It's not enough that the United States gives spectacular sums of money to Israel. Nor is it enough that the U.S. takes Israel's side in virtually every political issue that crops up between that nation and the Muslim world. No, according to Congressman Ron Klein, the U.S. also must also abstain from criticizing Israel when the country ignores American diplomats' calls for a halt to new settlements.
To review, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes Israeli expansion into East Jerusalem would impede the peace negotiations with Palestinian authorities. Then with VP Joseph Biden scheduled for diplomatic talks, the Israelis announced they would build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem. Naturally, Biden and other U.S. diplomats weren't very pleased with this. Should Israel or its backers in the U.S. have been surprised to hear criticism?
Or course not. But listen to how mortified Klein was:
From a statement released by Klein's congressional office:
Although last week's announcement on new housing in East Jerusalem may have been ill-timed, I am deeply disappointed that even after the Israeli government apologized, State Department and White House officials have sustained their condemnations against the State of Israel, using harsh terms that do not befit the special relationship that the United States and Israel share.
Sometimes an apology ain't enough. Like in instances where the offense was a deliberate, calculated test of whether the Obama administration was serious about its opposition to new Israeli settlements.
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Israel and its backers are overreacting to a tiny slight as a way of creating a perception that the U.S. is being cruel and unfair, when in fact the U.S. is merely trying to prove to the world that it is an impartial observer in the negotiations between Israel and the Muslim world. If the U.S. can't establish that faith, there's simply no hope for a peace process.
Fortunately, it appears that Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's most conservative factions have overplayed their hand. Israel's more moderate supporters, who have an authentic interest in peace, have jeered the ploy by Netanyahu, like today's op-ed in the New York Times by a professor at Hebrew University. An excerpt:
Israeli leaders have resisted plausible peace ideas because a large and hardened minority, perhaps a third of Jewish Israelis, regards peace as an end to the divinely self-enclosed way of life they have established in and around Jerusalem. The squishy, declining, more cosmopolitan and secular majority is unwilling to confront them for the sake of Palestinians -- that is, not unless they have to in order to remain joined to the Western world.
That "hardened minority" should not be getting encouragement from powerful American politicians like Klein. Rather, it should be hearing from elected officials who are also supportive of Israel but who recognize when their friends are being unreasonable, like Congressmen Howard Berman and Ben Cardin, who this week criticized the Israeli government's behavior.