FPI / February 15, 2021
There are at least 42 ways to say “yes” in English. Biden’s White House press secretary chose none of them. That’s because the answer was “no.”
“Does the administration still consider the Saudis and the Israelis important allies?”
The question was simple enough, but at last Friday’s press briefing, Jen Psaki couldn’t get the appropriate one-syllable answer to form on her lips, which is incredible, because even if you plan to shaft Israel at every turn, you still say, “Of course it is!” Then you throw out the well-worn cliches like, “unbreakable,” “unshakeable,” and “special relationship.”
Psaki did none of that, so she gets credit for being honest, if turgidly so. She said, instead:
“Well, you know, again, I think we — there are ongoing processes and internal interagency processes — one that we, I think, confirmed an interagency meeting just last week — to discuss a range of issues in the Middle East. We’re — we’ve only been here three and a half weeks, and I think I’m going to let those policy processes see themselves through before we give, kind of, a complete laydown of what our national security approaches will be to a range of issues.”
She didn’t even circle back.
Deciding whether Israel is an ally is now part of “internal interagency processes.” Is that State Department-ese for being put through the ringer? We imagine a grinding machine full of gears in which words like “unbreakable” and “unshakeable” are inserted and come out as “brittle,” “frail,” and “coming apart at the seams.”
Maybe she didn’t want to preempt President Joe Biden when he finally talks to Prime Minister Netanyahu to give him the definitive “No.”
“Hello, Bibi, this is Joe. The answer’s no.”
Most of the press focused on that earlier question at the press conference about when Biden will call Netanyahu, and the revelation that “I can assure you that will be soon” and he’s “looking forward to having the conversation.”
Israel will probably be thrilled once he does. “Hurray, he called!”
Netanyahu, who needs to maintain the impression that he is tight with the U.S. in order not to give his political opponents ammunition that the “special relationship” has eroded under his watch, will say, “It was an unbreakably, unshakeably special call.”
Regarding the call, or lack thereof, Psaki repeated, “We’ve only been here three and a half weeks,” during which time they had little opportunity to do anything except install two anti-Israel activists to key positions at the White House, pull the terrorist designation from the Iran-backed Houthis, signal their intention to rejoin the 2015 nuclear accord, restart aid to the Palestinians, open the PLO’s D.C. office, establish a consulate in Jerusalem to act as an informal embassy to the Palestinians, and suggest that Israel’s hold on the Golan is not quite legal.
You know what, maybe it’s better if they don’t call.
FPI, Free Press International News Service