An American politician had to apologize this past January for seemingly referring to Republican criticism of President Barack Obama’s healthcare in a framework of Nazism. He may have to apologize again, this time to Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis, Tennessee, the person in question, was here in Israel last week on a junket provided for by J Street with four other colleagues. As reported: On the last day of his [J Street sponsored] trip to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said he spent more time on the West Bank and received a different perspective than he did on an official visit in 2007…sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC. He also met with Israeli "settlement people," who he said "don''t want any changes at all."...On his site he noted he ,also took a settlement and outpost tour for a first-hand look at the on-the-ground manifestation of settlement expansion and outpost development and its impact on Palestinian communities and the effect these settlements might have on creating borders for a Palestinian state.Incidentally, it would perhaps behoove AIPAC to include on a regular basis visits to communities in Judea and Samaria so that American politicians merit both sides. And, I would suggest, the leadership of YESHA should play host to visiting politicians from all over as a priority for, it appears, contrary to the rumor that the State Dept., for example, discourages visits across the Green Line, there is nothing wrong in crossing into Judea and Samaria. A Washington office might be even a better idea. But let''s return to Congressman Cohen.If anything, Cohen seems to have earned his $40,000+ PAC contribution from J Street as last Saturday night, IBA’s Yaakov Ahimeir interviewed Cohen for his “Ro’im Olam” Channel One TV program (archived here) and this is what I heard from Cohen:
"Jerusalem [wasn''t mentioned in Netanyahu''s Washington speech before both houses of Congress and] should be on the table…it has to be negotiated [but] that may not be my position if I had the opportunity to listen to him"; Not discussing issues with us was "a mistake", a "diplomatic faux pas"; "J Street and AIPAC want the same thing, the same thing with a different approach…a strong and viable Israel."
That''s a bit of chutzpah. Cohen''s colleague, Rep. Betty McCollum, thinks this: While it is disappointing not to have the opportunity to pay my respects to the Prime Minister, his recent comments while in Washington, DC only demonstrated that many of Mr. Netanyahu''s policies are impediments that prevent peace negotiations from going forward…
So, the question is: is this the normal level of good manners and grace practiced in Washington (and we’ll ignore this but won’t forget this) or is there a new line drawn in the quicksand between liberal America and Israel?Is this the influence that J Street seeks? Is this shoring up a relationship between the two countries - or undermining it?