Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
When the next U.S. presidential race kicks off in earnest in a year or so, we will remember today. When the Jewish electorate will be inundated with speech after speech iterating and reiterating what great friends Barack Obama and the Democrats have been to Israel, we will remember today.
The Jewish community will be reminded how the bond between Israel and the U.S. is “deep and unbreakable,” as Vice President Joe Biden declared scant hours before harshly condemning Israel for announcing plans for new housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in north Jerusalem. (The announced plans were for a mere 1,600 units, out of the many thousands of units desperately needed by Jewish families in Jerusalem.)
Indeed, condemnation by the United States has been fast and furious against Israel for announcing this new apartment construction. Not in Judea or Samaria, which always seems to be a source of American agita, but in Jerusalem, which never was – until today.
The battle to reverse Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish holy city is underway and I will most certainly remember today.
Despite immediate Israeli apologies, the message from a seething Biden was followed, a day later, by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s harsh 43-minute reprimand to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Apparently not wanting to feel left out, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg called in Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to deliver yet another rebuke. And David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political adviser, said on “Meet The Press” that Israel’s action was both an “affront” and an “insult.”
We get it. Barack Obama is mad. Really mad. Things are not going so well economically in the United States; health care legislation is teetering on the brink; Democrats are facing a potential rout in upcoming elections, and now (much to Obama’s surprise, though certainly not a surprise for anyone paying any attention for the last 60-plus years) peace in the Middle East may not come as easily as he had promised.
But is Israel really the best place for Obama to focus his irritation with the current state of foreign affairs? If the power players in Washington really need to show they take their role of world superpower seriously, perhaps Iran, or North Korea, or Syria (or the UN) is a better place to direct this misplaced fury.
Israel has a history of absorbing never-ending American demands, insults and clarifications while rogue nations and terrorist entities get the royal treatment. This is nothing new with this administration. But what has been brewing for a while now appears to have reached a boiling point with Israel’s latest public relations fiasco. Yes, the construction announcement was ill-timed and, yes, it was not diplomatically expedient, but come on – Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
What right does any country, friend or not, have to incite a public brouhaha over pending construction in another sovereign country’s capital? It is simply absurd.
That Israel apologized is equally disturbing. Israeli officials should have said, “We are not sorry for building homes for our people in Jerusalem, our capital.”
Netanyahu mistakenly thought the matter was put to rest after Biden accepted his public and private (personal) apologies. No. Obama and company have found it necessary to broadcast that they have been pushed to their limit by Israel. It appears the administration intends to use this Israeli diplomatic misstep to push Israel’s back to the wall. We cannot let the president continue down this path.
Things must be really serious; even the ADL’s Abe Foxman released a statement saying, “We are shocked and stunned at the administration’s tone and public dressing down of Israel on the issue of future building in Israel.”
Foxman continued, “We cannot remember an instance when such harsh language was directed at a friend and ally of the U.S. We can only wonder how far the U.S. is prepared to go in distancing itself from Israel in order to placate the Palestinians.”
Observing the recent treatment of Israel by Washington, it becomes blatantly clear who is treating whom shoddily. Obama has traveled to more countries than any previous first-year U.S. president. He has visited Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, Egypt (who can ever forget the Cairo speech?) and many other countries around the globe. Israel has so far not made the cut. The president’s failure to travel to Israel is consistent with the foreign policy of his administration, which goes to great lengths to pacify the Arab world at the expense of the Jewish state.
About the Author: Chaskel Bennett is a writer, respected activist and member of the Board of Trustees of Agudath Israel of America. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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