It used to be that a primary goal of Israel's friends in this country was to ensure strong U.S.-Israel relations and to create a genuinely bipartisan wall of support for the Jewish state in U.S. politics.
Now, the goal seems more to take advantage of today's bitter partisanship to advance a specific vision of U.S.-Israeli relations or support a particular political viewpoint in Israel. Or to use Israel as just another wedge issue in the U.S. partisan wars.
How else to explain the eagerness to claim – incorrectly – that the Obama administration has been doing something unprecedented this week in negotiating over a U.N. “statement” criticizing Israel's settlement activities, something officials here felt would be less damaging than a full-blown resolution that would force Washington to exercise its veto power?
In numerous emails and blogs I've read this: the Obama administration is breaking with longstanding U.S. policy by not simply saying “no” to criticism of Israel from an undeniably biased United Nations.
As JTA's Ron Kampeas points out, this is patently untrue.
He writes: “there's a lot of nonsense out there about how withholding a veto of a resolution that Israel doesn't care for is unprecedented. (It's commonplace, and happened as recently as 2009, when the Bush administration allowed the resolution calling for an end to the Gaza War.) A slightly more sophisticated version of that nonsense emerged today from the Republican Jewish Coalition, in its statement saying that 'the United States has historically opposed U.N. Security Council actions that target Israel specifically.' Not true either. The last Bush administration did not veto a May 19 2004 resolution calling on Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian homes, and there were numerous veto-withholds during the Clinton, first Bush and Reagan administrations regarding the deportation of Palestinians and Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and in Lebanon. All of these specifically targeted Israel.”
He adds that it may be true that “there has not been a veto-withhold of a resolution specifically targeting Israel on settlements, specifically, since three during the Carter administration.”
Americans for Peace Now's Lara Friedman – APN has urged the administration not to veto this one - has put together a table laying out all Israel-related UN Security Council resolutions from 1967. There were plenty of U.S. vetoes – and plenty of times Washington chose not to use its veto power.
My point here: most of what we're hearing about this resolution isn't from folks who are concerned about protecting strong U.S.-Israel relations in a difficult period; it's coming from those whose primary interest is in branding President Obama as the devil incarnate when it comes to Israel, sort of like George Soros, only worse.
It's about using Israel as a wedge issue, not seeking to broaden support.
It's about creating more dissension because it's good for partisan interests and trying to muscle U.S. policy toward support for a specific faction in Israeli politics that has always – under Republican and Democratic presidents alike – been a subject of U.S. concern.
It's about depicting every policy that concerns pro-Israel forces not as mistaken policy – which the Obama administration has produced in abundance - but as evidence of deep seated hostility to the Jewish state.
It's about making enemies, not friends, and it's hard to see how this is in the long term interests of Israel or strong U.S.-Israel relations.
I don't see mainstream pro-Israel leaders as the instigators of this tendency to go to the mattresses – to use a Godfather term – every time this administration hiccups, but I do see them too willing to uncritically accept these blatantly partisan, divisive claims and respond as if the claims are based in fact, not divisive politics.
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