A very interesting thing has happened in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and hostile moves in the eastern Ukraine — he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are suddenly buddies. Israel even abstained from the UN vote that condemned Russia’s recent military actions. This poses a real problem for American neo-cons who are demanding strong action against Putin.
But there may be something even juicier beneath even that. Neither Sullivan nor Larison mentions this explicitly, but it would seem that this tilt of Israel toward Russia puts American neoconservatives in an uncomfortable position. Neoconservatives have treated Russia’s bid to become a stronger regional power as a direct threat to a U.S.-led world order and the possible reintroduction of fascism into Europe.
For some neoconservatives, Benjamin Netanyahu is the totem of “moral clarity” on the international scene. And yet, these same writers will say that Obama is being played for a fool over Crimea. If Obama is a fool for not opposing Putin strongly enough, what does that make of Bibi’s moral clarity? Bill Kristol worries that Obama is placating Russia, and has said that Obama’s“weakness” has invited Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine. What has Israel’s silence done? When Kristol says that America should be making Putin’s friends pay a price, surely he doesn’t mean Israel.
In fact the magazine Kristol edits never even mentioned Israel’s non-vote.
Andrew Sullivan picks up that thread:
Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine if France or Britain or Germany had abstained in the UN vote on the annexation of Crimea, and robbed the US of international support. Do you think Bill Kristol would not have mentioned it? Of course not. We’d be reading the umpteenth Weekly Standard piece on the feckless appeasers and ninnies of Old Europe. But when Israel does the same thing … crickets. Or even, in fact, lionization of Netanyahu as a strong figure on the world stage – compared, of course, with president Obama. After a while you notice something about this faction: when they are engaged on obvious inconsistency, Israel – not America – is almost always the reason why. And they will always, in that instance and that instance alone, blame America first.
Ah, the tangled webs they are forced to weave when they’re being inconsistent.