The U.S.-Israeli flap: discuss


In a host of media interviews Sunday, President Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod discusses the White House’s upset with Israel.

Several of the most influential Jewish organizations are calling on the Obama administration to dial back their public criticism of the Israelis:

  • AIPAC: "The Administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel, with whom the United States shares basic, fundamental, and strategic interests."
  • ADL: "We are shocked and stunned at the Administration’s tone and public dressing down of Israel on the issue of future building in Jerusalem. We cannot remember an instance when such harsh language was directed at a friend and ally of the United States. One can only wonder how far the U.S. is prepared to go in distancing itself from Israel in order to placate the Palestinians in the hope they see it is in their interest to return to the negotiating table."
  • American Jewish Committee: "AJC urged the Obama Administration to condemn the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah Party after its youth division staged a ceremony to name a square in Ramallah in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who led a murderous rampage which resulted in the deaths of 38 civilians in 1978. Known as the Coastal Road Attack, the assault was the single most deadly act of terrorism in Israel’s history. Among the dead were 13 children and a US citizen. ‘This monstrous spectacle took place while Vice President Biden was visiting the region,’ said AJC Executive Director David Harris. ‘Unfortunately, we have not heard a single word of condemnation from the U.S. Administration. While the Administration has focused it ire on Israel for clearly misguided steps taken by the Ministry of the Interior, and later apologized for by Prime Minister Netanyahu, the glorification of this terrorist sends a clear signal that Fatah, conventionally regarded as a moderate party, has no serious commitment to securing a peaceful resolution of the conflict."

Some Jewish groups, meanwhile, are backing the White House:

  • J Street: The United States is Israel’s closest ally. Their special relationship is rooted in shared interests and values and enjoys broad bipartisan support in Washington and across the country. That is all the more reason why the Obama administration’s reaction to the treatment of the Vice President last week and to the timing and substance of the Israeli government’s announcement was both understandable and appropriate. … We urge the United States to take this opportunity to suggest parameters to the parties for resuming negotiations – basing borders on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps, with the Palestinian state demilitarized and on territory equivalent to 100% of the area encompassed by the pre-1967 Armistice lines.
  • Americans for Peace Now: Not only must America keep pressing Israel to stop pro-settlement policies, the Palestinians should be pressed to abandon public positions that suggest a lack of seriousness about negotiations.

Other commentary:

  • Thomas Friedman: "Israel has already bitten off plenty of the West Bank. If it wants to remain a Jewish democracy, its only priority now should be striking a deal with the Palestinians that would allow it to swap those settlement blocs in the West Bank occupied by Jews for an equal amount of land from Israel for the Palestinians and then reap the benefits — economic and security — of ending the conflict. Unfortunately, that is not what happened last week."
  • Shmuel Rosner has eight questions.
  • David Horovitz: "How can one reconcile the bitter, accusatory, public dressing-down – which will be seized upon so delightedly and exploited so effectively not merely by those who oppose Netanyahu, but by those who seek to damage Israel – with the insistent assurances, from Obama on down, including Biden last week, that the US commitment to Israel is unbreakable, that the partnership is unshakable, that the relationship, as Biden put it, is ‘impervious to any shifts in either country and either country’s partisan politics. No matter what challenges we face, this bond will endure’? How do you reconcile that, even if you accept that the Obama White House is convinced that Israel, through its building beyond the Green Line, is badly harming itself, undermining the battle to thwart Iran, and damaging America’s interests in the region? It’s not easy. It’s not easy, no matter how persuasively it can be argued that Netanyahu brought this on himself."
  • Nahum Barnea: "Now, Netanyahu faces this quandary. The problem is that he is scared to rock to boat. He is scared to rock it when Avigdor Lieberman causes colossal damages to Israel’s status in the world; he is scared to rock it when Eli Yishai undermines our ties with the US Administration; he is scared to rock it when the haredim prefer the peace of the dead over the health of the living. ‘They are scared,’ Netanyahu once said, on the eve of one of his election defeats. Yet the truth is that he is scared. "
  • Akiva Eldar: "Based on experience, Netanyahu can expect the issue of construction at Ramat Shlomo to die down, just as the issue of deadly car crashes dwindles with time. A day or two will pass and life (or death) goes back to normal. Washington’s politicians are concerned about the congressional elections that will take place in less than eight months. The election year is an open season for the pro-Israel lobby, whose influence on both parties, including Obama’s, is great. "United Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people" was always the Judgment Day weapon of the Israeli and Jewish right during its assaults on Capitol Hill."
  • The Wall Street Journal: "In recent weeks, the Obama Administration has endorsed ‘healthy relations’ between Iran and Syria, mildly rebuked Syrian President Bashar Assad for accusing the U.S. of ‘colonialism,’ and publicly apologized to Moammar Gadhafi for treating him with less than appropriate deference after the Libyan called for ‘a jihad’ against Switzerland. When it comes to Israel, however, the Administration has no trouble rising to a high pitch of public indignation."
  • Bill Kristol (via Jennifer Rubin): "Why are there proximity talks instead of direct peace talks? Whose insistence is that? Netanyahu wants to have direct peace talks. That’s the Palestinians who already are saying we can’t have direct talks, we have to have only proximity talks. Then the U.S. wildly overreacts and now, of course, there are not even going to be proximity talks. So, fine. If that’s what the Obama administration wants, there won’t be these talks, which weren’t going anywhere anyway."

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