Vice President Joe Biden's "reassurance mission" to Israel spiraled into disaster when Israel announced it would allow the growth of settlements in East Jerusalem against U.S. wishes. Some high-profile American pundits had previously urged President Obama to disengage from the Israel-Palestine conflict or even to distance himself from Israel. Now relations are as strained as they've been "in two decades." President Obama is reportedly "outraged" and has put sharp demands on Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. CENTCOM chief General David Petraeus has expressed concern that America's ties to Israel are undermining its broader Middle East missions. Is the U.S.-Israel relationship, one of the world's strongest East-West partnerships, falling apart? What can be done to salvage it?

  • 'Watershed' For U.S.-Israel  The New York Times' Roger Cohen calls this a "watershed moment" because it has made the settlements not just an Israel-Palestine issue but an Israel-U.S. issue. Continuing settlements is "an affront" to America and Israel must cease settlement growth if it wants to maintain the favor of its most important partner and patron. (Cohen points out the U.S. has been "pouring $28.9 billion into Israel" this past decade.)
  • U.S. Must Call for Israeli Official Replacements  Foreign Policy's David Makovsky says the alliance is far too important to both sides to let fray. But by shifting the blame to a single official, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai (who does bear significant responsibility), both save face while making real progress on the settlements. "Replacing Yishai would send a message in the Israeli political world that U.S.-Israel relations are more important than domestic politics." It would also improve Israeli policy on the settlements.
  • Don't Blow Up Alliance Over This  RealClearWorld's Robert Satloff urges Obama to look at the big pictures and not make demands that Israel can't meet. "The key for a great power is to know the difference between thinking big and thinking small. The vice president's mission to Israel was an expression of the former. Even accounting for the Israelis' grievous blunder that marred Biden's visit, it is important for the administration not to let itself be diverted from this path."
  • MidEast Concerns Trump Settlements  National Review's Joel Rosenberg downplays the incident, insisting Israel has every right to grow settlements and that Obama is "dramatically overreacting" and "making an enormous and dangerous mistake" that "will lead to another major war, not to peace." The mutual reliance between the U.S. and Israel over Middle East security concerns should trump the settlement issue, anyway. "This is not how a superpower should treat its most faithful ally in a dangerous region."
  • Actually, Settlements Are MidEast Problem  Spencer Ackerman argues that Israel's settlements actually undermine the U.S. in the Middle East because we are blamed for not standing up to Israel. He cites General Petraeus' request to put Israel under CENTCOM (instead of EUCOM) authority as evidence that Petraeus sees Israel's settlements as part of the broader Middle East picture.