In the Arena

Israel First?

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The America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has done a very unwise thing: It has issued a statement criticizing the Obama Administration, rather than Israel, for its reaction to the Netanyahu government’s recent announcement of more illegal settlement blocks in East Jerusalem–an announcement that was made during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit last week, an act of extreme rudeness on top of its unquestioned illegality.

This is quite remarkable. I may be wrong–and commenters are welcome to correct me–but I can’t remember another ethnic or religious lobbying group publicly siding with a foreign country against the President of the United States…especially when the country in question is engaging in behavior that the international community believes is illegal. Once again, every U.S. President since Richard Nixon has called for a freeze of settlements being built in Palestinian areas, including East Jerusalem, conquered by Israel in 1967. AIPAC stands, with Israel, against every one of those Presidents.

I certainly hope AIPAC comes to its senses soon. But I suspect it wants a showdown with the Obama Administration, which, unlike its Bush predecessor, has stood with the rest of the world in requesting that Israel adhere to Road Map laid out by the so-called quartet (the U.S., E.U., U.N. and Russia), a plan the West Bank Palestinians seem to be taking seriously. This is an attempt by AIPAC to show muscle and force the Obama Administration to back down: Israel has tremendous support in the United States, especially among Evangelicals (who believe that the achievement of a Greater Israel–that is, the annexation of Palestinian lands–would be a precursor of the Rapture).

As an American Jew, I find this extremely embarrassing and unfortunate. This could get very, very ugly.