The leaders of some prominent Jewish organizations are expressing deep concern over the unprecedented criticism of Israel coming from the Obama administration in recent days.
“The fact that the outcome of a democratic election in Israel seems to be of great concern” to the Obama administration, said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, “is cause for deep anxiety and puzzlement.”
“Whatever the failings of the prime minister, the way this is unfolding runs completely contrary to the spirit of U.S.-Israel relations,” Harris said. “The U.S. appears to have a reasoned interest in prolonging the crisis,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
The White House has refused to accept a backdown by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on his vow not to allow a Palestinian state, and U.S. officials have said that it necessitates a review of policy toward Israel, including the possiblity that support for Israel in the UN Security Council could be withdrawn.
U.S. officials have gone so far as to publicly question Netanyahu’s sincerity and honesty.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Tuesday that the U.S. wants to see “actions,” not just verbal clarifications of Netanyahu’s “confused” rhetoric over the course of several years.
“What we’re looking for now are actions and policies that demonstrate genuine commitment to a two-state solution, not more words,” Harf said. “He said diametrically opposing things in the matter of a week, so which is his actual policy?”
In an unusual move, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee criticized the harsh treatment.
“Unfortunately, administration spokespersons rebuffed the prime minister’s efforts to improve the understandings between Israel and the U.S.,” AIPAC said in a statement. “In contrast to their comments, we urge the administration to further strengthen ties with America’s most reliable and only truly democratic ally in the Middle East.”
“As someone who was critical of several steps by [Netanyahu] during the campaign leading up to his re-election,” said Abe Foxman, longtime national director of the Anti-Defamation League, “I am even more troubled by statements now coming out of the White House.”
“What we are hearing from the Obama Administration raises deeper questions about their intentions and perspectives,” Foxman said. “From the beginning of the Obama years, there was a disturbing indifference to the mindset of the Israeli public.”
Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy for the Orthodox Union, accused the president of “clearly [preferring] ongoing political confrontation over trying to work with a democratically elected Israeli leader on the critical issues facing our two nations.”
There is intense speculation about administration motives in prolonging the diplomatic crisis with Israel. Some suspect the White House seeks to pressure Netanyahu into concessions ahead of a renewed peace process with the Palestinians. Others suggest that the White House is seeking “revenge” for Netanyahu’s acceptance of a Republican invitation to address Congress without first consulting the White House.
The White House would not make any additional comment to the Post on the issue.
When asked if he has been able to discuss the matter with administration officials, AJC’s Harris said, “We would wish for more communication from the White House at this particular time.”