guy who comes down the chimney on DEC 24th.

Sun Tzu is an awesome Chinese dish.

And Von Moltke is a line of furniture at IKEA.

Happy Nomad on August 14, 2014 at 9:55 AM

Anytime you don’t fall down on the floor and kiss his feet, Obama is offended.

RBMN on August 14, 2014 at 9:55 AM

Nobody is madder about this than Valerie Jarrett. Her puppet is being ignored after all she has done for him!! Good!

Deano1952 on August 14, 2014 at 10:01 AM

After SIX YEARS, the WHITE HOUSE DOESN”T know how arms sales WORK?

originalpechanga on August 14, 2014 at 10:02 AM

That has angered Obama, who finds himself all but impotent in the matter — which is why we have this big leak about the deteriorating relations between Washington and Jerusalem.

This is the upside of Obama’s obvious weakness and helplessness on the foreign policy stage. Our ability to pressure states like Russia and China is declining, but so too is our ability to harass “good actors” like Israel.

Though hopefully Israel is working out some means to supply its military locally. They’re obviously at risk of losing the US as fanatic anti-Semites on the left gain more and more power.

Doomberg on August 14, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Love it when Israel gives Obama the Eastwood “Empty Chair” treatment. So deserving of it.

TXUS on August 14, 2014 at 10:04 AM

I thought it Obama’s policy to “lead from behind”.

Now it appears we have a “behind” trying to lead.

PriscillaMS on August 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM

If the standard review process was followed, then why was the White House “caught off guard”?

Because they’re covering their asses with their “base”.

GarandFan on August 14, 2014 at 10:17 AM

obama and his comrades supported the muslim brotherhood and helped oust mubarak.

hamas is an offshoot of the MB.

so it is reasonable and understandable if not laudable that israel and egypt now have no desire to work with an ally of their enemy.

reliapundit on August 14, 2014 at 10:19 AM

Israel won’t talk with Hamas, Iran thinks nuclear talks with the US are a waste, Russia won’t talk with Ukraine, ISIS doesn’t get along with anybody. I guess it’s war, then.

/Obama won’t talk to the Republican House either

/Lightworker tells you: the Republicans stole my batteries

LashRambo on August 14, 2014 at 10:38 AM

What a bunch of bullshit from this WH. Why should our best ally have to call the president to get resupplied with ammunition during a war?

There is only one reason, and that is so Obama can potentially deny our best ally ammunition to save lives during a war.

And Scarborough shows his hate of Israel clearly by defining the resupply of ammunition to our best ally in the middle of war as “political”

This states they learn about everything from the press…but as you can see and as anyone that works with them knows, everything in this WH is political and controlled by the WH

georgealbert on August 14, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Maybe in 2016 Hillary can use her Reset Button with Israel.

Herb on August 14, 2014 at 10:39 AM

It just makes them look more incompetent

The White House and the rest of the Executive Branch has openly announced their incompetence multiple times on numerous topics (Obamacare, NSA, VA, etc.). It’s completely obvious that “INCOMPETENCE”, “LYING” and “HYPOCRISY are viewed as standard operating procedure by this White House.

pilsener on August 14, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Obama was caught off guard because low level US DOD personnel and low level Israeli personnel did a routine weapons transfer that Obama doesn’t want to happen.

Obama did campaign on using the power of government to punish his enemies, and that would be anyone who doesn’t do what Obama wants done, so it follows that Israel won’t be getting any more logistics support from the Obama administration.

Obama is upset because a: low level DOD personnel didn’t take his hints seriously, b: this makes Obama look bad, c: Obama isn’t a friend of Israel.

Joseph OHenry on August 14, 2014 at 10:47 AM

All of that being said, it begs the question: Why has Congress been silent on this? Since the Gaza War began (OK, before), even Jewish representatives have had sealed lips with only a few exceptions. Pro-Israel speeches made, have been made largely to a local constituency. So what is going on behind the curtains with our Congressional leaders who did finance the Iron Dome? As long as Congressional leaders remain wholly silent, Obama manipulates his own position and plays his petty games with Netanyahu, personal in too many ways — Obama’s dumb pro-terrorist, anti-Israel political positions notwithstanding. And Israel gets caught in the political crossfire of our current, fractious American politics to the world’s detriment. Congress should circumvent the president, immediately and finance any and all munitions that the Israelis need.

