Starting out the week, Associated Press reported: “The European Union said Monday that all its deals with Israel must ‘unequivocally and explicitly’ show that they cannot apply to occupied territories, a move that builds on a November decision to label Israeli products made in the West Bank. Palestinians welcomed the stance, while Israel accused the EU of discrimination. Monday’s meeting of 28 EU foreign ministers stressed that it ‘does not constitute a boycott of Israel which the EU strongly opposes.’ ” Now the Obama administration is on record agreeing with this sophistry. (Dripping with sarcasm, Israel analyst Omri Ceren tweeted, “Just as marker for record, today was when most pro-Israel admin[istration] ever came out in support of slapping labels on Jewish goods from West Bank.”)
At the State Department, spokesman John Kirby asserted on Tuesday:
MR KIRBY: Well, as you know, our longstanding position on settlements is clear. We view Israeli settlement activity as illegitimate and counterproductive to the cause of peace. We remain deeply concerned about Israel’s current policy on settlements, including construction, planning, and retroactive legalizations. The U.S. Government has never defended or supported Israeli settlements, because administrations from both parties have long recognized that settlement activity beyond the 1967 lines and efforts to change the facts on the ground undermine prospects for a two-state solution. We are no different.QUESTION: And does that mean – so that means that you have no issue with this EU decision? You support it?MR KIRBY: Well, you’re talking about this – the specific reaction to —QUESTION: Correct. Yeah.MR KIRBY: Yeah. Although I would refer you to the EU for an official response to their policies, they’ve made clear that this is not a boycott in any way and that the EU also made clear that they oppose boycotts against Israel.QUESTION: Right.MR KIRBY: We do not view labeling the origin of products as being from the settlements a boycott of Israel. We also do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott.QUESTION: Okay. But in terms of the issue with the agreements and omitting from them the West Bank and Gaza, you also – you think that that – you think that’s okay? In other words, you agree with the EU that this does not indicate a boycott or isn’t a boycott or won’t —MR KIRBY: That’s right. And we —QUESTION: — lead to a – okay.MR KIRBY: And our position on boycotts have not changed.
This is disingenuous at best. As Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute observed: “This is completely consistent with all the administration’s other policies hostile to Israel. Labeling goods made by Israeli businesses in disputed territories but not goods made in other disputed territories like Kashmir, for example, is an example of blatant anti-Semitism.” She continued, “And while the administration would surely argue that forcing Jews to wear yellow stars is not a sign of discrimination but merely a diktat about clothing, it should be clear to Jews everywhere that the 1930s are returning.” (Let’s not forget that Secretary of State John Kerry has previously hinted that the U.S. would not be able to protect Israel from boycotts if it did not make more concessions to the Palestinians.)
When the E.U. acted late last year, Congress was not mute. TheTower.org reported: “Citing a concern that the European Union’s proposed guidelines to label goods produced by Israeli companies operating in the West Bank could ‘promote a de-facto boycott of Israel,’ senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D – N.Y.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday released an open letter, which was signed by 36 senators and addressed to the EU’s top diplomat, urging the European body to reconsider the discriminatory policy.” In the House, a bipartisan group introduced a resolution to condemn the E.U.’s action. (“New European Commission guidelines to single out Israeli products manufactured in the West Bank and other areas only encourage and prompt consumers to boycott all Israeli goods. This is counterproductive to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, harmful to U.S. national security interests, and contributes to the deeply misguided anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.”) Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who led the House effort last year, tells Right Turn: “The Administration’s decision to support an EU policy of labeling Jewish products draws uncomfortable historical parallels and reveals a troubling lack of understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are over 200 territorial disputes all over the world, yet the State Department chooses to single out Jews for special treatment.” He adds: “Sadly, this behavior is what we’ve come to expect from the European Union. I find it deeply disturbing to see our own State Department now reading from the same script.”
So where is the condemnation from Democrats for the administration’s position? If the EU’s action was worth condemning, all the more so for them to speak up about the Obama administration.
Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams observes, “The ‘labeling’ initiative is part of the broader movement to single out and isolate Israel and to damage its economy. The EU does this in no other territorial dispute, such as Cyprus or Tibet.” He reminds us, “When the United States supports such actions, we are- in Jeane Kirkpatrick’s words- ‘joining the jackals.'”
It should be noted that this has been a banner week for the State Department knocking Israel. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro on Monday isssued a blistering attack on Israel, claiming, “Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities, too much vigilantism goes unchecked, and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians.” This flies in the face of Israel’s prosecution of Israeli violence and rings especially hollow at a time the Palestinian Authority is doing little to nothing to discourage a rash of stabbings and killings in Israel that some have called a Third Intifada. In addition to the lifting of sanctions against Iran, the timing of the remarks was especially ill-conceived. (“The Prime Minister’s Office quickly issued a sharp response, saying that these words — coming on a day when Israel buried Dafna Meir and a pregnant woman was stabbed — ‘were unacceptable and wrong.’ “)
At the press briefing on Tuesday, the spokesman was asked, “Why — in a particularly difficult moment or a sensitive moment like yesterday was in the wake of the Iran deals, the sanctions on Iran getting lifted, something that clearly was opposed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government, was it — in retrospect, was it wise to send Ambassador Shapiro out to give a speech castigating the Israeli Government on issues, and not making really any new points about your opposition to their activities in the West Bank?” The spokesman went around and around but could not cite any particular reason for the latest kick in the shin. (Today, Roskam sent a letter today to Kerry castigating Shapiro for his remarks.)
Only the worst apologists for the administration can ignore the pattern of consistent antagonism toward our ally. The Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy has been a nightmare for the U.S.-Israel relationship, but moreover, has signaled to friends and foes alike that the United States is a disloyal, unhelpful ally. After all, if this is how the United States treats its closest Middle East ally, Israel, what country can expect anything better?