Israel should immediately battle a charge emerging in the US that its actions are endangering the lives of US soldiers, because it is a particularly “pernicious” argument that “smacks of blaming the Jews for everything,” Anti-Defamation League National Chairman Abe Foxman said on Monday.

Foxman, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, was replying to an emerging theme that has run through the public discussion in the US of the Interior Ministry’s announcement of plans to build 1,600 housing units in northeast Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood: that Israel’s actions could cost the lives of American soldiers.

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Eytan Gilboa, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and a specialist on US-Israeli relations, said the government needed to frontally counter this argument because it risked eroding support for Israel among the US public.

US Vice President Joe Biden was quoted by Yediot Aharonot last week as telling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in an angry exchange over the Ramat Shlomo incident, that “this is starting to get dangerous for us.”

“What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Biden was quoted as saying. “That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”

On Saturday, the Foreign Policy magazine Web site ran a story saying that the commander of the US Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, sent a briefing team to the Pentagon at the beginning of the year “with a stark warning: America’s relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America’s soldiers.”

And on Sunday, ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper asked US President Barack Obama’s top aide David Axelrod twice whether “Israel’s intransigence on the housing issue put the lives of US troops at risk.”

Axelrod said he wouldn’t put it in those terms.

“This is probably one of the most serious charges that we have ever heard,” Foxman said.

“Israel is a country that has never asked American soldiers, even in its darkest moment, to risk its lives to defend it. From time to time there have been suggestions of security pacts, where the US would have to come to Israel’s aid, and all the leaders of Israel have said that the last thing they would want is for US soldiers to risk their lives to defend Israelis,” he said.

The charge that supporting Israel endangers US soldiers, Foxman said, comes from the “linkage fantasy,” a point of view that “if you just resolve this conflict, everything else will fall into place: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, America’s war with fundamentalist Islam.”

Gilboa, meanwhile, said that if not combated aggressively, this argument – if it gains traction among the American public – could undermine the widespread support in the US for Israel.

“All Americans support their troops,” he said, adding that this particular argument was “very dangerous.”

The logic behind the argument is that the US feels it needs to maintain the pro-Western Arab block for the scheduled withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in August, and then later from Afghanistan, and that this block will crumble without a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gilboa said.



“This is not the case,” he argued. “This logic ignores the interest the pro-Western Arab countries have in maintaining good relations with the West, and in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”

Gilboa said this argument might be an excuse being used by the US military to cover up its failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he didn’t think the Ramat Shlomo project was important to al-Qaida fighting the US in Iraq, or to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“It is complete nonsense,” he said.

“This is dangerous, because it could hurt public opinion toward Israel, and increase anti-Semitism. There is a great need to do something,” he said, adding that US soldiers were being killed in Iraq because of US policies, not Israeli ones.

This was one issue Netanyahu needed to address at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington next week, Gilboa said.

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