WASHINGTON — Some topics are so inflammatory that they are never discussed without first inserting a number of caveats. And so, when Anthony Cordesman, a foreign policy dignitary in this town’s think tank circuit, dropped an article on Wednesday headlined “Israel as a Strategic Liability,” he made sure to open with a plethora of qualifications.
First, he noted, America’s commitment to Israel is motivated by morality and ethics — a reaction to the Holocaust, to Western anti-Semitism and to American foot-dragging before and during World War II that left European Jews slaughtered by the Nazis. Second, Israel is a democracy with the same values as the United States. Third, the United States will never abandon Israel, and will help it keep its military edge over its neighbors. And America will guard Israel against an Iranian nuclear threat.
But once Mr. Cordesman had dispensed with what in the newspaper world is called the “to-be-sure” paragraphs, he laid out a dispassionate argument that has gained increased traction in Washington — both inside the Obama administration (including the Pentagon, White House and State Department) and outside, during forums, policy breakfasts, even a seder in Bethesda. Recent Israeli governments, particularly the one led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Cordesman argued, have ignored the national security concerns of its biggest benefactor, the United States, and instead have taken steps that damage American interests abroad.