In Israel, Obama finds new way to not pick a favorite ally

I’ve written before about the linguistic contortions U.S. leaders go through to express the depths of their bonds with close allies — be it Australia, Britain, Canada, or Japan — without elevating any one country above the others. There’s the "the United States has no stronger ally than ____" model, which places the referenced nation ...

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

I've written before about the linguistic contortions U.S. leaders go through to express the depths of their bonds with close allies -- be it Australia, Britain, Canada, or Japan -- without elevating any one country above the others. There's the "the United States has no stronger ally than ____" model, which places the referenced nation in a good-natured tie for first place with several other special relationships, and the "one of our strongest allies" approach. On Wednesday, Obama took a particularly ingenious tack upon arriving in Israel. Before characterizing the alliance between the two countries as "unbreakable" and "eternal," he declared:

Today, the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the ages -- to be "masters of their own fate" in "their own sovereign state."  And just as we have for these past 65 years, the United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.

See what he did there? Change "your" to "our" and a host of furious no-stronger-allies would be knocking on Washington's door. But, as Obama's speechwriters are well aware, it's probably fair to say that Israel received a visit from its closest partner today.

I’ve written before about the linguistic contortions U.S. leaders go through to express the depths of their bonds with close allies — be it Australia, Britain, Canada, or Japan — without elevating any one country above the others. There’s the "the United States has no stronger ally than ____" model, which places the referenced nation in a good-natured tie for first place with several other special relationships, and the "one of our strongest allies" approach. On Wednesday, Obama took a particularly ingenious tack upon arriving in Israel. Before characterizing the alliance between the two countries as "unbreakable" and "eternal," he declared:

Today, the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the ages — to be "masters of their own fate" in "their own sovereign state."  And just as we have for these past 65 years, the United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.

See what he did there? Change "your" to "our" and a host of furious no-stronger-allies would be knocking on Washington’s door. But, as Obama’s speechwriters are well aware, it’s probably fair to say that Israel received a visit from its closest partner today.

Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland. Twitter: @UriLF

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