Sunday, April 25, 2010
Schumer Blasts White House on Israel Policy
Hana Levi Julian
U.S. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and a leading Demcoratic Congressman have strongly criticized Obama administration policies against Israel. New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, who once worked for Sen. Schumer and is the fiancé of a Muslim aide to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also came out swinging. “The appropriate response was a shake of the head – not a temper tantrum," Rep. Weiner said. “Israel is a sovereign nation and an ally, not a punching bag. Enough already.”
Sen. Schumer told listeners on the Nachum Segal Show in New York that the White House stance on Israel has been “counterproductive”. The senator, who faces elections in the fall, said he had told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel weeks ago that he would take a public stand if the State Department did not back down from its “terrible” treatment of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
“This has to stop,” Schumer said he told the White House.
Schumer said there was an internal “battle” going on in the White House between members of the president's staff. “One side agrees with us, one side doesn't, and we're pushing hard to make sure the right side wins – and if not, we'll have to take it to the next step,” he said.
“Palestinians don't really believe in a State of Israel,” Schumer noted. “They, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a two-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there.
“If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, 'Why should we negotiate?' [State Department spokesman P.J.] Crowley said something I have never heard before, which is, the relationship of Israel and the United States depends on the pace of the negotiations,” Schumer added.
This was apparently the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back for the senior senator, who until now has been one of Obama's closest allies among the Jewish Democrats. Schumer was referring to a briefing in which the State Department spokesman said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “made clear that the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words, but through specific actions, that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process.”
Up to this point, Schumer had been largely silent about the growing hostility of the Obama administration towards the State of Israel, despite numerous calls by grassroots groups for legislators to stand up and support the Jewish State.
The contention of the State Department that the so-called “unbreakable bond” between Israel and the U.S. could now depend on the pace of talks with the PA, however, was the red line for Schumer.
He explained, “That is the dagger because the relationship is much deeper than the disagreements on negotiations, and most Americans – Democrat, Republican, Jew, non-Jew – would feel that. So I called up Rahm Emanuel and I called up the White House and I said, 'If you don't retract that statement you are going to hear me publicly blast you on this.”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs responded Friday, “We have an unwavering commitment to the security of Israel and the Israeli people. You heard General [James] Jones speak about that earlier in the week. We have said that from the beginning of the administration. I don't think it is a stretch to say we don't agree with what Senator Schumer said.”