The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobbying group, released a statement over the weekend lacing into President Obama for what it calls "escalated rhetoric" on the part of the administration in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's push for new housing units in East Jerusalem.
"The Obama Administration's recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern. AIPAC calls on the Administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State," according to the statement. "The Administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel, with whom the United States shares basic, fundamental, and strategic interests."
The Israeli plan to add additional housing units in East Jerusalem came during Vice President Joe Biden's recent trip to the region to help jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Even Netanyahu acknowledged the timing of the announcement was "unfortunate."
Biden sharply criticized the plan during his trip.
"I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem," Biden said in a statement last week. "The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel."
AIPAC will be holding its annual policy conference in Washington from March 21 to 23. Netanyahu is scheduled to appear at the gathering.
Here is the full AIPAC statement:
The Obama Administration's recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern. AIPAC calls on the Administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State.
Israel is America's closest ally in the Middle East. The foundation of the U.S-Israel relationship is rooted in America's fundamental strategic interest, shared democratic values, and a long-time commitment to peace in the region. Those strategic interests, which we share with Israel, extend to every facet of American life and our relationship with the Jewish State, which enjoys vast bipartisan support in Congress and among the American people.
The Administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel, with whom the United States shares basic, fundamental, and strategic interests.
The escalated rhetoric of recent days only serves as a distraction from the substantive work that needs to be done with regard to the urgent issue of Iran's rapid pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the pursuit of peace between Israel and all her Arab neighbors.
We strongly urge the Administration to work closely and privately with our partner Israel, in a manner befitting strategic allies, to address any issues between the two governments.
As Vice President Biden said last week in Israel, "The cornerstone of the relationship is our absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel's security. Bibi, you heard me say before, progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the United States and Israel. There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel's security."