Ron Radosh

First Panetta, now Ambassador Gutman: When it Comes to US Policy towards Israel, Listen to what its Representatives Say, Not to the President's Promises

First it was Leon Panetta, and now it’s Howard Gutman. President Barack Obama, who just last week told Jewish groups that he was proud that the U.S. considered Israel America’s “best ally,” now faces a torrent of administration appointees making it quite clear that for this administration, Israel is to be blamed for all of its failure in Middle East policy-making.

As readers of PJ Media already know after reading Barry Rubin’s recent post, Leon Panetta told the Saban Center in Washington, D.C., on Friday that Israel is responsible for its isolation in the world, that it hence must take bold action of a diplomatic nature to restore stability in the region, and that it must “get to the damn table.” When he was asked what the repercussions might be of a military strike against Iran, the secretary answered that if Israel struck the U.S. might be blamed and “could possibly be the target of retaliation from Iran.”

The clear implication is that Panetta thought it should not be done, and although he said all options are always on the table re Iran, any  Mullah worth his salt would take his words to mean the U.S. secretary of Defense was advising against such tough military action by Israel. Panetta concluded with these words of warning:

And lastly I think that the consequence could be that we would have an escalation that would take place that would not only involve many lives, but I think could consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret. So we have to be careful about the unintended consequences of that kind of an attack.

What the secretary seems unawares of are the unintended consequences of his own words. As Elliot Abrams, a former Bush official in charge of Middle East affairs at the N.S.C., put it:

Now, if that is the Secretary’s view he is duty bound to say it secretly to the President in the Oval Office.  But it is astonishing that he would say this on the record, for consumption in Tehran as well as in Jerusalem and all Arab capitals. For who, reading those words, really can believe that “all options are on the table?”  Who can believe Panetta hasn’t already made up his mind and will fight any decision to use force? Note his comment that how long a strike would delay Iran’s program “depends on the ability to truly get at the targets that they’re after. Frankly, some of those targets are very difficult to get at.” In plain English, what he was saying–as news stories put it–was that “US says strike on Iran could miss nuclear sites.” How reassuring for the Iranian regime.

As of this writing, no administration official — neither Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nor our president himself — has said anything to the effect that Panetta’s comments do not reflect administration policy.

And now come the more-than-disturbing comments of U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman. The ambassador, himself Jewish, is proof positive that there is something known as a self-hating Jew. Why else would this man, speaking at a conference on anti-Semitism held in Europe by the European Jewish Union, say: “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? (my emphasis)

Does the ambassador really believe that Muslim hatred of Jews stems from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Does he know anything about what is in the Koran, what the view of Muslim leaders of Jews has been for decades, if not centuries? Has he not heard of the role played by Hitler’s ally, Haj-Amin El Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Palestine during World War II and in the post-war period, in the last days of British rule of Mandate Palestine? Is he not aware of the great amount of evidence about Muslim anti-Semitism that has been around for centuries, and that predated by the ages the creation of Israel?

The ambassador also said he believes that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would have the result of significantly reducing Muslim anti-Semitism — a conclusion that squares with his view that Israeli intransigence is the reason there is not movement towards Middle East peace.

Lawyers across Europe listening to his remarks were shocked, and one of them, Nathan Gelbart, stood up and gave what press reports term “a scathing rebuttal.” Gutman answered:

The modern Anti-Semite formally condemns Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust and expresses upmost sympathy with the Jewish people. He simply has created a new species, the “Anti-Zionist” or – even more sophisticated – the so-called “Israel critic.”

The “Israel critic” will never state “Jews go home” but is questioning the legality of the incorporation of the State of Israel and therefore the right for the Jewish people to settle in their homeland. He will not say the Jews are the evil of the world but claim that the State of Israel is a major cause for instability and war in the region. There is no other country, no other people on this planet the “Israel critic” would dedicate so much time and devotion as to the case of Israel.

If we put Panetta’s and Gutman’s remarks together, both spoken this past week, it reveals that the Obama administration has one view of Israel’s role in the world: It is the power that alone is not taking action to end its isolation and that must henceforth be held responsible for not easing the tense situation in the Middle East.

