The American Jewish Committee slammed a pro-Israel group for its ad campaign questioning President Obama’s Israel commitment.
‘This ad is highly objectionable, indeed counter-productive, to its stated aim of supporting Israel,’ David Harris, the AJC’s director, said in a statement Monday after the Emergency Committee for Israel’s full-page ad appeared in The New York Times.
The ad, headlined ‘Tell President Obama: Enough. It’s time to stand with Israel,’ urges the president to defend Israel this week at the United Nations General Assembly, when the Palestinian Authority is pushing for statehood recognition.
It accuses the president of having ‘built a record that is not pro-Israel,’ citing Obama’s criticisms of Israel’s settlement policies among other factors, and makes five recommendations that it says would redress that assessment.
Harris said the ad was inappropriate because the Obama administration was in fact ready to forcefully defend Israel this week.
‘As the U.N. session begins and high diplomatic drama is expected, to choose this moment to assail the Obama administration, when it laudably has announced its intention, come what may, to block Palestinian ambitions in the Security Council and work against a Palestinian-initiated resolution in the General Assembly, makes us wonder what are the true goals of the sponsoring group,’ Harris said.
Tablet also reported on September 22:
Yesterday, Harris confirmed to me that his statement was highly unusual: ‘This is not something AJC does in a matter of course. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we responded to a full-page ad in the New York Times, and I’ve been in this position for 21 years.’...
Harris argued that his objection wasn’t to the policies advocated but the timing of the advocacy. ‘We have been very heavily involved for months in dealing with the challenges that have all bubbled up this week at the U.N. with the Palestinian unilateral strategy,’ he said. ‘We knew and know the essential role being played by the United States in trying to forestall this. And consequently, when I saw the ad on Monday morning, I was shocked that precisely as this critical week begins, this group chooses exactly that time to air its more general grievances about the administration’s policy on Israel. I thought that the timing could not have been worse.’ He added, ‘It was not about partisan politics. It was simply trying to shield the key issue of this month from what I thought was an ill-advised, ill-timed assault.’
Where would he locate Gov. Rick Perry’s prominent criticisms of the administration’s Israel policy, which the Republican candidate also chose to level this week? ‘I don’t want to get involved and be misunderstood in what’s becoming a very fierce partisan debate over Israel and policy toward Israel,’ he said, emphasizing that the AJC does not endorse (or oppose) candidates. ‘I welcome every candidate’s support for Israel. But in the meantime, we’ve got one president at a time. And I simply must tell you, listening to the president’s speech at the General Assembly today, it was a fine speech, and I don’t think anyone could have asked for more from that speech.’
The Forward reported:
While ECI said that its critique of Obama does not extend to the Democratic Party as a whole, the ad has prompted a strong response from Jewish communal leaders, some of whom see it as the latest in a string of right-wing attempts to turn Israel into a partisan wedge issue as the 2012 presidential election draws near. These efforts, they say, stand to threaten the very nature of pro-Israel advocacy in Congress, which has historically been bipartisan.
‘I see a very concerted attempt to turn support for Israel into a political wedge issue, and that worries me greatly,’ said Doug Bloomfield, former legislative director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. ‘When you turn it into a wedge issue, you undermine that historic consensus.’
ECI is a not-for-profit political advocacy group representing pro-Israel Jewish hawks and their Christian counterparts. It counts three board members who are prominent Republicans: William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard; Gary Bauer, an adviser to Ronald Reagan, and activist Rachel Abrams. In the year since its founding, ECI has run ads opposing the congressional candidacies of Democrats Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania and Mary Jo Kilroy in Ohio, painting the candidates - who ultimately were defeated - as weak on Israel. Now, the group has turned its attention to the president.
ECI’s New York Times ad drew ire, in part, because its timing coincided with a planned Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations, a moment of diplomatic duress for Israel. The American Jewish Committee’s executive director, David Harris, issued a press release critiquing the ad as ‘highly objectionable’ given the stakes for the president.
‘I have never done this before,’ Harris told the Forward. ‘There have been lots of ads that have appeared over the years. This one really rankled, because I know exactly what we are facing and I know to a large degree what the administration is involved with.’...
‘You can’t blame politicians [for trying] to use whatever they have in order to change their share of the pie,’ said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. ‘I think in the end it will be costly to what we call the support of Israel. It would be nice if we could continue to say the one issue [on which] there is bipartisan support is Israel. I think it will become less and less in the next couple of months, and repair itself in the future.’
According to Foxman and others, using Israel as a wedge could mean the end - temporary or otherwise - of Israel’s across-the-board support in Congress, widely seen as one of the most significant bipartisan success stories in contemporary American history.
‘If Israel is seen as a partisan wedge issue, then one party can paint the other as anti-Israel when that party is in power, and Israel’s stature will be diminished just by the image of it,’ Bloomfield warned. ‘Israel’s greatest strength is its partnership with the U.S. But if Israel is a partisan issue, then it loses its importance and its clout.’