Israel is under attack by the terrorist group Hamas. Hundreds of rockets have fallen on its cities and towns. Millions of Israelis run, and must pull their children, into shelters each day.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has discussed this with French president Hollande and with German chancellor Merkel.
But not with President Obama, who has not seen fit to call Netanyahu or take a call from him. This is quite amazing behavior for an ally. I am aware as all readers are that the two men have a difficult relationship, but that is no justification. If the president has time this week to fund-raise, he has time to call the leader of an ally under attack.
I am sure such a call will happen sooner or later, perhaps over the weekend. But the damage has been done: Israel is under attack, and the president of the United States cannot bring himself to call its prime minister. Israelis are unlikely to forget this, nor should Americans. Our alliance system cannot function when we treat allies in this manner. Once again, every vulnerable ally from Riyadh to Taipei to Seoul to Manila to Kiev will wonder how reliable an ally we are, at least under the present leadership we have.
UPDATE: British prime minister Cameron has also spoken with Netanyahu. Obama is alone in his failure to do so.
SECOND UPDATE: half a day after I published this post, President Obama spoke with prime minister Netanyahu. After Hollande, after Merkel, after Cameron, after Harper, and perhaps others. Once upon a time we would have been first, just as Harry Truman was first to recognize Israel’s independence in 1948. I am glad the two leaders spoke, but cannot escape the view that the White House acted more to escape criticism than to express solidarity.