Some American friends of Israel argue gamely that Israel is a strategic asset to the superpower, a doughty democracy that provides intelligence, high technology, storage for American weapons and so forth. But that was an easier argument to make during the cold war. More recently, the benefits have been eclipsed by the costs. These range from the billions American taxpayers give Israel and Egypt to underwrite the 1979 peace, to all the resentment America’s Muslim allies harbour towards the superpower for being soft on the oppressor of the Palestinians. Its help to Israel may not be al-Qaeda’s main grievance against America, but in the war on terror this past decade Israel has surely been more of a liability than an asset in the contest for hearts and minds.

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