Ben Smith at Politico:
New York Senator Chuck Schumer harshly criticized the Obama Administration’s attempts to exert pressure on Israel today, making him the highest-ranking Democrat to object to Obama’s policies in such blunt terms.
Schumer, along with a majority of members of the House and Senate, signed on to letters politely suggesting the U.S. keep its disagreements with Israel private, a tacit objection to the administration’s very public rebuke of the Jewish State over construction in Jerusalem last month.
But Schumer dramatically sharpened his tone on the politically conservative Jewish Nachum Segal Show today, calling the White House stance to date “counter-productive” and describing his own threat to “blast” the Administration had the State Department not backed down from its “terrible” tough talk toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Schumer, a hawkish ally of Israel since his days as a Brooklyn Congressman, described “a battle going on inside the administration” over Middle East policy.
“This has to stop,” he said of the administration’s policy of publicly pressuring Israel to end construction in Jerusalem.
“I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk,” Schumer told Segal. “Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel. They, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a two-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there.
“If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, ‘Why should we negotiate?’” Schumer said.
Schumer described the recent confrontation over construction in Jerusalem as a “kerfuffle.”
After being badgered by Ed Koch, New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D) finally blasted President Obama on Israel on Thursday. No, not on Fox or CNN or CBS or ABC, but on Nachum Segal’s JM in the AM (Hat Tip: Memeorandum) morning drive time show (which was on WFMU when I lived in New Jersey – sounds like it’s on WMPS today). Here’s a transcript: Chuck Schumer Interview with Nachum Segal 4/22/10
Nachum Segal: Straight to what has become one of the most concerning issues in the Jewish Community certainly, and for anybody in the United States, and anywhere in the world who cares somewhat, or more, about Israel. There is a perception that the White House and Jerusalem are not enjoying the same type of relationship that the White House and Jerusalem have enjoyed in the past. Need we be concerned?
SCHUMER: Well of course we should be concerned, and the thing we should most be concerned about, of course, the threat to Israel…I mean it always changes but it’s always there it seems to be the fate if Israel and it seems to be the fate of the Jewish people. Right now what are the threats? I would rank them in this order: Greatest threat- Nuclear Iran, obviously as Netanyahu has said that’s an existential threat. Second greatest threat- SCUDs in Syria these are rockets that can go four or five hundred miles and carry a bigger payload and could be launched by Hezbollah and hit any part of Israel far more damaging and devastating than the katyusha rockets. And third actually is what everyone is focused on, which is the disagreements between the United States and Israel, very real, on how to sit down and negotiate with the Palestinians. The irony is Nachum, on the first two, if you talk to the Prime Minister if you talk to the Israeli military, US-Israeli cooperation continues strong and hand in glove. Both the US and Israel greatly fear a nuclear Iran, and there are very serious discussions going on as to how to deal with it. We in the Congress Senator Lieberman and myself, Senator Bayh, are working up our sanctions bill, which even if the UN sanctions are weak we could have unilateral sanctions by the United States, for instance, if you cut of gasoline. Iranians do not produce their own gasoline, and by the way the Iranian people are ready to rebel and overthrow this regime, and if we would squeeze them economically that could happen.
SEGAL: If in fact all this is true, and let’s assume there is no reason not to believe that it’s true, that in fact Israel and the United States continue the same cooperation level they have had in the past, and we know that when it comes to serious matters, especially military matters, it’s been great cooperation, Why wouldn’t the President of the U.S. want that perception to be out there? Why would he want to alienate so many who care about Israel.
SCHUMER: Nachum this is the question I talked to Rahm Emanuel about, and the President about this week. I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk. Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel, they, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a 2-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there. If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, “Why should we negotiate?” So that’s bad and that should change and we are working on changing it. But the other two are very good, according to both the Israeli government and the Israeli military and the U.S. government. But we should make that known, why don’t they? I asked them to do just that, I said we should make it public because it will, at least, give people, who are supportive of Israel, Jew and non-Jew alike, a little bit of solace.
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
That’s simply remarkable, albeit long overdue. It tells me several things. First, Schumer, who is nothing if not politically astute when it comes to New York politics, senses that there is no upside to sticking with the president on this. One wonders how many constituents he’s heard from and who is threatening to cut off the money flow to Democrats.
