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."
"Israel apologized and when Biden left, and Biden is the best friend of Israel in the administration [and] everything was fine," Schumer said. "But then what happened is the next day Hillary Clinton called up Netanyahu and talked very tough to him, and worse they made it public through this spokesperson, a guy named Crowley. And Crowley said something I have never heard before, which is, the relationship of Israel and the United States depends on the pace of the negotiations."
Schumer was referring to State Department spokesman PJ Crowley's description of Clinton's conversation with Netanyahu, in which he said that Clinton "made clear that the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process."
"That is terrible," Schumer said today. "That is the dagger because the relationship is much deeper than the disagreements on negotiations, and most Americans—Democrat, Republican, Jew, non-Jew--would feel that. So I called up Rahm Emanuel and I called up the White House and I said, 'If you don’t retract that statement you are going to hear me publicly blast you on this,'" Schumer said.
Schumer said the White House had backed off that statement, but that now "many of us are pushing back, some of the Jewish members will be meeting with the President next week or the week after, and we are saying that this has to stop."
"You have to show Israel that it’s not going to be forced to do things it doesn’t want to do and can’t do. At the same time you have to show the Palestinians that they are not going to get their way by just sitting back and not giving in, and not recognizing that there is a state of Israel," Schumer said. "And right now there is a battle going on inside the administration, one side agrees with us, one side doesn’t, and we’re pushing hard to make sure the right side wins and if not we’ll have to take it to the next step." (Continues here)