Groups want stronger U.S. defense of Israel, Obama not obliging
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration appears to be rebuffing calls from some Jewish groups for the United States to be more assertive and public in defending Israel regarding the flotilla incident.
The bluntest appeal for a more pronounced pro-Israel posture came from Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, who is in Israel meeting with the Israeli leadership.
“The U.S. should reiterate its support and understanding for Israel, that as a sovereign and democratic nation it has the right to act on behalf of its national security and express its confidence that Israel can conduct its own investigation into the matter without the intrusion of international bodies,” Foxman told JTA.
Israeli commandos seizing control of the main boat in a Gaza aid flotilla clashed Monday before dawn with some of its passengers, and killed nine, among them at least four Turkish nationals. Six Israeli soldiers were wounded in the melee. Commandos seized control of five smaller boats without incident.
The United States has beaten back the sharpest condemnations. It watered down a U.N. Security Council statement so that it condemned the “acts” that led to the deaths, making ambiguous whether the Israelis or the passengers escalated the conflict into violence, and joined the Netherlands on Wednesday in voting against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution condemning Israel.
In its statements supporting an inquiry into the matter, the U.S. has said that Israel should conduct the probe, implicitly rebuffing demands elsewhere for an international inquiry.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee acknowledged the Obama administration’s bulwark against the tougher demands for Israel’s isolation, but made clear it wanted more.
“It would have been preferable if the U.N. and Obama administration had blocked any action implying criticism of Israel for defending itself,” AIPAC said in a memo. “Nonetheless, intervention by the United States prevented passage of a Security Council resolution condemning Israel. The administration continues to express its confidence in Israel’s ability to conduct its own investigation of the incident despite calls for an international inquiry.”
AIPAC also insisted that “the United States must now maintain its longstanding position not to allow the Security Council and other U.N. organs such as the U.N. Human Rights Council to exploit unfortunate incidents by passing biased, anti-Israel resolutions that obscure the truth and accomplish nothing.”
Had AIPAC been certain that the United States was committed to blocking such resolutions down the line, the pro-Israel lobby likely would not have made the recommendation.
No such certainty appears in the offing: Statements from Obama administration officials suggest that they are withholding judgment until the facts become clearer, and that meanwhile, the White House wants to see an easing of the blockade that triggered the aid flotilla.