By Jenna Lifhits, Weekly Standard—
The Obama administration is manufacturing a crisis with Israel in anticipation of a post-election diplomatic push targeting the Jewish state, and this past week launched a series of broadsides criticizing the Israelis through the media and in press briefings, according to congressional sources and Jewish-American officials who spoke to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
The White House and State Department lashed out after the Israelis advanced plans to build in areas the administration considers to be off-limits to new Israeli construction, using language that reporters noted is usually reserved for terror attacks.
Asked by journalists why the administration stated that it “strongly condemn[ed]” Israel’s plans to advance construction, a phrase ordinarily used “to denounce acts of terrorism,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest replied that the construction “provoke[s] strong feelings in the administration.” In that briefing, Earnest also suggested that Israel betrayed commitments to Washington, while a State Department official separately said Israel would be “cementing… perpetual occupation” if it built the houses.
The latest controversy revolves around construction that the Israelis say is within the already existing Israeli neighborhood Shilo, but that the administration says constitutes a new settlement. Congressional officials who spoke to TWS said that the administration’s condemnation is a pretext for eroding relations with Israel and potentially for setting up a broader diplomatic offensive.
“They’re launching this weird, aggressive campaign that simply will have no positive outcome,” a senior congressional source told TWS. “It’s not an accident that all of this has been going on as Congress goes into recess [and] as attention is diverted by the election.”
The source said that while the administration has engaged in similar behavior against Israel in the past, this case appeared “far more coordinated and aggressive.”
“The president is in the market for a legacy,” the source continued. “I’m very concerned that he’s going to do something that he considers to be dramatic, just to get his name on the process.”
Another congressional source told TWS that President Obama has been “waiting for an opening” to condemn Israel.
“200 housing units in an existing community that did not expand the boundaries at all? That’s not something that should even make the news in Israel, let alone the U.S.”