Halli Casser-Jayne, host of The Halli Casser-Jayne Show http://www.hallicasser-jayne.com

The CJ Political Report on August 14, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Congressmen on both sides of the aisle absolutely will not accept this White House bait and switch. It takes a special kind of stupid to make national security and foreign policy in this administration. They seem to assume that not only will everyone believe their wish-fantasies (that would not convince an eight-year old of normal intelligence), but also that by the snap of the fingers everyone at the Pentagon, in the Knesset, on Capitol Hill will instantly forget all the history they’ve experienced and all the treaties, laws and regulations they know. The White House seems not to realize that everything that might be imagined in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been fought over, considered and reconsidered, and negotiated in excruciating detail, for the last seventy years, and that the Mideast cannot be remade, without destroying the trust and confidence that barely exists among the parties.

Esaus Message on August 14, 2014 at 11:19 AM

What is not deteriorating under this Oaf in Chief, except ISIS?

Schadenfreude on August 14, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Fine analysis, Ed. Good job.

We can expect further immature outbursts and preposterous posing from the man child as reality intrudes on his delusions as he grows increasingly frustrated and anxious.

Articles like this and the many good people in the commentariat are why I hang around here.

novaculus on August 14, 2014 at 12:48 PM

You wanted to lead from behind and now you are mad about leading from behind? What a petulant little man. Doesn’t anyone know how to play this game?

oprockwell on August 14, 2014 at 1:25 PM

Israel won’t talk with Hamas, Iran thinks nuclear talks with the US are a waste, …

LashRambo on August 14, 2014 at 10:38 AM

nope. Iran LOVES nuclear talks with the US. they longer they talk, the more the centrifuges spin, and spin, and spin …

and still nothing of substance is agreed to.

except for a Really Firm decision on the shape of the next discussion table.

spin, spin, spin …

WaldoTJ on August 14, 2014 at 1:41 PM

If Obama is all eaten up with politics, I don’t think allowing Israel to fall will be a good move.

Cindy Munford on August 14, 2014 at 1:50 PM

What a bunch of bullshit from this WH. Why should our best ally have to call the president to get resupplied with ammunition during a war?

georgealbert on August 14, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Our “best ally” has attacked a US Navy ship, has resold our weapons to our enemies, has ignored conditions we set on arms sales, and has generally made our lives hell.

Why should they get one bullet from us?

Tlaloc on August 14, 2014 at 3:33 PM

If Obama is all eaten up with politics, I don’t think allowing Israel to fall will be a good move.

Cindy Munford on August 14, 2014 at 1:50 PM

If we stop enabling Israel’s butchery they might just actually have to negotiate in good faith for once. So long as we keep backing their genocide they have no reason to actually seek a real peace.

That said a half century of butchery means a real peace is going to be hard to get at any price. Most likely Israel has dug it’s own grave, it’s just a matter of when they fill it. The goal then should be to make sure as few innocent Israelis as possible die in the process. Bibi and the rest of the war criminals, on the other hand, are welcome to what they’ve sown…

Tlaloc on August 14, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Obama has done everything possible to keep Israel at arms length while pretending he’s not, cannot fathom why he would be in the slightest surprised that Bebe is done with him.
Maybe he actually believes everyone is as gullible as his followers.

Tard on August 14, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Tlaloc on August 14, 2014 at 3:33 PM
Tlaloc on August 14, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Hope Obama resupplies all those bombs you’re throwing there… if you drop a few more you might get a reply. Maybe.

ChicagoJewishGuy on August 14, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Tlaloc on August 14, 2014 at 3:33 PM
Tlaloc on August 14, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Hope Obama resupplies all those bombs you’re throwing there… if you drop a few more you might get a reply. Maybe.

ChicagoJewishGuy on August 14, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Let’s send a pizza to the IDF under the name ‘Tlaloc’.

slickwillie2001 on August 14, 2014 at 4:22 PM

But Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…

It also seems to point up how little influence the White House has with the Pentagon.

jbspry on August 14, 2014 at 6:09 PM