WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is watching warily as relations among allies Israel, Egypt and Turkey deteriorate, threatening Mideast stability and U.S. goals for the region.
The simultaneous trouble between the Jewish state and two Muslim nations that have been a security and diplomatic bulwark for Israel comes as the Palestinians prepare to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations this month. The U.N. action, which the United States has fought without success, is likely to further complicate peace efforts, leave Israel even more isolated and force the Obama administration into the uncomfortable position of appearing to side with Israel over other allies and partners.
A flurry of weekend phone calls among President Barack Obama, his top national security aides and their Israeli, Egyptian and regional counterparts over Friday's assault on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo underscored U.S. concerns about developments. The attack could have jeopardized the Egyptian-Israeli peace deal, which has been a bedrock of Mideast stability for three decades. Along with the Egypt-Israel concerns, U.S. officials worry about recent tough talk from Turkey about the slide in its relations with Israel.
Obama personally reassured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of U.S. support in a Friday phone call as Egyptian protesters sacked Israel's embassy. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke twice to Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammed Amr to remind him of Egypt's obligation to protect diplomatic property and personnel as well as to emphasize the importance the United States places on Egyptian-Israeli peace.
The State Department said the administration was "gratified" by statements from both Israeli and Egyptian officials seeking to ease tensions. But officials left no doubt as to the seriousness of the matter, particularly given the already precarious nature of Israel's relationship with Turkey and the impending Palestinian bid at the United Nations.
The administration has threatened to veto a Palestinian statehood resolution at the U.N. Security Council but it cannot kill the move in the larger General Assembly, where passage is all but assured. Approval of Palestinian statehood by the General Assembly would be largely symbolic, but it would validate the Palestinian argument that it must go ahead on its own rather than wait for Israel to strike a deal over borders and other issues that have held up statehood for years. Israel and the United States maintain that Palestinian statehood is their goal but that it must be reached through negotiation.