Last week I slapped up a post arguing that even though Jewish groups support action against Syria, it would be a mistake to suggest that they are out front on this issue.
Well, on Monday Israeli newspapers reported that President Obama had asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to lobby Congress. And now The New York Times has a report on Israel’s concerns that it will get blamed for U.S. involvement in another Middle East conflict — especially with AIPAC hitting Capitol Hill on Tuesday to press lawmakers to back the president’s call for a strike on Syria.
But while those reports could not be confirmed, the intense push by Aipac and other Jewish and pro-Israel groups put Israel in a bind, after a week of trying to stay on the sidelines of the debate. Mr. Netanyahu’s government strongly supports an American strike to punish President Bashar al-Assad of Syria for his apparent use of chemical weapons, and as a warning to his Iranian patrons. But Israelis are deeply worried about being blamed by a wary American public for another military gambit in the Middle East, or of losing their broad bipartisan support if they land on the wrong side of the vote.
“It is a major dilemma, what Israel should do on the Hill,” a senior Israeli official said Monday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of a dictate from Mr. Netanyahu not to discuss the Syria situation publicly. “We don’t want to be identified with pressing for a strike. This is not for us — we don’t want anybody to think this is for us,” the official said. “But if the president asks us for assistance, who are we to refuse?”
If Israel and Jewish groups are worrying about appearances though, someone might want to have a chat with Alon Pinkas, Israel’s former consul general in New York. In case you missed it, check out his front-page quote in the Times last week:
“This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If your quote seems like something The Onion would quote you as saying, then hold that thought.