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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Right to reprimand

Q: In the past week, China and Israel have issued sharp rebukes to President Obama and his approach to issues relating to trade and West Bank settlements. As a world leader facing political challenges at home, is this the right moment for Obama to show toughness and resolve and risk escalating the confrontations or to demonstrate patience and diplomacy in trying to defuse them?

The United States has very different relationships with these two nations. Our ties to Israel date back to its founding more than 60 years ago. We support Israel economically, militarily, politically, and culturally. We've worked hard to try to bring the Mideast closer to peace. The U.S. and the Israel share a deep and longstanding connection. Our relationship with China is not nearly so intimate; it revolves primarily around economic matters. It's more like a business relationship with a recent acquaintance than a close alliance with an old friend.

So, just as you might expect more of an old friend, we expect certain things from Israel. Given our commitment over many decades to that nation and its leaders, we are within our rights to expect that they would engage and consult with us before making major decisions about issues such as the settlements. The Obama administration is understandably angry that a settlement plan was announced while our vice president was visiting. Friends don't blindside their friends that way, especially a friend as loyal as the U.S. has been to Israel.

No doubt Israel, China, and other nations base some of their actions on the political climate in the United States, particularly as it relates to the successes or struggles of the sitting president. But this is a short-sighted approach. For the next three years, Barack Obama is going to be president of the United States, which means he will be the most important political leader in the world. It's unwise to alienate him at any juncture, even if he is perceived as being in trouble politically. It's especially unwise, and unfair, for Israel to take such an approach, given how often the U.S. has come to that nation's aid.

Even in the face of rebukes from foreign leaders, the president should never stop engaging in diplomatic outreach. But at the same time, he must not be afraid to demonstrate toughness when it's called for. The administration has already signaled its displeasure with Israel, and that's the correct thing to do. The message should be that we will always stand by our allies, but we will definitely let them know when their behavior falls short of what we expect from friends to whom we've always been dedicated.

By Yash Gupta

 |  March 16, 2010; 11:57 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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If you travel back 60 years for a holocost guilt trip to base a shared connection. Why not travel back to this week, 42 years ago, and the My Lai massacre and form a shared connection?

Posted by: whocares666 | March 17, 2010 12:00 AM
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I've wondered what could possibly been the reason for such a vitriolic, unneccesary response by both Biden and Clinton over a planning -landuse decision that was basically made a few years ago by our only real ally in ther middle east. Surely, they must have know that, as in the past, the palestinians would sieze upon the opportunity to foment rioting to put pressure on the Israeli government at the start of preliminary peace discussions. It appears to me that either these 2 are total incompetants in foreign relations,or there was some other motive behind their rapid, coordinated attacks that seemingly doomed any chance at successful peace talks. The only answer I could come up with is that they( and Obama) saw this as an opportunity to put so much pressure on Israel that it would not unilaterally attack Iran over their nuclear program(since the US approach using sanctions has clearly failed). What Clinton has done is to take away the only viable means of stopping Iran. The US, including Obama, doesn't seem to have the gonads to do anything to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Far easier to threaten a nation of 8 million. Think how much Hillary can castigate Israel when Iran threatens it with Hbombs! The nerve... insulting the Iranians!We could be seeing the seeds of WW III unfold.

Posted by: diogenes4 | March 16, 2010 11:49 PM
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This is REALLY simple.
US aid, no settlements.
Settlements, no US aid.
Let Israel make the choice.
Simple.

Posted by: jeffc6578 | March 16, 2010 11:44 PM
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As difficult as it might be, the feelings about Israel's misdeeds in this instance ought to be separated from the way the relationship has been conducted for many years. It's a textbook dysfunctional marriage.

When Hilary came out reaffirming America's conjugal love for Israel today, I really thought the US government had gone nuts. And blowhard Liebermann even referred to it as a family quarrel. Is there any sanity in the American gov't vis-a-vis the ruling clique in Israel?

Even if they were our best buddies in every possible way (sort of like Britain acts for the most part), our government usually doesn't lose its mind. Must they affirm their love of Israel every week, lest the beloved get the huff? Give me a break.

