Netanyahu tells Obama to "study the facts" before critiquing Israel's Settlements

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President Obama sits with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Oval Office. Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told President Obama during a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday that he needed to “study the facts” the next time he, or his administration, planned on critiquing Israel’s settlement expansions. Netanyahu then, with incredible chutzpah, tried to imply that anti-Semitism was behind such critiques by Obama.
Netanyahu’s thorny words came after Washington blasted a new settlement expansion plan, characterized by the White House as poisonous, which was announced by Israel just before Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama. This plan calls for 2,160 new housing units to be built in the neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, an area which stands beyond the Green Line and is integral to those who want to make dividing Jerusalem impossible in any future two-state resolution. The White House also criticized the occupation of twenty-five Palestinian apartments in East Jerusalem purchased by settlers, who — backed by riot police — expelled families in the middle of the night with little warning.
In response to these critiques, Netanyahu told Obama that he and his administration needed to “study the facts and details before making statements” about Israel’s new construction plan, claiming among other things that it was not new, that the timing of its announcement was innocent, and that the construction would be for both Israeli Jews and Palestinians. However, it appears that Obama and the White House indeed did their due diligence, for Netanyahu’s claims have been shown to be false, and the Obama administration’s critiques on point.
Perhaps worse than calling Obama ignorant, however, was his forced attempt to depict his criticism as having anti-Semitic echoes. Here is what Netanyahu said after his meeting with Obama:

I have no intention of telling Jews they can’t buy apartments in East Jerusalem. This is private property and an individual right. There cannot be discrimination — not against Jews and not against Arabs.

This statement, which came after the White House blasted both Israel’s settlement expansion and settlers who took over East Jerusalem apartments, has a clear purpose: to imply that critiquing these things is anti-Semitic. See, while Netanyahu would never tell Jews they can’t live in a particular place, President Obama — and anyone who would question the purchasing of apartments by Jewish settlers or the building of apartments by the Jewish State — are apparently the type of people who would tell Jews where they can and cannot buy property.
This is a clear evocation of anti-Semitic policies which have forbidden or limited Jewish property ownership in the past. It is also a clear conflation of Israel and all Jews as a way to shield Israel from critique, an anti-Semitic trope Netanyahu has mastered. Such a conflation, with Israel representing all Jews, turns Obama’s critiques into statements tinged with bigotry.
Editor’s at Israel’s Haaretz admonished Netanyahu for his statements, for his clear disinterest in a two-state solution, and for his eroding of the relationship between America and Israel:

America continues to support Israel automatically, both diplomatically and militarily, but the damage caused by Netanyahu’s policies keep growing and they will ultimately sabotage the practical aspects of Israel’s relationship with Washington as well. A government that is suspected by the UN secretary general of committing war crimes and whose policies are termed poisonous by the White House is a government that is doing enormous harm to Israel.

Netanyahu and Israel’s government is doing damage not just to Israel and those Palestinians oppressed by its occupation, but to American interests as well. Interests we spend $3 billion annually to help maintain.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.