For all its ineptitude, the Obama administration has proved itself capable of closing ranks where lies and cover-ups are concerned. The three major scandals in which it is currently embroiled -- Benghazi, the Justice Department, and the Internal Revenue Service -- are the major cases in point. But other examples abound.
Such fiascoes aside, Israel has been counting on Washington's penchant for the "covert" these days, as Iran sails toward nuclear armament and the rest of the Middle East is in the throes of radicalization. Though U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry keeps making trips to the region to pressure Israel and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate a two-state solution, the assumption on the part of those who believe that the White House "has Israel's back" is that there is much behind-the-scenes military cooperation going on that we don't know about.
Imagine Israel's dismay, then, when Uncle Sam pulled a stunt of truth and transparency this week at the worst possible juncture for the Jewish state.
As was reported by McClatchy's Sheera Frenkel on Monday, the Israeli defense establishment is in an uproar over U.S. government revelations of an American-Israeli project that was supposed to be kept top-secret.
Israel's outrage is warranted.
The project is a U.S.-funded installation -- at an undisclosed location between Jerusalem and Ashdod -- for Israel's Arrow 3 ballistic missile defense system.
Details of the installation, whose cost is estimated at $25 million, were posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website to attract bidding contractors -- a process called "routine" by Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Wesley Miller.
Routine or not, it was unthinkable for the U.S. Defense Department to publicize more than 1,000 pages of the most minute details of a system whose success rests, among other things, on being totally hidden from enemy eyes.
So much for all that encouraging "behind-the-scenes" activity ostensibly indicating that U.S. President Barack Obama will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and recognizes Israel's right to defend itself against attack.
So long to Israel's plan to speed up construction of the installation -- originally set to become operational by 2016 -- to counter dangerous developments in Iran.
This is a huge blow to Israeli defense, because the Arrow 3 is designed to seek and destroy Iranian Shihab 3 missiles and other long-range projectiles. It does this after being launched into space, where its interceptor breaks away and becomes a vehicle for targeting and crashing into oncoming missiles. Unlike Israel's Iron Dome system, which serves as a protective shield against enemy missiles, the Arrow 3 hunts them down and blows them up.
In February of this year, it was tested successfully from a launching pad in the center of Israel, taking off over the Mediterranean. But now that so many of its specifications have been made public, it is unlikely to become operational in time to stave off Iranian missiles equipped with nuclear warheads.
As well-informed politically as the Israeli public tends to be, it is nevertheless confused about which dangers are most imminent. The sense of some form of impending doom from one border or another by Iranian proxy -- or directly from Tehran -- is evident, however, in the sharp increase in crowds lining up at gas-mask distribution centers across the country.
Under the current circumstances, extreme caution is justified, though gas-mask kits are hardly the answer. Experience has taught us that they are mainly effective at frightening young children and smothering the elderly, while creating the illusion of control and protection.
This is precisely the illusion that the Obama administration has created. But it is neither in control of the Middle East nor providing Israel with protection. The Arrow 3 debacle is simply further confirmation of this.
Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"