In his interview with Bret Baier on Fox News yesterday, Obama said: “And what we’ve said is we need both sides to take steps to make sure that we can rebuild trust, and yesterday when there were riots by the Palestinians against a synagogue that had reopened, we condemned them in the same way because what we need right now is both sides to recognize that is in their interests to move this peace process forward” (emphasis added).
But did we really condemn the Palestinian violence? On March 16 (the day to which the president refers), the State Department spokesman had this to say: “As we said yesterday, we are concerned about statements that could potentially risk incitement because we recognize that there’s a great deal of tension in the region right now. Today, you had Hamas say ‘Call for a day of rage.’ This is irresponsible.” No use of the word condemn.
At the White House, Robert Gibbs had this to say: “Well, again, as I said earlier today and as I said last week when asked about this, there are actions that each side takes that hurt the trust needed to bring these two sides together. The State Department reiterated — or I will reiterate what the State Department said yesterday about the deep concern that we have around inflammatory rhetoric around the rededication of a synagogue in Jerusalem. That’s not helpful on that side of the ledger.” And later there was this exchange:
Q: You partially answered this, but Israel claims over the years it’s tried to protect holy sites — Christian, Muslim and Jewish holy sites. Have you ever discussed this with the Palestinians and asked them to refrain from attacks on either people’s holy sites?
MR. GIBBS: We have — I would say — I’m taking this a little bit broader — I would say the types of things that you’ve heard us and, quite frankly, administrations in the past discuss as unhelpful to moving this process along are — is any call for the incitement of violence. Again, I mentioned the State Department — reiterated the State Department’s guidance on what we believed was unhelpful rhetoric around the rededication of a synagogue in Jerusalem as a real-time example of the type of action and rhetoric that is not in any way productive and undermines the trust that’s needed for both of these sides to sit down and directly address their issues and move forward on peace.
So where has the U.S. “condemned” the Palestinian violence? Not in any public briefing or statement so far.
Even if we did hold the Palestinians to the same standard as we do Israel, is a housing announcement concerning the Israeli capital really equivalent to a call to violence? That’s the question being ignored. Israel and its supporters would find such a notion preposterous. The Obami do not. But we’ve yet to see — despite the president’s comments — that they are even willing to extend the same condemnation language to their Palestinian friends.