When Barack Obama visited Israel in March, he made a speech in Jerusalem – virtuosic in parts and cloying in others – meant to endear him to an Israeli public which felt it neither knew nor trusted him much.
Atem lo levad (“You are not alone”), the US president intoned in American-accented Hebrew, channelling the same spirit of solidarity that John F. Kennedy invoked when he declared “Ich bin ein Berliner” in blockaded West Berlin in 1963.
Israelis are now recalling Mr Obama’s speech ruefully after his decision to refer any military action against Syria to Congress. Asked afterwards about how the decision made them feel, many offered up this word: “alone”.
Their worry is not that Israel is being left alone to cope with Syria, whose war Israel’s government and most of its people want no direct part in.
The fear – and it is a big one – is about the message America’s perceived wavering on Syria sends to its bigger and much more powerful ally: Iran.
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