You would think pro-Israel Democrats would be irate at President Obama’s dismissive attitude toward Israel and his refusal to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu this week. But with the election a month away, partisanship has won over:
”I don’t think it’s necessary for the president to rearrange his schedule,” Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill. ”I didn’t think it was appropriate for the prime minister to publicly get into a dispute with the president of the United States, since we’re both very closely working together to impose sanctions and to force Iran to stop its development of a nuclear weapon.”
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, blamed ”internal Israeli politics” for the spat.
”Maybe Netanyahu’s for [Republican candidate Mitt] Romney. And he’s making a mistake if he is,” Frank told The Hill when asked why he thought Israel had leaked the news of a perceived ”snub” to the Reuters wire service.
Yes, you read that right. Obama rejects a meeting with Netanyahu, and Netanyahu is to blame for the “dispute” because he supposedly allowed this news to leak to the media. Frank and Waxman seem more concerned that Obama’s snub went public than by the snub itself. In fact, Waxman doesn’t seem to think it was a snub at all — “I don’t think it’s necessary for the president to rearrange his schedule [for Netanyahu],” he told The Hill. If that’s the case, what exactly is Waxman annoyed at Bibi about? It’s not like the prime minister has been out there blasting Obama for rejecting the meeting. Contrary to the claims of conspiracy theorists, Netanyahu can’t control what Republicans say on the campaign trail, and their attacks on Obama over this are not his responsibility.
But not all pro-Israel Democrats are siding with Obama on this one. Ed Koch is once again furious with the president for the snub, Michael Goodwin reports:
“I’m pissed,” [Koch] told me. “I’m not off the bus yet, but I’m pissed and I’m going to harangue them.”
The anger has a familiar, even circular ring: Obama’s making America look like a paper tiger in the face of Islamic violence, and his policy toward Israel is wrong. Obama’s refusal to meet last week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “unacceptable.”
“There should be a certain courtesy involved,” Koch said. “You don’t just say we can’t fit him into our schedule.”
Exactly. Obama’s rejection isn’t just troubling for the U.S.-Israel relationship, it also sends a detrimental message to the countries that have knives out for Israel. In his interview with the Washington Post yesterday, Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed Israeli threats as mere bluster. The cracks in the U.S.-Israeli relationship must be giving him great encouragement.