Brog's Blog

March 22, 2010

CUFI and the Current Crisis

Filed under: All Posts — brogsblog @ 7:22 pm

As of this writing, over 29,000 CUFI members have responded to our action alert and e-mailed the White House asking President Obama to step back from the crisis of relations with Israel he sparked last week. This is an excellent response which few organizations can generate. I believe this outpouring of support for Israel has made a difference.
Thanks to all of you who have spoken out for Israel. And for those of you who have not yet e-mailed the president, it is not too late for you to do so by clicking here.
It looks like the White House is indeed stepping back from the crisis and adopting a more constructive tone. Middle East envoy George Mitchell finally left on the trip to Israel that he postponed while tempers flared. Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with President Obama in Washington on Tuesday. And today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech to AIPAC in which she reaffirmed the close ties between the US and Israel.
Relations are back on track. For now. But the fact that so small an incident could spark so great a reaction should put us all on notice. Israel’s friends must be organized and ready to swing into action. While times are good, we must build. While times are tough, we must act.
As more facts about the dispute over East Jerusalem came to light during the course of the week, it became increasingly apparent just how unnecessary this crisis was. What at first seemed like a justified American response to a snub came to look more and more like a bully picking fight. Let’s review the bidding:
1) While Vice President Biden was in Jerusalem two weeks ago, an announcement was made regarding the building of new homes in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem. At first, many claimed that Prime Minister Netanyahu had snubbed our Vice President by highlighting an area of disagreement while he was in town.
2) It turned out the Prime Minister Netanyahu was as surprised by the housing announcement as Vice President Biden. He immediately apologized for it and noted that the Interior Ministry — not his office — was responsible. Yet Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton and Presidential advisor David Axelrod nevertheless proceeded to condemn the announcement in unprecedented terms over the course of the next few days.
3) It later emerged that the housing announcement was not even made at the higher levels of the Interior Ministry, but by a mid-level bureaucrat. And what this bureaucrat announced was barely newsworthy. In Israel, housing construction must pass through a seven-stage permitting process. According to Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevy, all that was announced during Biden’s visit was that stage four of this seven-stage permitting process had begun.
4) Every Israeli government since 1967 has supported building homes in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. This is one policy on which both the Israeli left and the Israeli right agree. Even President Shimon Peres, one of Israel’s leading doves, has defended this construction.
5) While the United States is technically opposed to all Jewish construction in any of the land Israel captured in 1967, it has never before made the building of homes in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem an impediment to close US-Israel relations.
6) In fact, the Palestinians have never before made such building an obstacle to direct negotiations with Israel. Yet now that the U.S. Administration has taken such a hard line on East Jerusalem, the Palestinians cannot appear to be any less firm. Thus the building of homes in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem has suddenly become an obstacle to peace. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies….
Israel is not perfect. And Israel is not always right. Sometimes friends must criticize their friends, especially when it involves a strategic national interest or a slight to one of our leaders. This, however, was not one of those times. By picking a fight with Israel at this juncture, the Administration has harmed the very peace process it seeks to support. What was never an issue in US-Israel relations became an issue. What was never a barrier to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations became a barrier.
Let us pray for a more constructive approach to US-Israel relations going forward. And let us be prepared to speak out once again if these prayers go unanswered.

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