Written by P. David Hornik
The State Department has complained to Michael Oren, the recently appointed Israeli ambassador to the U.S., for at least the second time in recent weeks.
Last time it was because of Israel's plans to build 20 apartments in sovereign Israeli territory in East Jerusalem. This time it's over Israel's eviction of two Palestinian families from homes in sovereign Israeli territory in East Jerusalem.
Israel's liberal Supreme Court, which has often ruled in favor of Palestinians in property disputes, this time ruled that the properties belonged to Jewish families who claimed ownership.
That didn't stop Secretary of State Hillary Clinton-in addition to State officials' phone call to Oren-from dubbing the evictions "deeply regrettable" and "provocative."
The Obama administration, in trying to propel diplomatic activity between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab states, has been accused of putting one-sided pressure on Israel. The administration claims it's also trying to get Arab states to make gestures toward Israel, and the Palestinians to stop anti-Israeli incitement. But State's latest admonition to Oren gives the lie to any such claim to a balanced approach.
If the administration wanted to publicly accost the Palestinian Authority for behavior such as incitement, it could easily do so. Palestinian Media Watch has reported, for instance, on a Fatah-sponsored high school graduation ceremony in the West Bank
(watch the proceedings here)
where "high school graduates in a speech identify the Israeli cities Haifa, Acre, Jaffa and Jerusalem as part of 'Palestine.'" A female and male graduate bellow things like "In the name of the Shahids [Martyrs], in the name of the prisoners, in the name of the stone and the rifle," and "Fatah is [still] with the rifle. And our rifles are not rusty even if they have fired thousands of bullets."
More blatant incitement-high school graduates in an official ceremony calling for Israel's violent destruction-could hardly be imagined. But it's not as if State has called anyone at the PLO's mission in Washington (Obama signed a waiver in April allowing it to keep operating) to transmit a rebuke.
Or if that proved too cumbersome, it could have been done directly through the US Consulate in Jerusalemitself. But as noted this week in a full-page newspaper ad by the American Israeli Action Coalition, the consulate, albeit now located in pre-1967 West Jerusalem where Israel has been sovereign since 1948, is hardly an objective body. Its website is concerned solely with West Bank and Gaza Palestinians and not at all with Israel and Israelis, appears in English and Arabic but not in Hebrew, and so on.
State's bias in not recognizing any part of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is, of course, familiar. Practically blotting Israel out of the Jerusalem consulate's website, however, and presenting the consulate as almost solely a delegation to the Palestinians, has something strikingly less than evenhanded about it.
With such prevailing biases, there can be no realistic hope that the extremism being displayed in this week's sixth General Assembly of Fatah in Bethlehem will be seriously noted by the administration or divert it from its path of trying to push Israel into concessions.
As opposed to perfectly legal measures by Israel like building homes or evicting illegal residents from other homes, the administration will not take the Palestinians to task, for instance, for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's statement to the assembly that "we...reserve our authentic right to legitimate resistance"-a codeword for terror-or the fact that "large posters featuring Palestinian children brandishing rifles decorated the conference hall and public squares in Bethlehem."
Even many of those who believe in a genuine Israeli-Palestinian peace process as an imminent possibility are disturbed by the administration's negative focus on Israel. To be fair, both the Clinton and Bush II administrations (and not a few Israeli leaders) shared the ability to overlook Fatah's objectionable actions and words. But this administration's spotlighting of Israel as the alleged bad boy-whatever the administration's protestations-goes on. It causes unnecessary frictions in the relationship and does nothing to promote peace or U.S. interests, while continuing to chip away at Israel's already badly maligned image.