Posted by on March 07, 2014 in Blog

Last week, POLITICO Magazine took a stab at highlighting the United States’ “25 most awkward allies.” The list included countries like “drone anytime you like” Pakistan and Vietnam, the fastest growing major trade partner with the United States. The list also included a total of eight Arab countries. POLITICO notes in the introduction of their piece that they put together “a damning, revelatory collection of reports on the following pages about the ‘imperfect choices’ the United States has made.” After reading their list, we have to be honest – this article wasn’t exactly POLITICO’s best work. Their analysis was rather shallow (not something you expect from a respected outlet) and their list contained one glaring omission. So, because we know POLITICO can do better, we have decided to help them out and add a 26th awkward ally. Written as such, we hope it is obvious that an article like this cannot accurately capture the intricacies of the bilateral relationships between allies. But frankly, the omission of this particular ally was in itself, well, awkward.

26. Israel

An indisputable U.S. ally, Israel has had its fair share of awkward moments with the United States. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a constant source of trouble for the Obama administration. In a hot-mic incident, the president himself confided in an also frustrated Nicolas Sarkozy, “You’re tired of [Netanyahu]…what about me? I have to deal with him every day!”

Finding out how Obama and Sarkozy really feel about Benjamin Netanyahu: awkward.

Israel also has a history of discriminating against American citizens. Even the U.S. State Department warns that some Americans traveling to Israel, including those of Arab descent, may be denied entry or detained without a reason. Talk about awkward. Good thing the Israelis aren’t pushing to be included in the U.S. Visa-Waiver Program because that level of audacity would be really awkward. Oh wait, they are. But luckily, since U.S. officials recognize that Israel does have a troubling track record of detaining, harassing, and deporting American citizens without just cause at its borders, Israel remains effectively barred from the Visa Waiver Program.

When your closest ally in the entire world discriminates against your citizens and as a result, they don’t fit the requirements of your Visa Waiver Program: awkward.

Unfortunately for Israel, this type of discrimination does not only apply to visitors. African asylum seekers are protesting in Tel Aviv against an Israeli law that gives authorities the power to hold them indefinitely, which puts African immigrants under intense pressure to leave Israel voluntarily. The law, which could violate the 1951 Refugee Convention, institutionalizes another form of discrimination. At the beginning of its article, POLITICO quotes the president’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, who said, "Let's be honest. At times… we do business with governments that do not respect the rights we hold most dear."

So, when you’re not only doing business with a government that discriminates against people of a certain background but you have an “unshakable bond” with them: awkward.

See what’s happening here, POLITICO?

But, wait there’s more! Israel continues to be an occupying country with millions of Palestinians forcibly living under harsh conditions. Last week’s Amnesty International report, aptly titled “Trigger- Happy,” documents Israel’s excessive use of force in the West Bank. The report shed light on deaths of 45 Palestinians and wounding of thousands “who did not appear to be posing a direct and immediate threat to life.” This is nothing new – Palestinians have long been economically stifled through the Gaza blockade and Israel has not carried out independent investigations on its violent actions that meet international standards.

When your best and closest ally is outed by an internationally renowned NGO for shooting unarmed civilians: awkward.

We’re not sure if we’re making our case clear enough, so here is one we really think will resonate with the editors at POLITICO: Remember during the 2012 presidential campaign when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly supported Mitt Romney for president over President Obama? Well, Romney lost.

When the leader of Israel, the U.S’s best friend in the entire world, unequivocally supports a candidate trying to unseat a sitting president and then that candidate loses: Yea, that’s not awkward at all. 

Perhaps the most telling indicator of how awkward our relationship with Israel is has to do with the peace process. Israel continually undermines the Obama administration’s goal to create a viable framework for peace. It doubled settlement construction last year even as the Obama administration continues to iterate that settlements impede the peace process. In June of last year, on the eve of John Kerry’s fifth visit to Israel, new settlements were announced. Since that apparently didn’t go over well, in January of this year, Israel decided not to announce more settlements ahead of another Kerry visit, but wait until after he left. Let’s also not forget Netanyahu’s public rebuke of president Obama’s 2011 speech in which the president called on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders in a peace agreement. In a strongly worded speech following the president’s remarks, Netanyahu said Israel's 1967 borders would be ”indefensible.”

Israel publicly dissing the President and Secretary of State multiple times to their face: awkward!

We could go on for quite a while but we think we’ve made our point. It’s not like everything we’ve listed here isn’t public knowledge, and some of it has actually been reported by POLITICO itself. So that’s why, even after all that we wrote, we still can’t figure out what is more awkward: the United States’ obviously awkward relationship with Israel, or the awkwardly obvious fact that Israel was left off POLITICO’s silly list.

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