Why U.S.-Israel ties just got warmer
November 28th, 2012
01:59 PM ET

Why U.S.-Israel ties just got warmer

By Jonathan Schanzer, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jonathan Schanzer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. He tweets at @JSchanzer. The views expressed are his own.

The latest round in an endless cycle of violence between Israel and Gaza has culminated in a surprising win for the US- Israel relationship: an apparent renewal of vows between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

It’s surprising because the relationship appeared to be at its nadir. It was just a few months ago that editorial pages charged Netanyahu with meddling in U.S. politics, angling for a Mitt Romney victory over President Obama. With Obama having soundly thumped Romney at the ballot box, U.S. relations with Israel appeared due for a four-year winter.

But during this recent conflict, Obama showed Israel his unwavering support. He made no call for Israeli restraint. In fact, his administration barely weighed in as the Israelis destroyed hundreds of targets in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

What’s the likely reason for this surprising rapprochement?  Sudan.

On the night of October 23, four Israeli fighter jets reportedly screamed across the skies over Khartoum and bombed the Yarmouk weapons factory, which belongs to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. It didn’t take long to learn that the weapons the Israelis had allegedly targeted – weapons that one Israeli intelligence official describes as “game changers” – were bound for Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Sudan, after all, is a common point of origin for the smuggling routes that carry Iranian weapons up through Egypt, across the Sinai Peninsula, and into Hamas’ labyrinth of underground tunnels.

The alleged raid was one of necessity for the Israelis, but its timing was decidedly inconvenient for Washington – less than two weeks before a presidential election. It also took place on a day when 3,500 U.S. troops were on Israeli soil, participating in a joint military exercise known as “Austere Challenge.”

As in the past, the Israelis denied any knowledge of the attack, and so did the U.S. – although there can be little doubt that senior U.S. officials would have been briefed in advance of the strike. The Yarmouk incident passed with relatively little media coverage. Instead, the U.S. election dominated the airwaves.

Three weeks later, Hamas made the mistake of firing short-range rockets from Gaza into southern Israel. Terrorists in Gaza also fired a guided missile at an Israeli jeep. It is doubtful they could have known what was coming. In the blink of an eye, the Israeli air force deployed fighter jets, helicopters, and drones to attack high-value targets throughout the Gaza Strip. “Operation: Pillar of Defense,” as it was soon named, began in lightning fashion.

More from GPS: Hamas policy threatens permanent war

At first blush, the Israeli response appeared out of character. Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza have fired thousands of rockets at Israel in recent years, but only elicited one full-scale response :Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009. Since then, one rocket attack out of Gaza has earned one or two Israeli missiles in return. Sometimes, the Israelis didn’t even bother to respond at all.

From all appearances, it was alarming intelligence pointing to the existence of Fajrs in Gaza that drove the Israelis to mobilize this time, not a handful of short-range rockets. The Israelis appear to have learned that some of these “game-changer” rockets from the IRGC plant in Yarmouk had made their way into Gaza. This was a red line: The Fajr-5 rockets have powerful payloads and ranges long enough to strike Israel’s largest cities, bringing millions of civilians into the crosshairs.

For Israel, Pillar of Defense was not about killing terrorist masterminds like Ahmed Jabari or blowing up Hamas headquarters. Those were ancillary targets. This round of hostilities was actually a hunting expedition for Fajr-5s.

More from CNN: Israel puts trust in Iron Dome

As Israel’s air force methodically struck these rocket sites, one after the next, Hamas realized it was “use ‘em or lose ‘em.” They began — along with Palestinian Islamic Jihad – firing off their Iran-supplied weapons. But even then, the Fajrs hurtled some 50 miles out of Gaza only to be shot out of the skies over Tel Aviv by Iron Dome, an anti-missile system developed jointly by the U.S. and Israel.

The Israelis claim to have destroyed most if not all of the Fajr-5s – about 100, give or take – in the first few days of fighting. Only then, after Israel had destroyed the bulk of the rockets, did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton make any serious effort to pressure Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy into brokering a ceasefire.

In other words, Operation Pillar of Defense bears unmistakable signs of close coordination between Netanyahu and Obama. And while the White House may not admit it in public, Netanyahu appears to have done everything in his power to ensure that Israeli military operations did not get in the way of Obama’s bid for reelection.

If anything, Netanyahu may have put off striking the Fajr-5s until well after the election, even if it put his own population at risk.