We all know President Obama is concerned about the Jewish vote, especially in a state like Florida, where it alone could tilt the state to the Republican side in the 2012 election. So publicly he tries to reassure Jews that he is Israel’s best friend. At the same time he also has his representatives give speeches and make statements that serve as a note to the Arab world that he really knows whom is to blame for the turmoil, and that after he is safely re-elected to a second term, he will tilt American policy to their side.

As Ambassador Gutman himself told a representative of the Israeli press, the paper Yedioth Ahronoth, “the Arab world appreciates Obama following his speech in Cairo,” referring to the president’s now infamous 2009 Cairo speech that was filled with errors and that infuriated friends of Israel and the Jewish people.

Ambassador Gutman received his appointment, obviously, because he was one of the wealthy Jewish donors to Obama’s campaign, who raised $50,000 for him in 2008 and for the Democratic Party.

As Omri Ceren comments at Commentary magazine’s Contentions blog:

It’s also going to be hard for the administration to say Gutman’s views do not reflect Obama’s broader approach to Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict. Quite the opposite, they fit perfectly into the linkage dogma embraced by Obama and the foreign policy left, where pathologies in the Arab world are the result rather than the cause of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Why should we be surprised? As many documented during the 2008 campaign, in leaving Chicago, Obama promised his friend Rashid Khalidi that if he became president, he would use his power to move American power in a direction more friendly to the Palestinian worldview. Later, Khalidi would comment that he thought the president had to hold back because of the power of the Jewish lobby and the need to keep it in line for Democratic success.

Unless Obama repudiates both Panetta and Gutman, it is crystal clear that both speak for the administration, which wants it known that its policy prescription is to continue pressure on Israel and to exonerate the Muslim states from having any blame for the inability to preserve an unstable peace. A brief announcement of the White House that it “distances” itself from the ambassador’s remarks is not sufficient.

As scores of Jewish groups have demanded, Gutman’s views must be denounced publicly. One groups’s head, Doris Wise Montrose, made the following statement:

“As an organization devoted to making sure that the West upholds its promise of ‘Never Again’ by recognizing the genuine causes of genocidal Jew-hatred and the Holocaust” said CJHS founder and President Doris Wise Montrose, “we’ll remind the Ambassador that Muslim antisemitism stretches back centuries before the creation of the modern state of Israel and is explicitly advocated by the Koran.”

Ambassador Gutman is a noted donor to the Democratic Party and President Obama. His statements echo those made in 1999 and 2003 by George Soros, another significant Obama backer widely seen as hostile to Israel and to the US/Israeli relationship. Soros has repeatedly gone on the record insisting that Israel behavior is responsible for antisemitism, and urging Israel to weaken itself in the face of Arab hostility. Apparently the Obama administration has found something new to blame on Israel. Whether it’s Palestinian terrorism or Iran’s nuclear program, there seem to be an endless list of problems caused by the tiny Jewish State.

Ambassador Gutman’s wild theories are particularly troubling given the ongoing campaign by the White House to undermine Israel. Everyone is baffled by why President Obama would again and again pressure Israel while letting the Palestinians literally get away with murder, and nobody can come up with a good explanation for what he thinks he’s accomplishing by undermining the US/Israeli relationship.

The White House must be inundated with demands that Panetta be censured and that Ambassador Gutman be removed from office. If this is not done, anyone who votes for Obama thinking that he is aligned with Israel is simply fooling himself. Clearly, the pro-Israel statements of the president mean little, and are meant only to reassure Jewish voters that he stands with Israel, and that they should support him. As Jonathan S. Tobin writes at Commentary, the administration “is at its heart hostile to the Jewish state. Only a blind partisan would think such an administration could be trusted to deal fairly with Israel once the constraints of Obama’s re-election efforts are removed.”

Those like Mayor Ed Koch, whose efforts led to the victory of Rep.  Bob Turner in New York City’s 9th District last month, and who then changed to endorsing Obama in 2012 on the basis of one speech, must now reevaluate their views and acknowledge that when it comes to being fair to Israel, this administration is simply not to be trusted. It is more than clear that only one conclusion can be reached: A new fair policy towards peace in the Middle East, that treats Israel as an ally that has always sought peace, will not be forthcoming unless the Obama administration has no second term. That result is up to all of us.