In a slightly adapted version of a very old joke, experts on the elephant gathered for an international conference. The Italian delegate read a paper entitled “Eating habits of the elephant”; a Frenchman contributed, “The love life of the elephant”; the American lectured on “The elephant and the dollar” and the Israeli spoke about “The elephant and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Listening to the anguished commentary in both Washington and Jerusalem that has attended US President Barack Obama’s nomination of John Kerry to be his Secretary of State, and more especially his nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Defense Secretary, one might be excused for thinking that these appointments were exclusively about Israel and the Middle East.

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