EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


March 27, 2013

Column: Obama's Israel visit underscores nations' vital ties

“We are you, and you are us.” That is how Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, described his nation’s alliance with the United States while visiting Washington a year ago.

Netanyahu’s verbal bear hug is important to keep in mind regarding President Barack Obama’s Middle East trip this week, which included Israel. For all the disagreements between the two governments, notably regarding Israel’s sustained aggressive establishment of settlements in occupied Arab territories, the ties that bind remain strong, almost always under strain but never severed.

Israel’s leader deserves commendation for expressing friendship as well as reconfirming alliance, and we can hope a similar tone continues to characterize encore interchanges, both short- and long-range.

There is no shortage of grim and disturbing news from the Middle East, but the true picture is mixed with complex colors, not black and white. Iran’s development of nuclear capabilities continues. Nearly three years ago, Israel commandos took over ships from Turkey carrying relief supplies to Gaza. The resulting violence and deaths severely strained the American alliance tie, while upending Israel’s important cooperation with Turkey.

Some pro-Palestinian activists who organized the flotilla were looking for trouble, and Israel’s government unwisely accommodated. Netanyahu compounded the blunder by righteously retorting that his government’s use of force was justified.

Regarding Iran, there are some encouraging signs beneath the scare headlines. Netanyahu estimated it would take Iran roughly a year to manufacture a nuclear weapon, the Associated Press reported, and Obama agreed there was “not a lot of light, a lot of daylight” in the two leaders’ intelligence assessments. Yet United Nations sanctions are hurting. Iran’s currency has effectively collapsed, and serious talks have begun — among the U.S., the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France plus Germany — aimed at restricting nuclear power to peaceful civilian uses.

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