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Can’t win. One can trot out here the obvious reasons why this is wrong—Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of the purported “two-state solution,” his ten-month settlement freeze, his constantly reiterated—and ritually spurned—offers to meet with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas anytime, anywhere. But, faced with an obsessive-compulsive belief in Israeli appeasement of the Palestinians as the remedy to much of what ails the universe, it’s a pointless exercise.
No, instead Panetta further admonished Israel: “in every strong relationship built on trust, built on friendship, built on mutual security, it demands that both sides work toward the same common goals.” Israel, in other words, is not working toward the same goals as America; Israel is gumming up the works.
As William Kristol pointed out, statements last Wednesday by U.S. ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman “were not way out of line with Obama’s worldview”—as reflected in his defense minister’s words. Gutman (himself Jewish) “stunned” a Jewish conference on anti-Semitism in Brussels when he said that “Muslim hatred for Jews…stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians” and that “an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.”
The administration, under fire from Jewish groups, has reacted to Gutman’s words by proclaiming that “We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms and there is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel.” But if the administration “condemns” anti-Semitism, has it taken note of the fact that—as confirmed repeatedly by Pew Center and other polls—the syndrome is rampant in places like Egypt, Turkey, and the Palestinian Authority? And if cognizant of that fact, when will the administration atone for obsessively demanding that the Jewish state “reach out” and “make peace” with the Jew-haters?
If phenomena sometimes come in threes, Panetta’s and Gutman’s attacks on Israel were seemingly rounded out on Saturday—also at the Saban Center—by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her gripe was a different one: a perceived erosion of Israeli democracy. Not only was the Middle East’s only democracy, then, the cause of its own and others’ troubles in the region; it wasn’t much of a democracy to boot.
Clinton’s “concern” focused on two areas. One involves some proposed legislation in the Knesset to counteract foreign funding to radical-fringe Israeli NGOs that work for Israel’s dissolution—in other words, an effort to protect its democracy. The other involves recent gender segregation on buses serving ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, as well as incidents in the army where a small number of religious male soldiers objected to hearing women singing.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called Clinton’s statements “completely exaggerated” and said:
Israeli democracy is alive, liberal and breathing. I don’t know many better democracies in the world. It is of course necessary to fix things sometimes. The matter of excluding and segregating women is completely unacceptable and needs to be put to a stop, but there is a great distance between this and the argument that there is a threat to Israeli democracy.
Steinitz could have added that, for all its protestations of friendship and “iron-clad” commitment to Israel’s security, the Obama administration both takes part in and encourages a worldwide phenomenon of unique and disproportionate criticism and denigration of the Jewish state.
If the administration wants to air public complaints about allies, for instance, it could openly castigate Germany for continuing its lucrative commerce with Iran in the face of all attempts at sanctions. But Washington does no such thing, because such public lambasting of allies is against protocol. It’s a treatment reserved for Israel—by an administration whose anti-Israel disposition can, by now, be denied only by the willfully blind.
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