By Ruthie Blum, Algemeiner—
The State Department’s latest assault on Israel is further proof of the Obama administration’s deep conviction that “more distancing between itself and Jerusalem is a good thing for the United States,” a top adviser to former US President George W. Bush told The Algemeiner on Monday.
“Its obsession with housing construction by Israeli Jews is certainly not shared by any Arab government, but it is apparently held by everyone working in the Near East Bureau,” said Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the New York- and Washington, DC-based Council on Foreign Relations.
Abrams, who served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor in the “Bush 43” administration, was referring back to his own counter-offensive against what he called the State Department’s “remarkable assault on Israel” last week, which, “both in tone and content, marks a new hostility – and plenty of sheer ignorance.”
In his blog “Pressure Points” on Thursday, Abrams blasted the American administration, after State Department spokesman John Kirby released a statement accusing the Israeli government of “systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution,” by engaging in “settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace.”
As far as the timing of the statement is concerned, coinciding as it did with the Democratic National Convention, Abrams said he doesn’t believe it is linked to the presidential race. “What’s in it for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Obama administration? For Hillary, nothing,” he said. “The Sanders people will presumably like the attack on Israel, but they will credit Obama for it and it won’t make them more likely to vote for her. For Obama, what is ever in it for him and his team, for bashing Israel? What do they ever gain from such actions? I don’t think they do it to help the Left in Israel, or for other narrowly political reasons. They do it out of conviction — the conviction that they have only a few more months to enlarge that famous ‘daylight’ between the US and Israel.”
Asked about the State Department’s having been so harsh on the eve of the visit of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, and a few days later, Israeli National Security Council head Yaakov Nagel, to the United States – reportedly to discuss defense cooperation between the two countries and the new US aid package to Israel – Abrams said, “It is suspicious, but not conclusive.”
Abrams was not alone in his criticism of the State Department’s recent reprimand of Israel.
Alan Baker, a former Israeli ambassador to Canada and current director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) wrote a scathing attack on what he called “an outpouring of hostility” against the Jewish state that one might expect from Iran or the EU.
“Reading the statement,” Baker wrote on the JCPA website on Tuesday, “n average reader having landed from space, would only conclude that Israel’s settlement activity is the source of all evil in the world, and the United States is waging a massive war of Armageddon against this evil. No international terror, no ISIS, no Iranian nuclear threat, no Syria, no Hezbollah, no Hamas, no hunger, no global warming. Only Israel’s settlements!”
Baker, an international law expert who was involved in the negotiation and drafting of treaties with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinians, blasted the statement as “slanted and malicious,” and said that its “terminology and biting and incisive verve raise some serious questions as to the basic knowledge, seriousness, professionalism and responsibility” of its author.
“This massive frontal attack, as if nothing but settlements is preventing peace in the Middle East and is the harbinger of conflict, belies reality, misrepresents the situation, and misleads whoever is intended to be the target of this curious statement,” Baker wrote, going on to explain the legality of Israeli settlements:
The State Department should also be aware of the fact that nothing in the Oslo Accords prevents planning, zoning and construction activity by either side in the West Bank areas under their respective control.
Furthermore, in voicing its one-sided allegations, the State Department seems to be willfully and systematically ignoring the well-established and documented legal, historic, indigenous, and political rights of the Jewish People regarding the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria, as stressed consistently over many years by Israel.
The State Department should be aware of the fact that its repeated questioning of the legality of Israel’s settlement activity and Israel’s claims regarding Jerusalem, in fact, prejudge these central negotiating issues and play into the Palestinian and European denials of Israel’s rights. As such, the State Department statements are the very antithesis of any peace negotiation process and run counter to the professed support by the U.S. of a negotiated, peaceful solution.
But above all, in fixating on settlements, the State Department is deliberately turning a blind eye to the mortal danger of Islamic terror and hatred of Jews that permeate Palestinian society. In so doing, the Department is, in fact, giving a green light of encouragement to the Palestinian leadership, media and administrative bodies that openly incite, encourage and support terror, violence, and boycotts against Israel.
By the same token, the State Department is giving sanction to the European Union and its constituent member states, as well as to the UN and its specialized agencies to exacerbate their hostile policies against Israel. By their logic, if the U.S. State Department takes such a slanted and hostile position, they can now exacerbate their own hostility towards Israel.