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Translating Obama, and Netanyahu

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President Obama, having dared an unusual show of strength, declined yesterday to reproach Israel for any fault beyond a local violation of decorum. Instead, in his customary manner, he took one step back, one deep breath, and declared:

"Israel’s security is sacrosanct."

The dictionary definition of sacrosanct is "most sacred and holy."

Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, takes up the cue in a New York Times Op-Ed today. As, in a personal letter, the motive for writing often appears in a PS, so in an op-ed by a government official the motive often shows in a single paragraph near the end:

"Though Israel will always ultimately rely on the courage of its own defense
forces, America’s commitment to Israel’s security is essential to give Israelis the confidence to take risks for peace. Similarly, American-Israeli cooperation is vital to meeting the direst challenge facing both countries and the entire world: denying nuclear weapons to Iran."

By the rules of ambassadorial encryption, this paragraph must be read backward. Translation of the second sentence:

"Maybe another way will be found, but we doubt it."

Translation of the first sentence:

"Now that the U.S. has given us the planes, the weapons, and the supplementary intelligence to support an Israeli air attack on Iran, why not come all the way and give us permission to bomb? The risk is ours, but it always is. We do what you Americans would do if you had the courage."

David Bromwich

David Bromwich's latest book is "American Breakdown: The Trump Years and How They Befell Us." He teaches literature at Yale and is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and has written on politics and culture for The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, and other magazines. He is editor of Edmund Burke's selected writings On Empire, Liberty, and Reform and co-editor of the Yale University Press edition of On Liberty.

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