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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.