Posted by: Matthew_DC | March 16, 2010 11:14 PM
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Israel got away with so much in the past that they no longer know where to stop.

Posted by: abhab1 | March 16, 2010 10:47 PM
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The chickens are coming home to roost. Obama is echoing the words of his mentor, Rev. Wright. He really was paying attention to the sermons he heard in Chicago.

Every traditional ally we had when Obama took office has been treated rudely. He has a job to do. He must protect Iran.

Posted by: alance | March 16, 2010 10:00 PM
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Who is kidding whom? "He who pays the piper calls the tune." The whole world knows Israel cannot continue annexing land without American support and money.

The last time the U.S.asserted its power was when George H.W. Bush tried to withheld $10 billion in loan guarantees to prevent building new settlements.

Posted by: BabeintheWoods | March 16, 2010 9:35 PM
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Bite the hand that feeds. Is this what Israel is doing to USA? US has been a staunch supporter of Israel which is living in the midst of countries not that friendly towards it. They need to learn to live among the hostile countries by giving into something even if it is against the principle of the Jewish state. There is no gain without sacrifice. Now, it feels like a country of nearly 8 million is holding the nether parts of the most powerful and richest nation of 300 million which has stood behind it right from its founding.

Posted by: drsparrow | March 16, 2010 8:49 PM
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hypocrites. The palestinians honor a terrorist by naming the town square in Ramallah after him during Biden's visit, and not a peep from anyone, including the Post, Tom Friedman, Billary or anybody else. Always Israel the Bad Guy, Israel Concessions, give me a break.

Posted by: SoTired | March 16, 2010 8:49 PM
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As time goes on all the people in the region who carry bags from their own terrible history will age and die. Then, when the young will only learn about what happened from history books, we will have a new dialog borne out of economic and social necessities. Only then, assuming also that the religious leaders of the time will allow secular issues to dominate, will we have peace in the Middle East. Every effort today for a real peace in that region is futile and more people will die every day. That is the result of blind nationalism pursued by elderly people on all sides.

Posted by: HarGru | March 16, 2010 8:37 PM
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Either Jerusalem is on the table or it is not. If it is, any Jewish building in East Jerusalem is a provocation which must be stopped. If it is not, then there is no sense wasting everyone's time on so-called peace talks because there will be no two state solution without a division of Jerusalem and a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. We should just then proceed to the one state solution and start working on ending apartheid. The interests of the US should come first to US leaders, not the interests of Israel. The present Israeli position endangers the lives of Americans, especially our brave people in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan. We cannot allow Israel to needlessly cost American lives.

Posted by: jklfairwin | March 16, 2010 7:59 PM
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Cut off all funding and military support / aid indefinitely until all settlement construction is stopped,

and Israel's borders return to pre '67 locations.

Posted by: daveque | March 16, 2010 7:57 PM
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"in foreign policy, the administration has made one misstep after another"

This same administration has won the Nobel Prize. If anything, it has been too soft on Israel just like the Bush regime.

Posted by: lefty71 | March 16, 2010 7:55 PM
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Come on, big deal. One way or another Israel could make the announcement either a day before or a day after. And Biden should not take it this personally, instead he should shut up and help Israel.

Obama does not appear willing enough to support the Jewish cause and this may cost him dearly. There are mid-term elections coming. It is best to leave Israel take care of its own affairs.

We may be friends, but our patience is running out. Give us a break.

