The other day I wrote a piece about Senator Schumer‘s bashing of Rahm Emanuel, Jim Jones and President Obama for their US-Israel policy that questioned whether the Senator realized just how, well, over the line he had gone.
The Financial Times in a piece by Edward Luce and Daniel Dombey captured well the tension between the Senator and the White House on this.
Robert Gibbs, Barack Obama’s spokesman, said on Friday: “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we don’t agree with what Senator Schumer said.”
Schumer, in my view, also went over “the line” a few years ago when he pushed the mantra during a tense battle over whether the US Senate would allow the face of institutionalized Jesse Helms-inspired pugnacious nationalism, John Bolton, to become a confirmed Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations.
I want to make clear that I know that Senator Schumer is a loyal American. The dual loyalty button is a bad one to push — and I recognize that I came close to that and regret it as I think Schumer does outstanding work in just about every other policy arena but Middle East-related foreign policy. That said, I think that his flamboyance about a single issue blind spot he has deserves some political marketplace reaction. His judgment about what he is willing to deploy his political power to achieve is in question when he engages in such an uninformed, intemperate attack on the President’s policies in this complicated issue.
I don’t agree with all of AIPAC’s stands, but I listen carefully and think about the framing AIPAC offers on occasion to see whether the powerful policy group is pushing a zero sum game approach in the Middle East or one that will eventually concede to a more stable, inclusive, achieved equilibrium in the region resulting in a Palestinian state.
I am one who thinks that neither the Israelis or Palestinians deserve much more time to get on to a credible two track solution. They have both been unbelievably irresponsible with their own security interests and with their presumptions about unconditional support of the US whether or not progress is achieved. I strongly support General Jim Jones’ statement recently to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy at its 25th Anniversary Gala that the status quo is unacceptable and that achieving a two state solution to the Israel-Palestine standoff is a high level national security priority of the United States.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice made similar important comments about achieving a viable Palestinian State while not allowing an erosion in Israel’s security during her remarks before the 25th Anniversary of the Arab American Institute on the same night as the WINEP gala.
I also agree with much of what Jones said assuring Israelis that their security is also of great import to the U.S. — and that these two goals are not irreconcilable.
AIPAC itself sent out this past week a roster of statements from Obama administration officials, that showed that much had been done to move the hard edged differences between the administration out of the public and into private channels.
I think it’s a good compilation that Senator Schumer would be wise to look over:
AIPAC MEMO — April 23, 2010
Administration Reaffirms Value of U.S.-Israel Alliance
President Obama, top members of his administration and senior military leaders have highlighted the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and reaffirmed that a strong and secure Israel advances U.S. national security interests. They have renewed their firm commitment to Israel’s security and clearly explained that the United States cannot and does not seek to impose a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
The United States has reaffirmed that the U.S.-Israel relationship is unbreakable and rooted in shared values.
“As for our relations with Israel, let me be very clear: we have a special relationship with Israel and that will not change. Our countries are bound together by shared values, deep and interwoven connections, and mutual interests.” –President Barack Obama, Letter to Alan Solow (Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations), April 20, 2010
“We have an exceptionally strong relationship with Israel.” –Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, Town Hall Meeting at the University of West Virginia, April 20, 2010
“We will never forget that since the first minutes of Israeli independence, the United States has had a special relationship with Israel. And that will not change. Why? Because this is not a commitment of Democrats or Republicans; it is a national commitment based on shared values, deep and interwoven connections, and mutual interests.” –National Security Advisor General James Jones, Remarks to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 21, 2010
“Our bond with Israel is unshakable and unbreakable both as it relates to security, as it relates to the common set of value[s], and also as a common strategic vision, because the threats to Israel are similar to some of the threats the United States faced.” –White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, The Charlie Rose Show, April 19, 2010
The administration has reaffirmed that America and Israel have a strong strategic relationship that advances U.S. national security interests.
“Many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States and our efforts to secure peace and stability in the Middle East. Our alliance with Israel serves our national security interests.” –Obama, Letter to Alan Solow (Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations), April 20, 2010
“I can also say from long experience that our security relationship with Israel is important for America. Our military benefits from Israeli innovations in technology, from shared intelligence, from exercises that help our readiness and joint training that enhances our capabilities and from lessons learned in Israel’s own battles against terrorism and asymmetric threats.” –Jones, Remarks to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 21, 2010
“We have long recognized that a strong, secure, and successful Israel is our common goal, but it is also vital to America’s strategic interests.” –Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Remarks at the Dedication of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, April 15, 2010
“Israel…has been, is and will be an important strategic ally of the United States.” –Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. David Petraeus, Remarks to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, April 13, 2010
“The Israelis, of course, remain a vital ally and a cornerstone of our regional security commitments.” –Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman’s Corner Blog, February 23, 2010
“As we strive toward a comprehensive peace in the region between Israel and its neighbors, the closeness of our defense relationship and cooperation with Israel will continue.” —Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review Report, February 2010
The United States is strongly committed to maintaining Israel’s security.
“As we continue to strive for lasting peace agreements between Israel, the Palestinians, and Israel’s neighbors, all sides should understand that our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable and that no wedge will be driven between us. We will have our differences, but when we do, we will work to resolve them as close allies.” –Obama, Letter to Alan Solow (Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations), April 20, 2010
“The United States will never waiver in defense of Israel’s security. That is why we provide billions of dollars annually in security assistance to Israel, why we have reinvigorated our consultations to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, and why we undertake joint military exercises, such as the Juniper Cobra ballistic missile defense exercise that involved more than 1,000 United States servicemen and women. We view these efforts as essential elements of our regional security approach, because many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States.” –Jones, Remarks to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 21, 2010
“I know how rock solid and unwavering [President Obama’s] commitment is to Israel’s security and Israel’s future.” –Clinton, Remarks at the Dedication of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, April 15, 2010
The Obama administration has made clear that solutions cannot be imposed on Israel and the Palestinians from the outside.
“I am deeply committed to fulfilling the important role the United States must play for peace to be realized, but I also recognize that in order for any agreement to endure, peace cannot be imposed from the outside; it must be negotiated directly by the leaders who are required to make the hard choices and compromises that take on history.” –Obama, Letter to Alan Solow (Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations), April 20, 2010
“In our pursuit of a two-state solution, we recognize that peace must be made by the parties and cannot be imposed from the outside.” –Jones, Remarks to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 21, 2010
Again, the framing is AIPAC’s, but the content and tone are temperate and informed. This is the kind of informed approach that Senator Schumer might consider in conveying his own differences with the administration.
There are legitimate differences in the debate about how to approach a Rubik’s Cube like challenge in Israel-Palestine and broader Middle East policy. I try to consider alternative approaches that create a strategic leap forward for US policy and which will deliver on a viable Palestinian state with a unified, competent government and a secure and prosperous Israel that can begin engaging normally with its Arab neighbors in the region.
That is the goal.
— Steve Clemons