No, the U.S. Won’t Impose Sanctions on Israel

The U.S. is not going to impose sanctions on Israel.

You would not believe the nonsense I get in my inbox. The question I ask myself is whether I should write about it, thus giving it a modicum of credence and potentially spreading the rumor further, or whether to ignore it, letting the misinformation stand uncorrected. But since we are going to see a lot of nonsense between now and Israel’s upcoming elections, let us see what we can learn.


The Israeli city Beitar Illit in Judea (the West Bank).

One of the best ways to discredit a prime minister in Israel is to suggest that he is mismanaging the U.S.-Israel relationship. Consequently, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s left-wing opponents have a tremendous incentive to circulate rumors about tensions between him and President Obama. Those rumors then get picked up in the U.S., where right-wing opponents of Obama take the same rumors, gin them up a bit, and try to discredit Obama with them.

And now to the current “controversy”: Ha’aretz reporter Barak Ravid, a vocal critic of West Bank settlements and of Netanyahu, wrote on December 4 that:

Senior Israeli officials said that White House officials held a classified discussion a few weeks ago about the possibility of taking active measures against the settlements.

Unnamed senior Israeli officials — we have no idea who, how credible they are, or what axes they had to grind — said that White House officials — we have no idea who or how serious their discussions were — talked a few weeks ago about the possibility — not the certainty, not the likelihood, but the possibility — of taking active measures — we have no idea what those measures might possibly be — against the settlements.

That is it. It has been “a few weeks” since those alleged discussions and no “active measures” have been taken. This is a non-story if it ever was one, and my initial reaction when I read the Ha’aretz story was the same as when I have read many other stories since 2008 about the administration being about to turn on Israel: “Just wait and see.” And we have been waiting since 2008.

Then, however, the reporter for the right-wing Washington Free Beacon who previously (and incorrectly) told us that Rep. Brad Schneider was plotting to decrease sanctions on Iran ginned up the Ha’aretz story by saying that the White House was “considering imposing sanctions on Israel,” even though the Ha’aretz story — which was the source of his story — never used the word “sanctions.”

Then, in a feat of linguistic legerdemain almost worthy of admiration, the Free Beacon compared the sanctions supposedly under consideration against Israel (“sanctions” in this case meaning any action against settlements) to the sanctions imposed against Iran (“sanctions” in that case meaning economic restrictions).

The Free Beacon, as is its custom, also quoted unnamed “aides” and “senior officials” with unnamed pro-Israel organizations for more criticism of the administration.

Of course, when the administration was asked about these allegations, the administration did not dignify them with comment, which only added fuel to the fire. No administration would comment on internal, speculative discussions because most rational observers know that even unlikely courses of action are discussed and analyzed, and to comment on them would only create greater confusion and uncertainty.

When I was in high school I was an editor for the school paper. We sometimes joked about how maybe we should ask one teacher what color she thought the hall should be painted, ask another teacher the same question, and if we got different answers, write a story about the heated controversy. But even in high school we knew that we should not do that.

By pulling this idea of “sanctions” against Israel out of thin air, demanding that the administration answer, and then pretending to be shocked that the administration would not dignify the question with an answer, that is exactly what the administration’s right-wing critics are doing.

Sure enough, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) issued a statement containing a link to the Free Beacon article critical of the administration. This kind of pandering and posturing (Kirk is not the only one, but they are all Republicans) is an insult to the intelligence of the pro-Israel community.

If this administration imposes sanctions on Israel, let us talk. Until then, just press “Delete” when you receive speculative emails about evils the administration is planning against Israel. They have not amounted to anything since 2008, and we have no reason to believe that they will now.

Please continue to forward such articles to me, but also let me know if I am wasting my time and yours responding to it: Do you think anyone who does not already irrationally hate Obama believes this anyway?

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