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Sarah Palin, Others Hit White House Over Israel Spat


The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful lobbying group, on Sunday criticized the Obama administration for its aggressive tone following Israel's announcement -- during a visit to the country by Vice President Joe Biden -- that it would build new housing units in East Jerusalem.

Now lawmakers are weighing in with statements echoing the comments by AIPAC, which boasts that its yearly Policy Conference is attended by nearly half of Congress.

Politico reports that House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, the highest-ranking Jewish member of Congress, asked White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel Monday night to "pull back and lower the volume" of the administration's Israel rhetoric.

Cantor complained that the White House was engaged in an "opportunistic move by an administration that wants to impose its view" onto a U.S. ally.

New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, meanwhile, also criticized the administration with a statement suggesting there was a "temper tantrum" by the White House. "Israel is a sovereign nation and an ally, not a punching bag. Enough already," he said.

And while Sarah Palin may no longer hold elective office, she weighed in as well. On her Facebook page, Palin complained "the Obama Administration has decided to escalate, make unilateral demands of Israel, and threaten the very foundation of the US-Israel relationship."

"The Obama Administration needs to open its eyes and recognize that it is only Iran and her terrorist allies that benefit from this manufactured Israeli controversy," she said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday said claims that there is a crisis in Israel-U.S. relations were overheated even as the U.S. special Mideast peace envoy, George Mitchell, postponed a planned trip to the Mideast. (That trip was later canceled.) Clinton had earlier called the decision to announce the construction in East Jerusalem during Biden's trip, which the United States opposes, insulting.

Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their proposed state and say they will not re-engage in direct peace talks unless the decision to build the 1,600 new units is overturned.

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg suggests the Obama administration's aggressive response to the announcement may have something to do with putting pressure on that nation's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

"I think it's fair to say that Obama is not trying to destroy America's relations with Israel; he's trying to organize Tzipi Livni's campaign for prime minister, or at least for her inclusion in a broad-based centrist government," writes Goldberg. "I'm not actually suggesting that the White House is directly meddling in internal Israeli politics, but it's clear to everyone...that no progress will be made on any front if Avigdor Lieberman's far-right party, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Eli Yishai's fundamentalist Shas Party, remain in Netanyahu's surpassingly fragile coalition."

The goal, Goldberg suggests, may be to push Netanyahu to reorganize his governing coalition without the hardliners on the right in order to get the Mideast peace process moving.

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