Pro-Israel group AIPAC hits the White House

obama aipac

The pro-Israel group AIPAC, which had been at pains for much of President Obama’s term to downplay tensions between his administration and Benjamin Netanyahu’s, is criticizing Obama in the sharpest terms to date after a series of administration officials sharply reprimanded Netanyahu for the announcement of new housing units in East Jerusalem during Joe Biden’s trip.

“The Obama Administration’s recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern. AIPAC calls on the Administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State,” says the unsigned statement sent out by spokesman Josh Block. “The Administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel, with whom the United States shares basic, fundamental, and strategic interests.”

The statement criticizes the administration’s “escalated rhetoric” as “a distraction from the substantive work that needs to be done with regard to the urgent issue of Iran’s rapid pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the pursuit of peace between Israel and all her Arab neighbors.”

“We strongly urge the Administration to work closely and privately with our partner Israel, in a manner befitting strategic allies, to address any issues between the two governments,” the statement says.

The statement reflects a defiant stance from the Israeli government and its American allies. They’re confident on the one hand in Obama’s unpopularity in Israel and in the popularity of Netanyahu’s refusal to compromise on Jerusalem. It’s also a gamble that, politically, Obama has nothing to gain from escalating a battle with a key ally as his domestic agenda hangs in the balance and his regional agenda appears to have stalled.

The statement also calls into question any American expectation that Netanyahu — whose initial reaction was to blame domestic political foes for the announcement — will move this week to calm tensions.

Full statement after the jump.

Statement from AIPAC:

The Obama Administration’s recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern. AIPAC calls on the Administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State.

Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East. The foundation of the U.S-Israel relationship is rooted in America’s fundamental strategic interest, shared democratic values, and a long-time commitment to peace in the region. Those strategic interests, which we share with Israel, extend to every facet of American life and our relationship with the Jewish State, which enjoys vast bipartisan support in Congress and among the American people.

The Administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel, with whom the United States shares basic, fundamental, and strategic interests.

The escalated rhetoric of recent days only serves as a distraction from the substantive work that needs to be done with regard to the urgent issue of Iran’s rapid pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the pursuit of peace between Israel and all her Arab neighbors.

We strongly urge the Administration to work closely and privately with our partner Israel, in a manner befitting strategic allies, to address any issues between the two governments.

As Vice President Biden said last week in Israel, “The cornerstone of the relationship is our absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel’s security. Bibi, you heard me say before, progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the United States and Israel. There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security.” Politico