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After months of uncharacteristic silence, New York’s senior senator, Charles Schumer, finally voiced his concerns – and it could not have come at a more crucial time for American-Israeli relations.
Schumer, apparently wary of breaking ranks, had made a difficult tactical decision to not publicly challenge the administration’s misguided and increasingly alarming Middle East policies. But every strategic policy has a breaking point, and in the face of mounting pressure from Jewish constituents and intensified rhetoric from prominent administration officials, Schumer felt compelled to publicly rebuke the White House.
Schumer’s comments, made during an interview with radio host Nachum Segal and subsequently picked up by the influential website Politico, amounted to the toughest criticism to date leveled at the administration’s policies from a Democratic member of Congress. The New York Daily News in an editorial congratulated Schumer for “stepping up” and “restoring proper balance and true prospective to Obama’s approaches to Israel and the Palestinians.”
Questioned by reporters about Schumer’s remarks, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “I don’t think it is a stretch to say we don’t agree with what Senator Schumer said,” before reiterating the administration’s now standard mantra about its “unwavering commitment to the security of Israel and the Israeli people.”
The dilemma for the Obama administration is that prominent Jewish communal, political and social leaders – most notably former mayor Ed Koch, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, venerable Holocaust Survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder and now Schumer – have visibly and publicly lost their patience. They are no longer willing to accept superficial and general declarations of “unbreakable bonds” with Israel that are increasingly in conflict with the administration’s actions.
The most recent and likely most egregious example of such conflict came when, at the same time Gibbs was emphasizing the strength of the American-Israeli alliance, veteran American diplomat Martin Indyk, acting as an adviser to Middle East envoy George Mitchell, issued a veiled threat regarding the possibly “dire” fallout should Prime Minister Netanyahu continue defying the administration.
In a New York Times op-ed article, Indyk warned that Netanyahu must choose between President Obama and Netanyahu’s own right-wing coalition, declaring that “given Israel’s dependence on the U.S. to counter the threat from Iran and to prevent its own international isolation, an Israeli prime minister would surely want to bridge the growing divide.” Indyk concluded: “If [Netanyahu] continues to defer to those ministers in his Cabinet who oppose peacemaking, the consequences for U.S.-Israel relations could be dire.”
Despite the most creative efforts of Gibbs and other administration officials to frame the situation otherwise, Indyk’s published threats confirm the obvious. After decades of deep friendship between the U.S. and Israel, and despite the overwhelming support of the American people for the U.S.-Israel alliance, as reaffirmed in a recent Quinnipiac poll, the Obama administration has turned on Israel.
As a result, Schumer, who for years has assumed the role of guardian of the alliance, was forced to react in a manner indicative of the intensifying diplomatic crisis. This development alone should give us all reason to pause.
Elie Wiesel and Ronald Lauder, recognizing the necessity of making known their views about the growing threats facing Jerusalem, placed separate full-page advertisements in major American newspapers, boldly articulating their disapproval of the administration’s unwise and counterproductive Israel policy. The ads reportedly earned the ire of administration officials for daring to publicly challenge the president.
In an unfortunate but predictable effort to counter the effect of Wiesel’s ad, J Street and its cohorts at the leftist Israeli newspaper Haaretz circulated an open letter to Wiesel from former Knesset member Yossi Sarid taking Wiesel to task for, among other things, having been “deceived” by “zealous Jews” who insist on “inserting themselves in Arab neighborhoods, purifying and Judaizing them with the help of rich American benefactors.”
Wiesel need not apologize for defending the Jewish people’s right to a safe and Jewish Jerusalem – in any neighborhood in Jerusalem. Additionally, many of the same “rich Americans” Sarid loathes have supported Israel through war and boycotts, and their largesse has sustained hospitals, museums, synagogues, ambulances, universities and soup kitchens all across the country.
Haaretz columnist Anshel Pfeffer, meanwhile, called out Lauder for addressing his letter to Obama “as a proud American and a proud Jew.” Lauder, suggested Pfeffer, “should have put his pride aside for a moment and taken the advice of the Prophet Amos: ‘Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times.’ “
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 email@example.com.
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Shepherding in the Shomron isn’t your usual kind of shepherding – despite his business-minded beginnings, Eli has discovered that a strong ideological impetus powers the job.
I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”
His entire existence was about spreading simcha and glorifying G-d’s name on a daily basis.
At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel
“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”
Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning
Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.
He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.
Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.
Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.
Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed
Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.
A watershed moment took place in Brooklyn last month on primary night. Those who care about private school education should sit up and take notice.
The recent shooting of four police officers in the normally tranquil Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn (bringing the total to eight cops shot so far this year) has confirmed a dangerous double standard that threatens the safety of police officers and all New Yorkers throughout New York. It must be confronted.
Another horrific terrorist attack is perpetrated in Israel and we knew what to expect. A statement of outrage and condemnation from the White House, regrets from the Palestinian Authority, and from the UN a call for all sides to exercise restraint and remain committed to the (non-existent) “peace process.”
In short, yet another exercise in futility if ever there was one.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally left the U.S. after a week of exhausting, and surprising, diplomatic highs and lows, a number of unsettling questions were left in his wake.
High praise and gratitude are due Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and the NYPD’s intelligence Division for their extraordinary work in again uncovering and preventing a plot by Muslim fanatics to unleash terror against religious targets.
Last week’s historic “shellacking” suffered by the Democrats was a stark and humbling reminder to all elected officials of whatever party that they serve at the will of their constituents.
As millions of gallons of oil continue to leak into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the impatience and helplessness of Americans continue to grow. Never before has such a significant issue relating to our country’s environmental health been at the mercy of a faulty valve. This unprecedented experience has humbled engineers, scientists and bureaucrats alike.
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