Of course, Obama and Netanyahu may yet come to loggerheads over when and whether to attack Iran’s nuclear sites. Even before that, Obama may demand the Israelis return the favor, either by asking anew for a settlement freeze, or even pushing Netanyahu to forgive PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas’ unilateral theatrics at the United Nations tomorrow.

But, for now, Pillar of Defense has resulted in a surprising new understanding between two leaders who have struggled to find common ground. And that’s a victory for the U.S.-Israel relationship.

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Topics: Iran • Israel • Middle East • Sudan • United States

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soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. robertd188

    Israel, and also the US, won! Hamas lost bitterly. Woo-hoo!

    November 28, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  2. Occupied Uhmerikwa

    What BS. Since when wasn't the U.S. a wholly owned colony of Israel? The cowards in Congress would see the last American starve to death before they would stop sending the tax dollars they steal from us to their bosses in Tel Aviv.

    November 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Reply
    • dancingisraeli

      did i hear dying americans? time to celebrate! lets dance! instead of a lighter in front of the camera we'll hold up sandwhichs while we dance.! uh 1, uh 2 uh 1 2 3...

      November 28, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Reply
      • joe22

        Now for real news: http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=KrM0dAFsZ8k
        Eliminate the spaces in th eurl.

        November 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
      • dancingisraeli

        are you kidding? from fox propaganda central news? we have no clue who those people are, they could be anyone celebrating anything. israel has been killing americans for a long time in false flags from the USS Liberty to 911 to garner support for its wars. let's dance.

        November 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  3. Lencho Pitosauce

    Israel can suck a turd...Throw all that holocaust history in our faces for years and then roll around Palestine acting like the same Nazi's they demand that the world hate for all time...To bad the media wont report the reality of the situation...Like Israel being busted numerous times for spying on the US....Or about the size of Israels lobby group in Washington....Or about the constant boot on the neck tactics it uses against Palestinians on a daily basis...They did however report that Israel used a mathematical formula to feed th Palestinians just enough food in Gaza to keep the situation from becoming a humanitarian issue....Gods chosen people....ppppffffttttt..

    November 28, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Reply
    • joe22

      can you display the mathematical formula here (with references)__________

      November 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Reply
      • Lencho Pitosauce

        A statement given by Israel itself...But i doubt that would change your world view..

        November 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
      • joe22

        @ pita souce. Your first sentence in the origional article does not give me too much confidence in your honesty. Work on that first....

        November 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
      • Lencho Pitosauce

        If it's real for me do I have to prove it to you
        Why do revelations fade to cold blue untruths
        It's oh so relative
        Subservient in total to one's perspective

        November 28, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
      • Lencho Pitosauce

        Israel’s military spokesman Maj. Guy Inbar said the mathematical formula was devised as a safeguard to identify food needs and avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza

        November 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
      • Lencho Pitosauce

        In the food calculation, Israel applied the average daily requirement of 2,279 calories per person, in line with World Health Organisation guidelines

        November 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Paul

      When you are a constant welfare recipient it is only sensible for the provider to only provide what you need as opposed to what you want. If you want more go work for it. 67% of Gazans are on UN welfare. Not having to work for a living gives them more time to foment terrorism.

      December 3, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  4. Ted

    So Israel's 8-day op against Iranian-made missiles which target major cities somehow needs justification?

    November 28, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Reply
    • joe22

      Only in America...

      November 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Reply
  5. rad666

    How does America fund foreign aid if there is not enough taxpayer money for programs in America? Illegal off the books accounting?

    November 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Reply
  6. joe22

    @derk: wiki: During the Second Intifada (2000–2005) Palestinian gunmen used civilians and children as human shields, by surrounding themselves with children while shooting on IDF forces.[10]

    November 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Reply
    • Lencho Pitosauce

      Easy to paint that picture when you dont take into account the fact that the Gaza strip is an open air prison created and maintained by Israel and that those "human shields" you speak of are probably just innocent children caught in aggressive cross fire...Israel takes this aggression to the Palestinians...If a foreign body were to invade your country and you took up arms in defense of it and your kids got shot...God forbid... that invading armies response would probably read very similar to Israels propaganda...

      November 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Reply
      • joe22

        @pitasouce: Your statement "If it's real for me do I have to prove it to you" explains everything that you posted.

        November 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
      • Lencho Pitosauce

        Hey Joe22....Are you a member of the Israeli Public relations Juggernaut???...Or are you just spewing untruths whilst sucking a turd?

