America, The Befuddled Matchmaker
Well we do the best we can!
Where does Israel’s announcement of 1,600 new Israeli homes in East Jerusalem leave the United States? Where does it leave American Jews? America put immense pressure on both sides to agree to “proximity talks”—which center around its envoy, George Mitchell—even though neither side’s preconditions had been met; and soon after the U.S. vice president arrives in the area, Israel flaunts the fact that the Palestinians’ most coveted precondition—a temporary freeze on construction in East Jerusalem—remained unfulfilled.
Israel’s interior minister says the announcement’s timing was unfortunate and not intended to offend. Even if that last part is true, it made the Palestinians look stupid for agreeing to the talks (it also made them look like the victims of Israeli bullying); it made it seem that Israel was passive-aggressively expressing unseriousness about the talks; and it made the Americans appear, simply, foolish.
Even so, Biden’s condemnation was notable. One expert put it well to Haaretz: “If Netanyahu is at all serious about talks with the Palestinian Authority, this will be just the beginning of his coalition woes. Meanwhile, the Israeli bilateral relationship with the United States has just become much more difficult. It is hard to remember a time when a senior U.S. official used the word ‘condemn’ to describe the actions of any ally.”
The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Americans for Peace Now of course sided with Biden. J Street, with typical savvy—J Street’s savvy being the one thing its admirers and detractors seem able to agree about—let Biden do the talking: “J Street joins Vice President Biden in condemning … As Vice President Biden said … We echo Vice President Biden’s call.” The “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group seems to be betting that when it actively evangelizes for its positions, it does more alienating than persuading. Instead, it is positioning itself to be there, waiting, when (it believes) the facts on the ground usher Americans, and particularly American Jews, into its camp.
The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman told Haaretz that the announcement’s timing was poor but that Biden lacked tact: “The condemnation should have been issued by the State Department in Washington. … Biden undermined the central purpose of his trip to Israel—strengthening the friendship and cooperation between Israel and the U.S.” Meanwhile, no mention of the announcement appears on AIPAC’s Website. The silence is conspicuous, but is it wise? Joe Biden is known as a talker, and American Jews can surely hear him, even across a couple continents.
Earlier: Biden Bashes Settlement Announcement
Plus the talks must go on, Iranian dissenters, and more in the news
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.