Posted by: skata3 | March 16, 2010 7:51 PM
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It is truly strange that so much energy has been spent over the topic of 1,600 apartments (not buildings) that were previously approved for construction in a part of Jerusalem that would become part of Israel in any conceivable peace settlement.
What seems more at issue here is the timing of the announcement during Vice President Biden's visit, which was, at the very least embarrassing to the United States (and should be to Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu).
Of course, the announcement was made by an Israeli cabinet member who is not in Netanyahu's party, and could have been made to intentionally embarrass the prime minister AND the vice president.
However, it is unfortunate and strange that that Biden then issued a statement to "condemn" the announcement, followed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's even more inflammatory comments.
I have been s strong supporter of President Obama in most of his endeavors, especially to ensure guaranteed health insurance for all. But in foreign policy, the administration has made one misstep after another. It is particularly disillusioning to recall its tepid response to Iran's military crackdown after the stolen election last year -- a demonstration of a far greater threat to world peace than anything ever done by democratic Israel. It took weeks for our president to confront the reality that Ahmendinijad had rebuffed Obama's misplaced hope in negotiations.
Likewise with China, whose prime minister personally embarrassed not the vice president, but President Obama himself, who had to crash a meeting at the climate summit in order to have an audience with the Chinese leader.
Yes, the Israeli snub was an affront, but the U.S. faces real international threats. Obama only weakens the U.S. by magnifying a spat with an ally while appearing to ignore the house burning all around it.

Posted by: mgordon1 | March 16, 2010 6:25 PM
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MAGNIFCO1000 seems to believe war is a video game, conducted with 100% accuracy. If this were true, the US would not be killing dozens of Afghan and Pakistani civilians every other day, with what are in effect video game operated drones, from the comfort and safety of an air conditioned facility in Arizona.

Compare that to urban warfare where your enemy dresses like civilians, including dressing like women, and uses children as human shields. It would have been far easier for the Israeli to have relied solely on artillery, as the US did in the second battle of Fallujah in 2004, when we killed 25,000-35,000 civilians by indiscriminate artillery fire, on our way to racking up untolds hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, when the Iraqis had not attack us even once (contrast with 6400 rockets fired at Israeli civilians by Palestinians).

In short, MAGNIFCO1000 presents a very one sided argument, which overlooks this central fact - no country in history has shown the consideration for civilians Israel has shown during times of conflict - certainly not the US or its allies. Israel was forced into the conflict by Palestinian actions, and it met a standard no other country in the world meets.

MAGNIFCO1000 wrote:

"Israel's actions, her illegal settlements, killing of Palestinian women and children, many human rights violations, all continue unabated. Meanwhile U.S. military aid continues to flow into Israel."

Posted by: yowcow | March 16, 2010 6:11 PM
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Heddwyn brings two events up as though they were fact. The first fact is the attack on the USS Liberty was a tragic accident, as NSA documents prove. Israel had been assured by UN Ambassador Goldberg and CENTCOM that there were no US ships within hundreds of miles of the conflict zone. Morevoer, Israeli pilots had been in the air for 72 hours straight, and the previous day had bombed their own armored column by mistake. 10% of our casualties in Vietnam, over 50,000 deaths, were by friendly fire. War is messy, and accidents (like Pat Tillman's embarassaing death) happen all the time.

As for the reference to Rachel Corrie, there are intelligent ways to protest, and dangerous stupid way. Standing in front of an armored bulldozer, where the operator has an obstructed view, does not qualify as an intelligent, productive protest. What it does qualify as is an impressionable young woman who flirted with danger and ended up getting herself killed.

HEDDWYN wrote:

As to the idea that no US soldier has died in Israel, technically this is true, but that does not account for the the deaths of almost 3 dozen sailors and over 100 wounded aboard the USS Liberty in the mid 1960s. Nor does Manorzvi mention the death of a young US female who was part of a peace group protesting Israel's treatment of the Palestinians that was crushed underneath the tracks of a Israeli bulldozer

Posted by: yowcow | March 16, 2010 6:02 PM
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Seeing Israel's behavior, America should have second thoughts about opposing Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. What's to stop Israeli expansion even into Jordan or her reclaiming the Sinai? Already, Israel is making many people in Egypt very nervous. All the Arab nations around Israel are concerned about this nuclear, military state. The state of Israel.

Posted by: magnifco1000 | March 16, 2010 5:42 PM
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Rlgrennie, if you seriously believe that this announcement was a sheer coincidence, I have a bridge to sell you. Stop insulting our intelligence -- this was a calculated insult to the US by the Israeli leadership. Netanyahu deserved a beat-down for this slap to our faces, and I'm delighted that our President had the courage to administer it.

