This has been a bad week in Israeli-American relations -- more accurately, Israeli-Obama White House relations. Three White House players who should know better (and probably do) dumped on the only democracy in the Middle East, boldly contradicting the president's boast to Jewish donors that he's the most Israel-supporting president in history. (Where does that leave Harry Truman?)
Hillary Clinton went out of her way to pick a fight with Israel in the name of feminist principle. The secretary of state thought she was speaking "just among us girls" behind closed doors at the left-leaning Brookings Institute, but her remarks nevertheless made headlines in the Israeli newspapers.
Hillary was shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that Orthodox Jews segregate women and men, and buses in their Israeli neighborhoods acquiesced by reserving front seats for men. This naturally reminded her of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., and ultimately set off the modern civil-rights movement. But there is no such legally required segregation in Israel, by sex, race or otherwise, and Israeli courts have said so.
She was shocked again, poor lady, when she heard that several ultra-orthodox soldiers walked out of a military concert to avoid hearing women sing; it was against their faith to listen to women in song. The secretary of state apparently thought this sounded like Iran, and said so. Another cheap shot, which did not go unanswered in Israel. "The exclusion and segregation of women is something totally unacceptable, and it needs to be stopped," Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told the daily Ha'aretz, "but to cite this as a threat to Israel's democracy is a big leap."
Hillary would do better to measure her friends in Saudi Arabia against her feminist principles. Saudi women can't drive without a close male-relative chaperone, and if they do they risk a lashing. Saudi women have been promised the vote five years hence, but after decades of broken promises they're not holding their breaths. Women in Israel already share power with men, and have done so from the founding of the modern Jewish state. There must be someone in Foggy Bottom who could let Hillary in on the secret.
Hillary's feminist principles were offended, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking at the same conference, took a different poke at the Jewish state. He blames Israel for delaying negotiations with the Palestinians, as though it was the Israelis' fault there hasn't been "peace" talks for a while.
"Get to the damn table," Panetta said, like an irate father calling obstreperous children to dinner. He apparently hadn't heard that it was President Obama who set pre-conditions for talking about a complete construction freeze in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The president delays things by making the Palestinians even more recalcitrant than usual.
The president and his men could usefully read a new book, "Deception: Betraying the Peace Process," which describes the way the Palestinian Authority deliberately and systematically undermines the mutual trust necessary to accomplish anything. Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik meticulously document the way the Palestinians indoctrinate children to hate Jews, to idolize terrorists and deny Israel's right to exist.
In one chilling example in an "education" magazine sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, a teenage girl describes a dream of meeting her hero, Hitler, who tells her that he killed Jews to show her how horrible Jews are.
A close reading of the book could clear certain White House heads of the foolishness of Howard Gutman, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium (and a chief Obama fundraiser), who draws poisonous distinctions between the ancient anti-Semitism persistent in Europe and the anti-Semitism of Islamists, which he says arises from the behavior of the Jews. He wouldn't blame the Holocaust on the Jews, where European anti-Semitism was pervasive, but suggests that the Israelis can resolve Jew-hatred today by changing their ways. Every new settlement in Israel, he says, exacerbates the problem.
The White House quickly distanced the president and his administration from the ambassador's dictionary definitions of two kinds of anti-Semitism, but not before Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich accused the administration of undermining an ally. Newt said the president should fire the ambassador.
The two Republican presidential front-runners offer strong alternatives toward Israel. Romney said that his first foreign trip as president would be to Israel. (Obama hasn't visited Israel at all.) Newt promises to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Both challenge Obama's approach as unsympathetic, if not hostile, to Israel.
Jewish voters, many of whom are still enamored of the president, might think long and hard about how their man actually regards what's at stake in the Middle East, and how he might deal with Israel if he is re-elected and no longer has to worry about running for office or campaign money from the Jews.