Biden part II: Rolling back the drama


Some of the most damning reports emerging from last week’s Biden-in-Israel flap were, not surprisingly, anonymously sourced:

* Vice President Joe Biden said American troops lives are put at risk when Israel humiliates the United States, as it did with the surprise announcement of a building start in eastern Jerusalem during his visit;

* Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, said this was the worst crisis in 35 years.

These reports have entered the crisis’ lexicon, have been quoted countless times (including by us, albeit with a careful "reportedly"), have even fueled the crisis itself; first out of the Jewish communal box with a Biden slam was the ADL, after all, quoting his dire predictions as originally quoted by Yediot Achronot in an anonymosly sourced  report. (It appeared in Hebrew in the print edition, but Laura Rozen at Politico got a translation.)

Now we’re entering the "not so fast" stage of the "crisis": Biden (via Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff) and Oren are both saying they were misquoted.

ABC’s Jake Tapper, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and Politico’s Jonathan Allen each have the goods from the White House. Tapper and Allen got a readout of a phonecall Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had with Emanuel, who denied the account. Goldberg gets the most detailed explainer, from a "senior administration official":

The assertion I read in the newspaper suggested that the Vice President said something to the effect that Israeli actions are endangering American soldiers. He never said that, and there’s no basis to assert that he did. It’s nothing he said and I don’t know how it was inferred.

What he did say in a meeting with the prime minister and his senior advisers and his own team was that the U.S. is doing a number of things in our national security interest, and in Israel’s national security interest, and they include a strong effort to build a coalition against Iran’s nuclear program; deploying 200,000 troops in conflict areas in the region; standing against efforts to delegitimize Israel in various international bodies, sometimes virtually alone; acting decisively against terrorists in very significant ways; and building probably the strongest defense cooperation relationship with Israel that we’ve seen, including on missile defense. And he said that the extent to which Israel aggressively pursues peace makes these efforts easier.

The report about Oren originated in Ha’aretz. The ambassador allegedly made the comparison to the Ford administration’s "reassessment" threat in a conference call with Israeli diplomats on Saturday night.

Except now, Oren, in an email to reporters is flat out denying it:

I was flagrantly misquoted about remarks I made in a confidential briefing this past Saturday. Recent events do not — I repeat — do not represent the lowest point in the relations between Israel and the United States. Though we differ on certain issues, our discussions are being conducted in an atmosphere of cooperation as befitting long-standing relations between allies. I am confident that we will overcome these differences shortly.

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