WASHINGTON — The White House remained firmly behind its criticism of Israeli settlement construction and pushed back on Monday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s retort that the US rebuke goes “against American values.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest pointedly noted that American values were responsible for US support of Israel and for building the Iron Dome anti-rocket system to protect Israelis.
“When it comes to American values, it’s American values that led to this country’s unwavering support of Israel,” Earnest said. “It’s American values that have led us to fund and build an Iron Dome system to protect the lives of countless Israelis.”
“It’s clear how American values dictate or at least guide our thinking,” he added.
The ‘settlement construction’ in question is the building of 2610 units — 800 of which are intended for Arab residents — in a Jerusalem neighborhood just across the Green Line called “Givat Hamatos.” The plan actually received final approved in 2012, but a recent announcement by the Mayor of Jerusalem was publicized immediately before PM Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama by Peace Now, which called it “destructive to the two-state solution.”
The White House and State Department responded predictably, with exceptionally harsh statements that the action would “distance Israel from even its closest allies” and “call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement.”
The US also strongly criticized the action of several Jewish families to legally purchase apartments in the Arab-populated Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem — a place where Jews lived prior to the ethnic cleansing of 1948.
None of this is surprising, given the administration’s policies. But as a (former) American, I think I know something about American values. And this ain’t them.
There is no question that Israelis are grateful to the US for its support of the Iron Dome system, which doubtless saved many lives. But the actions of the administration during the recent Gaza war are troubling.
While they seem to have no problem with Jews hunkering down and trying to deflect missile attacks, US officials — including Obama — were highly critical of Israel’s striking the sources of those attacks, despite the fact that the 1:1 ratio of civilian to combatant casualties was far better than the the US record in recent and current conflicts.
John Kerry pressured Israel to accept a Qatari-Turkish draft of a ceasefire agreement, despite the fact that these nations were the major backers of Hamas, and their proposal — as opposed to the Egyptian draft that was finally accepted — was advantageous to Hamas.
And although it is hard to prove, it is probably true that the FAA ban on US flights to Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport was instigated from the White House. The ban, which was followed by similar actions by non-US airlines, had the potential to seriously damage Israel’s economy. It was seen by many in Israel as a shot across its bow.
So is trying to deter a country from striking back at an aggressor consistent with American values? The US certainly responded with great force to Pearl Harbor and to 9/11 (even if its targeting was a little off in the latter case).
Fighting back against aggression is clearly an American value, as the US’ own actions and any John Wayne or Clint Eastwood movie should make clear. But as many observers noted during the Gaza war, the US supports Israel’s right to self-defense in principle, but not in practice.
It is also hard to understand why the US insists that any building across the Green Line, even in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem like Givat Hamatos, violates American values. It doesn’t even violate the American desire to divide Jerusalem on the principle that Arab neighborhoods will become part of ‘Palestine’, because it is already a Jewish neighborhood. What it does violate is the PLO contention that all of the land that was illegally occupied by Jordan between ’48 and ’67 was thereby transformed into ‘Palestinian land’ and belongs to them. But this is illogical, and anyway they believe that everything belongs to them.
Finally, the most glaring contradiction to American values is the objection to Jews living in Silwan. Arabs can live wherever they want in the eastern or western parts of Jerusalem. Why should Jews be prevented from doing so? There is a word for this, and it is entirely in opposition to present-day American values: segregation. It is remarkable that President Obama, who is exquisitely sensitive to civil rights issues in other contexts, doesn’t apply the same reasoning to Jews.
There are other American values that the administration is violating. One is the idea that you don’t stick your nose into other people’s affairs, especially to intervene on the side of a racist bully, which is what the PLO and Hamas are. More specifically, you don’t insist on taking away someone’s land in order to give it to terrorists who will use it as a launchpad for violence.
Apparently the administration’s idea of “American values” is more akin to doctrinaire left-wing European values. But I don’t think most real Americans agree.