        November 28, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  7. TomGI

    The "warming" undoubtedly has something to do with us giving them a big fat check or some military "gifts" they can keep without paying for. Otherwise Obama must have agreed to strike Iran because Israel can't handle it.

    November 28, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Reply
  8. walidad

    islreal is doing to palestinians what nazis did to isreaelis , shame ...

    November 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Reply
    • fritz

      I doubt Israelis are driving around in moblie killing vans rounding up hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to be gassed to death with exhaust fumes. Nor do I think they are stuffing millions of Palestinians into shower stalls by the thousands then dumping poison gas down the hatch. Then sending in other Palestinians into the stalls to pull apart the mountains of naked Palestinian bodies. I also don't believe Israelis are systematically working the remaining Palestinians to death and starving the rest in concentration camps. Compared to what the Jews went through at the hands of the nazis, Palestinians live on a playground.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Reply
    • Paul

      Try thinking about what would happen if you reversed the forces. Give the Israelis a few rockets and rifles and give the Palis all the IDF weapons. The slaughter would be instantaneous and complete. The arab world would rejoice and praise allah, the UN would do nothing but nod their head. Israel could make it a lot worse for the terrorists. Gazans and the rest of the Pali's make their own prisons, wherever they are. Other arabs have also imprisoned the Pali's by keeping them in refugee camps forever, never allowing them to join their country as it doesn't suit their political aims. They were hated by the other arabs from the start. Just think about what would happen if the situation was reversed for Israel.

      December 3, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Reply
  9. deep blue

    So, Jonathan Schanzer's theory for President Obama's lack of criticism of Israel's strike is that Prime Minister Netanyahu did President Obama a political favor by waiting until after the election? If I wanted absurd right wing conspiracy theories, I would read FOX. Seriously.

    November 28, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Reply
  10. ohwell

    Its all understood even if you dont understand

    November 29, 2012 at 2:30 am | Reply
  11. Hate Wins

    If you are setting on a bench on one side of a park eating a sandwich and someone throws a rock "rocket" and hits you. What is your response?
    (1) Laugh and say that’s ok the bleeding will stop soon and walk away.
    (2) Call the police "UN" and make a complaint and find that it was your fault for setting on the wrong bench.
    (3) Throw the rock back along with 2 or 3 more and be told that your response was excessive by the ones who hit you with the first rock.
    (4) Finley stop setting in the park and let those who like to throw rocks can move in and throw rocks at you house.
    Send little boys and girls with bomb vest doing a man's job. Then cry when the men who sent these children are held accountable.
    Don’t you just love the Middle East? Been killing each other for 5000 years and it is always someone else fault.

    November 29, 2012 at 8:34 am | Reply
  12. Esther

    Great analysis that hasn't been published in other media sources yet. Thank you.

    November 29, 2012 at 9:47 am | Reply
  13. Bush Family Are Nazis

    The Bush Family funded the Nazis and murdered JFK using EH Howard as the hit man under the direction of GH Bush. GH Bush is in the hospital. Hope he dies soon.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Reply
    • USN Ret.

      I have seen fools but YOU are a real nut.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Reply
      • Hahahahahahahaha

        Can't handle the truth can you!!!!!!!! hahahahahahahaha

        November 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  14. USN Ret.

    Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria do not want one Palestinian on their soil and have done every thing they can to force them down Israel’s collective throat and keep them in the camps. But at the same time raise hell when anyone wants to send any their way.
    If I was in their place I would be just as mad with my so called Arab brothers.
    Look at Egypt today Christians are being killed in the name of Islam. In how many other countries are people of other religions being killed in the name of Islam? The two major faction of Islam are killing each other.
    I know the two major factions of Christianity have done the same and also for the same reasons (1ST)POLITICAL POWER AND (2ND)RELIGIOUS DOMANCE IN THAT ORDER.
    The difference is with a few minor exception Christianity has settled its differences. But that comes with maturity Christianity is a 1,000 years older and Judaism is 2,000 years older still give or take a couple 100 years than Islam.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
    • Paul

      Properly stated.

      December 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Reply
  15. NWOBAMA

    "apparent renewal of vows between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu" how cute!!! Netanyahu has his hand in Obama's pocket. Israel dosen't wear the pants in this relationship.

    December 3, 2012 at 3:34 am | Reply
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    June 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Reply
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