Second, one suspects that Schumer has gotten nowhere in private and is now forced to unload in public. It seems that while Schumer cares what American Jews think, Obama is unmoved by quiet persuasion.
Third, Schumer and other pro-Israel Democrats now have a dilemma: what do they do when the president refuses to sign on to petroleum sanctions? What do they do when the next round of bullying starts up again? They’ve been painfully mute until now, which has no doubt encouraged the White House. If Schumer is as outraged as he sounded on the radio, this will end.
We can hope this is an important step forward and will be followed by other Democratic lawmakers. Who knows, in a week or so some major Jewish organization might actually pipe up with an equally bracing evaluation of the Obami’s onslaught on the Jewish state.
One aside: Schumer also had this to say about the origin of his name: “It comes from the word shomer, which mean guardian. My ancestors were guardians of the ghetto wall in Chortkov, and I believe Hashem, actually, gave me the name as one of my roles that is very important in the United States Senate to be a shomer, to be a shomer for Israel.” Suffice it to say that if Sarah Palin ever said that God had given a name to her with a mission in mind, the chattering class would go bonkers. But of course, it is perfectly acceptable for liberals to get messages from God without cries of indignation echoing throughout the media. That said, if Schumer takes his name to heart, albeit belatedly, and shows some leadership in gathering other Democrats to his position (that’s what Senate leaders do, after all), there will be reason to celebrate.
He let The One off the hook a bit by not touching on his repulsive treatment of Netanyahu at the White House or his harebrained idea to propose a Palestinian state himself, but otherwise he’s on target — especially vis-a-vis the Palestinians’ willingness to adjust their demands to exploit disagreements between the U.S. and Israel. As Yossi Klein Halevi put it, “Obama is directly responsible for one of the most absurd turns in the history of Middle East negotiations. Though Palestinian leaders negotiated with Israeli governments that built extensively in the West Bank, they now refused to sit down with the first Israeli government to actually agree to a suspension of building. Obama’s demand for a building freeze in Jerusalem led to a freeze in negotiations.”
It’s not just Schumer who’s souring on Obama on this point either. According to Quinnipiac, his approval rating on the Israeli/Palestinian issue stands at a robust 35/44, with — wait for it — two-thirds of Jewish voters saying they disapprove, down from 55 percent approval last month. Good work, champ. Exit question: Is it in fact a sign of the End Times that a libertarian with the surname Paul is now issuing strong pro-Israel statements? And if not, how long can he keep that up before the Paulnut faithful start to defect?
This is the 2nd time I know of that Schumer has publicly crossed the line when it came to zealously blaming his own government and colleagues in delicate matters of US-Israel-Palestine policy.
During the third of three major efforts of the George W. Bush administration to get the recess appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton confirmed in the US Senate, Senator Schumer launched a passionate personal campaign to help Bolton succeed.
Schumer called many Democratic Senate colleagues and bluntly said, “A vote against John Bolton is a vote against Israel.”
Senator Christopher Dodd finally challenged Schumer’s advocacy for Bolton and this statement in a meeting of the weekly Democratic Senate Caucus at the time — and put an end to Schumer’s campaign.
What Schumer was distorting was that every administration, Republican and Democrat, had in the past been a good friend of Israel. Bolton represented the face of Jesse Helms-inspired pugnacious American nationalism largely disdainful of international institutions and engagement, and it was well within the latitude of the United States Senate to reject Bolton, or in this case filibuster him, on numerous grounds without having the Israel card pulled.
Schumer has an Israel blind spot.
MJ Rosenberg at Huffington Post:
There is nothing wrong with criticizing a President’s foreign policy (although Schumer went out of his way to support former President George W. Bush on Iraq), but the words he uses in talking about Obama’s policies are utterly inappropriate.
I am not saying that Schumer, in any way, puts Israel’s interests above those of his own country. On the contrary, his main concerns are domestic and, with a few notable exceptions, he has been a strong progressive force.
Given the nature of American politics and the need to fill one’s political war chest, a certain amount of pandering is to be expected. But this time he went too far. Does he really believe that what happens in Brooklyn stays in Brooklyn? He owes the President an apology. And, by undermining an effort that could bring security to Israel, he owes the Israeli people an apology too.