Right after sundown this evening, the neoconservative Emergency Committee for Israel issued a strident attack on DefSec Leon Panetta for his statement at the Saban Forum yesterday that Israel has to "get to the damn table." Bill Kristol said that Obama blames Israel for all the problems of the Middle East:
"The Obama message is loud and clear: the world would be a safer, simpler, and more peaceful place if not for the troublesome Jewish state."
The attack was also aimed at Howard Gutman, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium, for comments he made this week that Muslim hatred of Jews stems from the Palestinian situation.
Kristol's statement is remarkable for its brittle petulance and is another sign that the ground is shifting and the neocons are under assault. They're flailing. This feels like it's aimed at conservative Jewish donors. Kristol strikes a poor-little-Israel tone when it comes to the Arab spring and Turkey; and he is unconsciously grandiose when he says that Gutman's comments will prompt his recall as ambassador. Do you really think the lobby has that kind of power? Maybe it does...
Below are Ynet's very imprecise report of Gutman's statement and then an excerpt of Kristol's attack. Ynet:
A distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Gutman said. He also argued that an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.
The American envoy, a lawyer by training, is Jewish and played a major role in fundraising for the Democratic Party. He was appointed to the post by President Barack Obama.
Now here is Kristol, partial:
Nobody believes President Obama when he claims, as he did last week, that he “has done more for the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration.” That’s because he hasn’t — and because President Obama and his administration keeps acting to weaken the security of the state of Israel.
For example: as reported in the Israeli press, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman — a top Obama fundraiser in 2008 — told a conference in Brussels this week that Muslim anti-Semitism “stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.” Pardon us for retaining our belief that Muslim anti-Semitism in the Middle East predates 1967, and even 1948 — and in any case is the fault of the anti-Semites, not of the Jews.
At another conference, this one in Washington, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta surveyed the Middle East and discovered that at every turn, the Jewish state is to blame for problems in the Muslim world. Are there Arab uprisings that are bringing Islamists to power and endangering peace with Israel? Israel must placate the radicals. Are there constant provocations and taunts from Turkey’s Islamist government? Israel must beg for better treatment. Do Palestinians refuse to negotiate? “Get to the damn table,” Panetta thundered twice — as if Israel was refusing to talk, instead of the reverse.
Just about the only thing in the Middle East that President Obama hasn’t blamed Israel for is the Iranian nuclear program. But when it comes to this, too, instead of supporting crippling sanctions or preparing military strikes, the White House seems to spend more time deterring Israel from acting than deterring Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place. And the administration’s energy seems more focused on undermining Israel and those members of Congress pushing for a tougher approach to Iran, than in undermining the Iranian regime.
The Obama message is loud and clear: the world would be a safer, simpler, and more peaceful place if not for the troublesome Jewish state.
Ambassador Gutman’s comments were not way out of line with Obama’s worldview. Nonetheless, we expect he will be recalled because the Obama administration won’t want to expend political capital defending him. He should be recalled, of course. But what the events of recent days emphasize is that the problem is not with one ambassador or with one cabinet secretary. The problem is President Obama.”