Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kerry Cancelled Israel Trip Due to Hagel Confirmation Delay

Although he had previously said that he would visit Israel on his first foreign trip as Secretary of State, John Kerry's office now announced that he will bypassing Israel. Instead he will visiting Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi on this trip and will possibly come to Israel when President Obama comes at the end of March. The administration seems unconcerned that they will be once again criticized for visiting Israel's neighbors and not Israel.

The official reason for the delay is that Israel has not formally formed a new government after the election. This may be a fig leaf. There is no doubt that current Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu will head the next Israeli government with HaTnua leader Tzipi Livni joining the government this weekend.

According to staffers in Defense Secretary Ehud Barak's bureau, the real reason for the postponement is the logjam on Capital Hill over the Chuck Hagel confirmation as Secretary of Defense. 

"The American Secretary of Defense is more important to Israel than the Secretary of State. The Iron Dome is more essential to the survival of Israel than fruitless negotiations with the Palestinian Authority," said one staffer. "Both sides want to talk about the next round of defense purchases."

Republicans have alleged the damage caused by the delay in the eventual Hagel confirmation is minimal. The Kerry postponement proves that this is not true. Their political games are having real world consequences and could affect Israel, one of America's most important allies. 

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