U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman’s specific line, coming in the midst of a long apology about how Obama had to follow congressional instructions and defund UNESCO, comes in at about 3:38 on the video. Keep in mind that what he anodynely describes as a “short-term tactical victory” – which he finds “understandable” in light of Israeli policy – was in fact a full-scale Palestinian nullification of the Oslo Accords. Quote-unquote:
Now we are all frustrated by the lack of progress in the Middle East, and by the continued settlement efforts by Israel. So we needed to press harder to resume the negotiations; we needed to press harder to stop the settlements. But that frustration has understandably led to Palestinians pursuing short-term tactical victories.
The rest of the speech had more complaints about those pesky congressional mandates, which are known elsewhere as “laws” and which American ambassadors have traditionally been charged with articulating in a favorable light. Gutman’s comments were coupled with one particularly clanking Banana Republic-style aside, where he meditated on how “… if my country’s case is just, as I believe it’s always been under President Obama …” There was a time when ambassadors didn’t go out of their way to rhetorically imply that past American presidents had pursued unjust policies.
There’s a reason we want ambassadors to completely avoid any impression of partisanship. Otherwise, allies and enemies will anticipate discontinuity across administrations, which would erode the faith they have in our commitments and pledges, which would in turn weaken lame duck presidents and those who have to deal with opposition-controlled Congresses. That said, the president himself began the administration dispensing anti-Bush payback to stalwart War on Terror allies – including hanging New Europe out to dry after they had taken the huge risk of siding with us and against Russia on missile defense – so that damage has mostly been done.
In any case, here’s the video of Obama’s ambassador to Belgium blaming Israel for Palestinian unilateralism. Because if there’s anything we’ve learned from Ambassador Gutman, it’s that there’s nothing that’s not Israel’s fault: