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February 16, 2016 6:16 pm

Wall Street Journal Columnist Says Israel ‘Diversifying Partnerships,’ Joining Sunni States in ‘Disenchanted With America’ Alliance

avatar by Ruthie Blum

Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens. Photo: Twitter.

Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens. Photo: Twitter.

The United States “not being itself” is what’s new in the Middle East, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens.

Stephens, the Journal’s deputy editorial page editor and a former Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief, was describing his recent trip to Israel, where he “spent the better part of a week talking to senior officials, journalists, intellectuals and politicians from across Israel’s political spectrum.”

And though, he said (in his Feb. 15 piece titled “Israel Looks Beyond America”) his conversations about the downward spiral in relations with America were off the record, “[T]he consistent theme is that, while the Jewish state still needs the U.S., especially in the form of military aid, it also needs to diversify its strategic partnerships.”

Stephens pointed to a new wave of high-level Israeli meetings with Arab and other world leaders as an illustration of what he was told and sensed while in the Holy Land:

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On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon publicly shook hands with former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal at the Munich Security Conference. In January, Israeli cabinet member Yuval Steinitz made a trip to Abu Dhabi, where Israel is opening an office at a renewable-energy association. Turkey is patching up ties with Israel. In June, Jerusalem and Riyadh went public with the strategic talks between them. In March, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi told the Washington Post that he speaks to Mr. Netanyahu “a lot.”

What struck Stephens about this shift was different from the more common response in Israel and abroad about the unlikely bedfellows that Israel and former enemy states made. Rather, he wrote, “This de facto Sunni-Jewish alliance amounts to what might be called the coalition of the disenchanted; states that have lost faith in America’s promises.”

The loss of America’s global standing is but one reason that Stephens has been consistently critical of the Obama administration since its inception. Others abound, such as its constantly being wrong where its predictions in relation to Israel and the Middle East are concerned, according to Stephens.

Stephens concluded: “More than one Israeli official I spoke with recalled that the country managed to survive the years before 1967 without America’s strategic backing, and if necessary it could do so again. Nations that must survive typically do. The more important question is how much credibility the U.S. can afford to squander before the loss becomes irrecoverable.”

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