In a recent Charlie Rose interview, National Security Adviser Susan Rice insisted that “the relationship between Israel, as a country, and the United States, as a country, has always been bipartisan,” but because of Israeli prime minister Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress next week, “there has now been injected a degree of partisanship” that she called “destructive of the fabric of the relationship.”
Let’s set the record straight on this laughable spin-job. Since 1967, no U.S. administration has been as guilty of “injecting partisanship” into the U.S.-Israel relationship as those of the presidents Rice has served, namely Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. And few officials in the history of the United States have been as guilty as of injecting partisanship, to say nothing of poisonous insults, into that relationship, as Susan Rice.
Thankfully Ms. Rice was not involved in Israel issues during the Clinton Administration, when her portfolio consisted of international organizations and African affairs. But Clinton’s chief Mideast envoy, Dennis Ross, makes no secret of how traumatized he and Clinton were by the election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, or of how elated they were by the election of the Labor party’s Ehud Barak in 1999. His memoir, The Missing Peace, gives a detailed account of the considerable lengths to which Clinton went in helping left-wing candidates in Israel and undermining right-wing ones.
The chapter of Ross’s memoir that corresponds to Netanyahu’s 1996 election is titled, “Bibi Wins: Will Peace Lose?” In it, Ross explains that Labor prime minister Shimon Peres, who was running against Netanyahu, had sought Clinton’s help in several ways. Peres pleaded with the administration to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, to show that Peres could deliver for Israel. National-security adviser Sandy Berger blocked the idea for purely political reasons — he didn’t want Clinton to appear weak by caving to a longstanding GOP demand.
Shortly before the election, Clinton gave a speech in which he essentially said, and this is Ross paraphrasing, that “Peres must be elected for the peace process to survive.” Perhaps you can guess the sequel: Peres was invited to visit the White House on April 30, just weeks before the Israeli election, in an undisguised bid to support his campaign.
When early predictions of a Peres victory proved false, “Our collective relief now became a collective dread,” writes Ross. Poor U.S. ambassador Martin Indyk “on a daily basis would now be dealing with people who did not see the Palestinians as partners and who still could not publicly accept the principle of land for peace.”
Of course, it’s not that Netanyahu didn’t see the Palestinians as partners, but that he didn’t see the Soviet-trained terrorist Yasser Arafat and his band of child-murderers as partners. And he was right, as it later turned out, when Arafat rejected the best deal the Palestinians would ever get, at Camp David in the last days of the Clinton administration, and launched the terrible Al Aqsa intifada, which eventually killed a thousand Israeli civilians.
When Obama came to the White House, many of his Middle East hands were resurrected from the Clinton administration, so it was no surprise that he, too, barely disguised his antipathy when Netanyahu was reelected. Remember Susan Rice’s star turn as U.N. ambassador to the United Nations? In 2011, on the occasion of the U.S. veto of a resolution on Palestinian membership in UNESCO, she publicly condemned Israel’s decision to built housing (for both Jews and Arabs) on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem, essentially blaming Netanyahu for the Palestinian escalation.
The Obama administration’s abuses of Israel are too many to count. Here’s another. During the last Gaza War, the White House briefly held up resupply of munitions to Israel. In fact, as soon as the fighting started, the U.S. proposed a cease-fire on the basis of status quo ante, which virtually guaranteed Israel would have little to show for its exertions at the end of the day. And Rice was presumably among those quoted (on background) by Jeffrey Goldberg recently, calling Netanyahu “chickens**t” and other such classics of relationship-building.
Foreign leaders routinely express preferences in our elections, in the hopes of swaying them, and vice versa. This is particularly so in the case of Israel, whose politics are — in foreign policy at least — intimately connected to American domestic politics. Thus, there is nothing remarkable in U.S. House speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu, which can stand quite comfortably alongside precedents established by Clinton and Obama.
Here’s a short list of things that have frayed U.S.-Israel relations since 1992: (1) Clinton’s insistence on treating the unreformed terrorist Yasser Arafat as a legitimate negotiating partner; (2) Clinton’s open treatment of Netanyahu as the main obstacle to peace; (3) Obama’s visible antipathy to Netanyahu from the first days of his administration; (4) Obama’s insistence that Israel pull back from defeating its enemies, particularly Hamas; (5) Obama’s coddling of the Muslim Brotherhood; (6) Obama’s apparent acceptance of Iran’s nuclear weapons program; (7) Obama’s decision to facilitate Iranian hegemony throughout the region; and (8) the insulting and poisonous Susan Rice.