Posted by: jerkhoff | March 16, 2010 5:33 PM
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I certainly agree with Dr. Gupta's overall premise that a tougher stance should be taken with Israel regarding human rights. While the people of Palestine are certainly not without plenty of guilt themselves, forcibly evicting farmers and villagers from their land to build illegal Israeli settlements blatently violates international agreements, and clearly deserves to receive a backlash from the U.S.

Oppressor nations such as Israel and China only understand a firm and clearly stated foreign policy - and that policy must include human rights. Any other course of action threatens to show the U.S. as standing with the villians, not the victims.

Posted by: transorbital | March 16, 2010 5:32 PM
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Israel's actions, her illegal settlements, killing of Palestinian women and children, many human rights violations, all continue unabated. Meanwhile U.S. military aid continues to flow into Israel. Now, Israel, with her nuclear arsenal, is threatening Iran. Already, thousands of American soldiers have died for Israel. The thousands of Americans killed on the battlefields of Iraq. A war fought by America for Israel's benefit. How long must this travesty continue? And now we all know why they hate us (the Arabs)!

Posted by: magnifco1000 | March 16, 2010 5:31 PM
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I am trying like mad to figure out how WaPo couldn't find a real expert on foreign relations to answer such a complex question instead of a business school dean. Is every known foreign affairs wonk on vacation? If someone other than a business school educator knew what goes on here, that would be suprising. Be that as it may, Dean Gupta's assertions about the relationship between Israel and the U.S. is not altogether an economic one. He makes comments that are not correct from a historical point of view, including that the U.S. has "come to Israel's aid". The opposite has more often than not been the case. The "aid" he refers to came at Israel's declaration of statehood in 1948 when the U.S. supporeted it in the U.N. vote. They did nothing else to "support" the young nation. When Israel acquired weapons to defend herself in 1948, these came from Israeli ingenuity and a few European nations, not the U.S. Israel is still a sovereign nation and has the right and duty to protect her citizens, make policy and enact laws that protect its citizens. The announcement concerning the building in east Jerusalem came after months of meetings, planning commissions, etc. Its' timing was unfortunate and coincidental but not deliberate as the Prime Minister had nothing to do with it; nor does he have a way to manage or handle things done by his Cabinet members when they come from different political parties as the Interior Ministry who made the announcement, does. Perhaps it would behoove the dean to recall that Israel is not just the U.S.'s largest trading partner, outside China, the region is a critical strategic ally and has been ever since before independence. The only difference is that China does not export technological, medical and biotechnical material goods to the U.S. and Israel does.

Posted by: rlgrennie1 | March 16, 2010 5:25 PM
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As to the idea that no US soldier has died in Israel, technically this is true, but that does not account for the the deaths of almost 3 dozen sailors and over 100 wounded aboard the USS Liberty in the mid 1960s. Nor does Manorzvi mention the death of a young US female who was part of a peace group protesting Israel's treatment of the Palestinians that was crushed underneath the tracks of a Israeli bulldozer.

Posted by: HeddWyn | March 16, 2010 5:07 PM
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Culturally is the "only" field you got more from Israel than the other way.
Economically ??? there is not a single USA soldier that fell in action in Israel.
Israel is the ONLY country in the M.East that has never turned around his back to the USA !!!
Mr. Hussein B. Obama is incapable or unwilling to deal with the real threat:IRAN and he is diverting the attention to other issues.We believed that he will learn,and now we have to pay his tuition !!!
Why he is not so brave with Chavez,Ahmedinijad,and Turkeys leadership???
G"D bless America and free us from a lousy US administration !!!

Posted by: manorzvi | March 16, 2010 2:14 PM
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We need to get tougher on trade with China, we have to play and FORCE others to play fair. Of course that measn we will have to drop a bunch of farm supports, but that will save 30-50 billion a year in destructive waste so its all good.

Israel went far, too far in spitting in the face of our VP, Congress should cut Israel's support by 10-30% in response until they remember who is supporting who. If they do not stop ALL BUILDING in the West Bank, then cut the whole support package.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | March 16, 2010 12:18 PM
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