On Saturday, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele appeared at a right-wing pro-Israeli settler rally in New York’s Central Park, trashing the Obama administration’s policy toward Israel, and rejecting further Israeli “concessions” to the peace process.
“It grieves me to the core,” said Steele, “to have to admit that today the American government has abdicated her traditional solidarity with Israel”:
Today, Israel truly stands alone among governments. Facing existential threats more dangerous and more imminent than ever before. That’s not to say that Israel has been abandoned, however, by the American people. But there is no denying that the current administration and its Congressional collaborators have left Israel to fend for herself.
It would be interesting to hear Steele explain how the Obama administration’s request for — and its Congressional “collaborators’” approval of — an additional $205 million in assistance for Israel for the “Iron Dome” short-range missile defense system squares with his assertion that the U.S. is “leaving Israel to fend for herself.”
Furthermore, as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, despite tensions over Israeli settlements, under the Obama administration the U.S. and Israel “actually have undertaken a broad effort at military and strategic cooperation — including supplying Israel with sophisticated American military equipment — to counter threats from Iran and Hezbollah fighters armed by Syria.”
Accusing the Obama administration of having an “appeasement-first mentality,” Steele went on to insist that “For the sake of Jerusalem, we must not be silent”:
For the sake of Jerusalem, we must no longer allow this or any administration to second-guess the relationship between Israel and America. For the sake of Jerusalem, the world can longer demand that Israel sell out the security of her people, and make every concession in the book just on the off-chance that a Palestinian leadership might show up at the bargaining table willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Steele shouldn’t have to be reminded of this, but pressuring Israel to honor its own past commitments to cease settlement construction does not in any sense qualify as a “concession.” These commitments were made as part of agreements brokered by the United States and its partners, whose credibility is negatively impacted by the refusal of the parties to meet their obligations. This doesn’t seem to bother Steele.
And, just in point of fact, the Palestinians already showed up at the bargaining table willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and did so — back in 1993.
As was noted in a previous post, this rally was sponsored by some of the most hardcore pro-settler organizations in the country, groups that actively support the takeover of Palestinian land by violent Jewish religious extremists. It’s disgraceful that Steele would even appear at such an event in the first place, let alone go and tell transparent, pandering lies about the Obama administration’s policies and encourage the most rejectionist elements in Israeli politics in the interest of getting a few more votes for Republicans.
On May 17, Debra DeLee of Americans for Peace Now sent Steele a letter asking him to withdraw from the rally. Noting that “the Republican Party’s 2008 platform clearly calls for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be resolved through negotiations,” DeLee wrote that “Promoting settlement construction is not consistent with this mandate.”
Given your leadership role in the Republican Party, I ask that you demonstrate responsibility and withdraw your agreement to speak at this event. Peace for Israel is more important than partisan politics. Every American president in the past 40 years — Republican and Democrat alike — has opposed West Bank settlements. They knew that settlements threaten Israel’s future as a democratic Jewish state living in peace and security with its neighbors, and impede US national security interests.