The Obama administration is pushing back hard against Israeli critics of its peace efforts, enlisting American Jewish groups to respond to personal attacks on Secretary of State John Kerry.
In recent weeks, administration officials have strongly condemned Israeli critics of Kerry’s peace bid. In response to some of the harshest anti-Kerry rhetoric, Jewish groups weighed in with their own denunciations.
Obama administration insiders and Jewish communal officials say some of those rebukes followed direct solicitation by administration officials. But the responses from the Jewish groups also reflect a concern that the tone of some of the Kerry criticism could damage relations between the administration and the Israeli government.
“Even if people, be they in Israel or in the United States, have disagreements with what John Kerry is proposing, it’s absolutely essential that those disagreements are expressed on the substance and not through personal attacks,” said Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, which issued a statement condemning a small number of Israeli rabbis who warned that Kerry could face divine punishment.
But defending Kerry’s future proposals may be the one of the motives behind the administration’s aggressive pushback. Administration officials and Jewish groups sympathetic to Kerry’s initiative say there is a longer-term agenda in preempting attacks on the framework peace agreement that the Obama administration is expected to propose soon.
The administration has tapped sympathetic Jewish figures and groups to prepare the ground in the Jewish community for the difficult compromises on territory and Jerusalem that will be embedded in the framework peace plan.
Robert Wexler, a former Florida congressman, is traveling to Jewish communities around the country advocating for the compromises likely to appear in the framework proposal. J Street, the dovish Israel policy group, has launched a campaign of town hall meetings across the country to support a two-state solution.
“As Kerry’s initiative gathers steam and Israeli and Palestinian leaders near a moment of decision, we expect sadly to see more outrageous attacks on one of the greatest friends Israel has,” J Street said in a Feb. 4 statement.