Last week, Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, posted an image on Twitter of what appears to be a Hanukkah gift: a menorah in the shape of the missile batteries that comprise Israel's Iron Dome defense system.
According to Foreign Policy's Elias Groll, Shapiro received the gift at a staff holiday party. The replica of the very high-tech apparatus was pieced together with rather more mundane materials: "an empty box of coffee capsules, an old VHS cassette, paper clips, and heavy-duty tape."
The Iron Dome was largely paid for by the U.S.; In August, Congress approved an additional $225 million in funds for the missile system. It's credited with intercepting myriad rockets fired into Israel by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and other militant factions. (Some observers contest its efficacy.)
The system appears to have Shapiro's endorsement. He toured one battery site in 2011.
Ties between the ambassador's government, though, and that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been more than strained. The Obama administration has lost patience with Netanyahu and his right-wing allies, who many critics say have systematically undermined the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, appeared to back Obama's opponent Mitt Romney in the 2012 U.S. presidential election campaign. Last week, his defense minister, Moshe Ya'alon, assured an audience at an Israeli settlement in the West Bank that the Obama administration "won't be around forever" and that Israel could then lift a freeze on settlement construction repeatedly demanded by the White House.
And so, with diplomacy in dire straits, the older security ties remain — perhaps best embodied by a patchwork toy missile array.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly implied that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned for former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney. That was not the case, though Netanyahu was widely perceived to have supported Romney. The language has been changed to remove confusion.