Last week, President Obama said he deserves a “pat on the back” for how his Administration has supported Israel. Yet several administration officials – including Defense Secretary Panetta, Secretary of State Clinton, and Ambassador Gutman – appear to be pointing fingers at our closest ally.
The President’s Claim:
• President Obama Lauded How His Administration Handled Our Relationship With Israel. “I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration. And that's not just our opinion, that's the opinion of the Israeli government." (The Weekly Standard, 12/1/11)
His Administration’s Reality:
• Defense Secretary Panetta Said Our “Closest Ally” Israel Was “Responsible” For Its Isolation. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spoke sternly on Friday to America’s closest ally in the Middle East, telling Israel that it is partly responsible for its increasing isolation and that it now must take “bold action” — diplomatic, not military — to mend ties with its Arab neighbors and settle previously intractable territorial disputes with the Palestinians. (The New York Times, 12/2/11)
• Secretary Clinton Called Into Question Israel’s Democracy. Israeli ministers reacted angrily on Sunday after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted expressing concern over the future of Israel's democracy and the rights of women in the Jewish state. Clinton's remarks, made Saturday behind closed doors at the Saban Forum in Washington, made headlines in most Israeli newspapers, which reported them without explaining how they obtained the comments. Top-selling Yediot Aharonot said Clinton had expressed concern about a slew of "anti-democratic" bills proposed by right-wing members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. … Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called Clinton's reported remarks "totally exaggerated." "Israel is a living, breathing liberal democracy," he was quoted as saying by Israeli media. (AFP, 12/4/11)
• U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman Makes Disparaging Remarks Toward Israel and The Jewish People. The US Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, finds himself under fire this morning for comments he made about the roots of some Muslim anti-Semitism, comments from which the White House distanced itself. Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli newspaper, reported Friday that Gutman told a Jewish conference on anti-Semitism organized by the European Jewish Union that — as the newspaper described it — “a distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.” (ABC News, 12/4/11)
- Today, The White House Reiterated Its Support For Ambassador Gutman. In The Obama administration says it has full confidence in the U.S. ambassador to Belgium, despite comments he made about anti-Semitism that prompted angry responses from Jewish groups and Republicans. Howard Gutman, who is Jewish and whose father survived the Holocaust, told a European Jewish gathering last week that some hatred of Jews reflected hostility toward Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. He said it was different from traditional anti-Semitism. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday that Gutman would remain in his post. (The Associated Press, 12/5/11)