It sounds paradoxical, but it’s precisely because Washington is getting tough with Israel that America is proving to be Israel’s close partner.

The Americans call it “tough love” when you get tough with people in order to help them in the long run. That’s what Barack Obama is trying to do with America’s close ally, Israel. It’s tough love when U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell threatens to stop loan guarantees for Israel if Israel continues building illegal settlements in the West Bank and doesn’t return to the negotiating table with the Palestinians.

After George W. Bush’s unconditional loyalty to Israel, Israeli officials now find Washington’s change of attitude downright hostile. Israeli conservatives recently got upset over the emergence of a new pro-Israel lobbying group calling itself “J-Street,” dedicated to the peace process and expressing a good deal of understanding for Palestinian concerns.

But tough love isn’t damaging Israel. Rather, Obama is proving to be a true friend to Israel.

You can recognize true friends because they’ll always let you know if you’re about to make an unwise decision. True friends will let you know if you’re doing the wrong thing. And true friends will help you find your way out of a dead end you may have gotten yourself into.

Israel desperately needs good friends, not new cheerleaders.