According to Haaretz, Gen. Martin Dempsey, U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made some helpful and conciliatory comments toward Israel. The nation’s top military officer lauded Israel for going to “extraordinary lengths” to avoid civilian casualties during the latest round of fighting with the Palestinians.
Dempsey’s comments come after unknown figures within the Obama administration blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “chickensh*t” and a coward. Relations between the U.S. and its ally, already shaky, were made shakier by those comments, and by the administration’s refusal to investigate who made the comments and reprimand them.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked to react to Dempsey’s diplomatic comments during today’s press conference, by the AP’s Matt Lee. Psaki had the choice of agreeing with Gen. Dempsey, refusing to offer an opinion, or disagreeing with him — the latter, carrying the possibility of opening up another argument with Israel.
Psaki chose the latter.
Lee asked Psaki to comment on whether the Obama administration believes that the Israelis lived up to their own “high standards” on civilian casualties.
Psaki undiplomatically replied, “It remains the broad view of this administration that they could’ve done more. And they shouldv’e taken feasible precautions to prevent more civilian casualties.”
Psaki’s comment here sets the United States up for criticism on the question of civilian casualties should we get more deeply involved on the ground fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. She has also singled out Israel for criticism that is ultimately unfair and impossible to satisfy. One can always “do more” to avoid civilian casualties, but the Israelis are fighting Hamas, which goes out of its way to increase civilian casualties and use them for propaganda.