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U.S.-Israel Relations Hit Nadir

Fallout from last week’s East J’lem announcement continues

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You thought it was over? You thought everyone had forgotten the Israeli Interior Ministry’s announcement last Tuesday, right after Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the country, that it will build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem? Not a chance. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again apologized for the timing; however, he also stood by continued Israeli building in East Jerusalem. And a senior U.S. official confirmed that this has been “the first time the U.S. has really pushed back hard.”

The whole matter is important enough—proximity talks! peace in the Middle East! the U.S.-Israeli relationship! Hillary Clinton reprimanding Netanyahu for 45 frickin’ minutes!—that the whole thing deserves its own Monday morning mega-round-up. So:

• AIPAC called on the Obama administration to “defuse” tensions with Israel: “The administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines.” [Press Release/Ben Smith]

• Not one of Netanyahu’s 30 ministers—including members of the center-left Labor Party—supported a total settlement freeze, including in East Jerusalem. [JPost]

• Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told other Israeli diplomats that the U.S.-Israeli relationship has reached its lowest level in 35 years. [Haaretz]

• On Meet the Press, top Obama political adviser David Axelrod described the announcement as an “affront” and an “insult.” [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it was “not intentional, but was nonetheless unnecessary and damaging.” [Ynet]

• The U.S. State Department formally summoned and reprimanded Oren. [Ynet]

• U.S. envoy George Mitchell is headed to the region this week, and Netanyahu is headed to Washington, D.C., at the beginning of next for the AIPAC summit. President Barack Obama actually will be around while Bibi is there. [Laura Rozen]

• Influential columnist Thomas L. Friedman laments that Biden didn’t leave Israel immediately after the announcement, though not before relaying the following message to Israel:

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk. You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total contact with reality. Call us when you’re serious. We need to focus on building our country. [NYT]

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Paul Leber says:

The contretemps over Ramat Shlomo is entirely contrived. The issuance of a permit by an obscure office in the Israeli government is a non-event. BHO has, nonetheless, maliciously used his fabrication to justify an attack on Netanyahu and Israel. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows Obama. BHO, who numbers anti-Semites like the Reverend Wright among his closest friends and advisors, has always been hostile toward Israel. During the campaign, BHO managed to misrepresent his views, but over the past year his anti-Israeli tilt has become increasingly obvious. The current bruhaha documents the true depth of Obama’s animus towards Israel. Anyone who cares about Israel needs to wake up –BHO is a Hugo Chavez clone in the making!

Michael Nutkiewicz says:

Those folks in the U.S. who support the plan to utilize housing and permit policies as a tool for changing the demography of East Jerusalem would naturally play down or pooh pooh the recent events surrounding VP Biden’s visit. Perhaps they are unaware of this policy and it’s ramifications. What they do not see (or maybe they do not care) is that the events highlighted, more than ever, a policy that allows Jews to claim ownership of property that may (or may not) have belonged to them before 1948 but does not give the Palestinians who lived in Israel before 1948 the same right. Halting the settlements will not bring peace, but it is one of the major obstacles to negotiations. Those of us who support and love Israel believe that the settlements – driven by a religious and nationalist ideology that is anti-Zionist – is not only an obstacle but dangerous to Israel in general.

Jeremiah says:

Under Obama, U.S. financial support for Israel has increased. At the same time, his entire administration – including Secty of State Clinton – has made it clear they will no longer be enablers to Israel’s worst and self-destructive impulses. The settlement announcement was intentional and calculated on the part of the Minister of the Interior. It was a violation of diplomacy, and was a slap in the face of Israel’s one true friend and ally, designed to show Netanyahu and America who controls Israel’s domestic and foreign policy, as Michael N. says: the religious and nationalistic anti-Zionists who believe only the ultra-Orthodox are Jews and who have contempt for any Jewish state, the Jewish Taliban, bent only on spreading their own racist and messianic purity. They seek to destroy the pluralistic Israel so many of us love and defend.

Alexander Diamond says:

Israel is a country we can all be proud of. Its accomplishments and contributions to the world in spite of its wars and enemies are well documented. Unfortunately the shadow of Orthodoxy casts its pall and threatens the destruction of democracy in Israel. The hatred and racism that comes from this group toward all who are not like them is unceasing. Until there is a separation between religion and the state there will be no peace.

Michael Nutkiewicz says:

Allow me to make a clarification given Jeremiah’s and Alexander’s comment. We cannot paint a broad stroke and say that “the ultra orthodox” are the villains in Israel. And calling the ultra-orthodox or the settler’s movement “Jewish Taliban” is simply polemical.

The troubling phenomenon in Israel is the marriage between religion and nationalism – a new movement that was relatively weak and unknown before the 1967 war. This movement did not come out of the “ultra-orthodox” camp. Over the years, however, it has increasingly attracted more extreme elements that reject on nationalist OR religious grounds – ANY division (partition) of land that they call Greater Israel. The surprise is that American Jews seem untroubled by an ideology that has no historical basis in BOTH Jewish religion and secular Zionist grounds. More troubling is the fact that (according to Israeli polls) most Israelis reject the assumptions of the movement but nearly all Israeli governments give it open or tacit support – as was openly revealed when VP Biden was in Israel.

Paul Leber says:

Lies, damned lies and the convenient amblyopia of liberal Jews. First, contrary to the assertions made by others commenting here, Ramat Shlomo, is not a ‘settlement,’ but a neighborhood in northern Jerusalem. There is no reason why Jews should not be allowed to build homes in Ramat Shlomo, unless, of course, one believes that all territory beyond the 1967 armistice lines must be Judenrein. But why would anyone, especially a Jew, hold such a view? if Arabs can live in Haifa, Yafo, and Tel Aviv, Jews should certainly be able to live anywhere they want between the River and the Sea. Also, why would any self-respecting Jew use the value laden and prejudicial term, ‘settlement” to describe Jewish towns and cities in and around Jerusalem. When Arabs from Syria or Jordan come to the Galilee, the villages they build aren’t called settlements! Wonder why? Because it just doesn’t fit with the current dominant narrative in which the Jews are oppressors and the Arabs are victims. Soon we’ll be asked to believe that in May of 1948, the Jews started things by invading Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt.

Another lie prevalent among those commenting here is that last week’s announcement was intended to insult Biden. Utter nonsense!. How can a document about a building permit possibly be construed as an insult? It can’t logically, but, then again, someone looking for a fight can always manufacture a pretext for starting one. His popularity falling, BHO, needed to find a distraction. Why is not surprising that he picked on the Jews?

Michael Nutkiewicz says:

Mr. Leber is angry. Unfortunately, his historical knowledge and the understanding of Israeli politics is poor. Firstly, Ramat Shlomo is in East Jerusalem, and did not exist before 1967. Thus, it is a new settlement, and part of the larger plan to permanently change the demography of the City. Secondly, the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee recommended in 2006 that the Ramat Shlomo plan be shelved. Why? Because the building plans would encroach upon the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina. These two reasons, among others, is why the term “settlement” is not outrageous as Mr. Leber would have us think. And this is also the reason why the announcement seemed so shocking to even some in the Israeli government.


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U.S.-Israel Relations Hit Nadir

Fallout from last week’s East J’lem announcement continues

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