US anger at Israel is misplaced, insulting

The American reaction to the announcement that Israel would continue to build in Jewish East Jerusalem puts several things in sharp focus. What does it tell us that Joe Biden ‘condemned’ it, Hillary Clinton found it ‘insulting’ and White House political advisor David Axelrod called it both an ‘affront’ and an ‘insult’?

Let’s look at both the substance and the tone of these remarks.

The substance: as many commentators have pointed out, Israel has been building in East Jerusalem since 1967, and negotiated with the Palestinian Authority for 15 years while building there. When Israel agreed to the Obama Administration’s demand for a settlement freeze in Judea and Samaria, it pointedly did not agree to include Jerusalem, which Israel has never considered a ‘settlement’. At that time, the US praised Israel for taking a positive step to resolve the conflict. Israel has indicated that it would cede some Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem as part of a peace agreement, but has never accepted any prior limitation of its sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.

Israel has credibly maintained that there was a verbal commitment by the Bush Administration that construction in areas beyond the 1949 lines which were expected to become part of Israel in a final agreement was not a problem for the US. The Obama Administration disavowed this understanding, with the cagey Hilary Clinton saying that there was no “enforceable” agreement.

The Ramat Shlomo neighborhood has about 20,000 Jewish residents today; it is close to the northern part of West Jerusalem and further construction there does not change the status quo or create ‘facts on the ground’ that would threaten a future settlement in which Arab areas become part of an Arab state.

As I wrote on Friday, the Palestinians are looking for excuses to not negotiate, because serious negotiations would expose the fact that it is their hardline positions — particularly on ‘refugees’ — that have prevented an agreement, not Israel.

Anger has been directed at Israel because it took a step that contradicted Palestinian demands that it never accepted as reasonable, and which the US suddenly appears to approve. Tomorrow Mahmoud Abbas might say that construction must stop in “Tel Arabiyya” (i.e., Tel Aviv, a city founded by Jews on sand dunes in 1909). Would that, too, need to be taken seriously?

The tone: it seems to that who has been ‘insulted’, ‘slapped down’, ‘affronted’, etc. was not the US Vice President, but rather Israel. Israel is a sovereign state, not an American colony.  Can you imagine language like this being applied to another US ally, like the UK or Canada, for example? Can you imagine the US officially speaking like this to Saudi Arabia? I can’t.

Much as I admire PM Netanyahu, I felt that his apologetic response, to say that he was unaware of the decision (which I’m sure is true) and to appoint a committee to prevent such a thing from happening again, was inappropriate. By doing this, no matter how carefully his statement is worded, he is implying that the US is right to be upset that Israel exercised sovereignty in Jerusalem. This is absolutely the wrong message to send.

Here is how Mr. Netanyahu should have responded to Mr. Biden and Ms. Clinton (court Jew Axelrod can be ignored):

With all due respect, in keeping with accepted diplomatic principles, stay out of Israel’s internal affairs.

Update [1014 PST]: Here’s an great explanation of why the media are jumping on this story from the opposite angle.

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3 Responses to “US anger at Israel is misplaced, insulting”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    The U.S. response is exaggerated, out- of- place , unfair, insulting. It is as if they were waiting for something like this in order to find a scapegoat for their own failure to move the negotiations, any negotiations forward. Their one- sided blaming of Israel, and their totally ignoring the Palestinian naysaying is an indication of where they are.
    I also believe you are right in saying Netanyahu has played this in the wrong way. Apparently the fear of losing American support, or the fear of the U.S. not coordinating on Iran is what is driving him. The Israeli public will certainly not look with tremendous approval on a Prime Minister who has alienated the U.S. And it too may well be that the U.S. would like to have a Tzippi Livni government.
    I believe all true Israel supporters should take note of the way this Administration has tried to push Israel around.

  2. Robman says:

    Oh, I wouldn’t worry too much about Bibi’s domestic support. I think most Israelis today realize that it isn’t their country who is “alienating” the U.S., it is the U.S. that is alienating them! I predict that Bibi’s support will remain solid.

    Yes, the U.S. under the Palestinian-Lawyer-In-Chief is indeed looking for any excuse to give Israel a hard time and appease the Arabs. I think the only thing Bibi is really upset about is that someone handed Obama & Co. yet another excuse during a sensitive time, and his concern does indeed revolve around U.S. cooperation on Iran.

    But make no mistake, this is historically unprecedented. Up until Obama, Jerusalem was officially viewed by the U.S. as, at the very least, a “final status” issue that was to be left to the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate among themselves. Before the “Road Map”, it was generally accepted that Jerusalem was one of two Israeli “red lines”, the other being ROR. Today, for the first time in U.S.-Israeli relations, an American administration has prejudiced the outcome of negotiations over an issue of maximum sensitivity by openly siding with Israel’s opponent. None of this surprises me in the least.

    After the third presidential debate back in ’08, when I knew in my gut that McCain was toast, that night, I had a dream that I was back in Jerusalem, but that it was controlled by the Palestinians. They were patrolling the streets with their AK-47s. I swear I am not making this up. I told a friend who had supported Obama, and she said to me, “Never happen” which I replied, “From your lips to G-d’s ears!”. I warned her – and many others – before the election that this was precisely what Obama would try to do (i.e., Saudi Plan Lite, which is Saudi Plan minus ROR), but I was written off as a paranoid alarmist.

    I don’t know if that is how things will in fact turn out, but the only thing standing between Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the designs of Neville Carter Hussein Obama and his Arab buddies and “Judenrat” court Jews like Axelrod is the resolve of Benyamin Netanyahu.

    As one of the 22% of Jewish Americans who DID NOT vote for that clown. I still can’t get over the ones who did. But I am pretty sure that they’ll desert him in droves in 2012. I worry what they’ll do if Palin gets the nomination, though…I personally like her a lot and would enthusiastically support her, but many Jewish Americans are snobs who look down their collective noses at her, as some kind of “red neck” bumpkin. A real quandary, that.

    With or without Jewish American voters, I am sure, though, that Obama is out in 2012. Two years, ten months to go…but who’s counting? He can do a lot of damage in that time, I fear.

  3. Grandma says:

    I feel sorry for Bibi, having to put up with this misguided, arrogant excuse for a U.S. administration. Why should Bibi bow to Obama when the people of the United States are pro-Israel? Of course, that doesn’t seem to matter much to the present POTUS. Israel’s hope and OUR hope is to get these ingrates out of office in November, making Obama a lame-duck and getting back our OWN self-respect.