On Monday night, Steve Sheffey’s Chicagoland Pro-Israel & Political Update set the record straight on a number of baseless claims about a White House conference call with Jewish leaders regarding Israel. He first took aim at a column by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post online in which she wrongly accuses the Obama Administration of pushing Israel to negotiate with Hamas. While she cited the call through second-hand sources, Sheffey sourced the same call which he participated in first-hand and reached a different conclusion:
I was on that conference call. I heard what [White House National Security Council Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa Steve] Simon said. He did not say that Israel should negotiate with Hamas. Simon did advocate for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (as of now, Hamas is not part of the PA government, a fact some of our Republican friends seem to forget). His point was, as others have said, that even if the US vetoes a unilateral declaration in the Security Council, if it passes with only the US, Israel, and Micronesia voting against it in the General Assembly, that’s a problem for Israel. The best outcome is not to have a vote at all, and that’s possible if we can get negotiations moving again. The US will oppose a unilateral declaration no matter what.
Sheffey characterized the rumor-mongering over the call as an attempt to make Israel a partisan wedge issue and denounced all attempts to politicize support for Israel:
These attempts to use Israel as a wedge issue to divide us should alarm all pro-Israel advocates, regardless of political orientation. Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has expressed deep concern over the increasing use of support for Israel as a partisan issue in American domestic politics. Oren emphasizes that bipartisan support for Israel is a strategic national interest for the State of Israel.
As the Jerusalem Post noted last year, ‘one big reason Republicans are trying to ‘out-Israel’ Democrats is because they have so few other issues appealing to Jewish voters and they carry the baggage of the radicals of the religious right and the Tea Party.’
He defended Obama’s pro-Israel record and compared it to the records of past presidents as further evidence of just how off base many of Obama’s critics are:
We hear about pressure on Israel so often that we’ve forgotten what real pressure is. George W. Bush pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in Gaza elections despite the objections of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, thus granting Hamas a diplomatic coup and a legitimacy it otherwise could never have attained. That’s what happens when you have a President who might feel it in his kishkes but doesn’t have it in his head.
Pressure is Bush 41 opposing loan guarantees as long as Israel continues settlement in the West Bank and Gaza and opposing new ‘settlements’ in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. (Bush complained that he was ‘one lonely little guy’ up against thousands of lobbyists on the Hill.)
You want to talk about pressure? Ronald Reagan faced down AIPAC and sold AWACs to Saudi Arabia despite intense opposition from the pro-Israel community. Reagan supported a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israel after Israel saved countless lives by bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor. Reagan suspended delivery to Israel of F-16’s after Israel bombed Iraq. After Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, Reagan suspended the strategic cooperation agreement between the U.S. and Israel, prompting Prime Minister Begin to accuse Reagan of treating Israel like a ‘banana republic.’ Reagan called for a settlement freeze in 1982. In 1988, Reagan reversed long-standing U.S. policy and authorized the State Department to negotiate with the PLO, then considered by the U.S. to be a terrorist organization. Reagan never visited Israel in his entire life, but he did visit Bitburg and its SS cemetery in 1985, despite pleas from Elie Weisel and many others not to. If that’s feeling it in your kishkes, I’ll take a pass.
Pressure is Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger in 1975 announcing their intention to ‘reassess’ relations with Israel to coerce Israel into signing an agreement with Israel that at the time was heavily tilted toward Egypt.
Pressure is Eisenhower forcing Israel to withdraw from the Sinai in 1956.
Sheffey also devised a creative way to counter the bogus emails circulating around the internet that falsely smear Obama’s Israel record [emphasis Sheffey’s]:
Do you want to rid your in-box of these nasty, divisive emails suggesting that President Obama and Democrats aren’t good on Israel? You can. The next time one of those emails hits your in-box, ask the sender to give you one example—just one example—of an anti-Israel measure enacted when the Democrats controlled Congress or implemented by President Obama that differs from measures enacted or implemented by previous Congresses or Presidents. The silence will be golden.
The full Chicagoland Pro-Israel & Political Update from June 13, 2011 can be read here.
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