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AJC slams pro-Israel group’s attack on Obama

JTA

September 19, 2011 | 11:44 am

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about cutting the U.S. deficit during an appearance in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Sept. 19. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about cutting the U.S. deficit during an appearance in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Sept. 19. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing

The American Jewish Committee slammed a pro-Israel group for its ad campaign questioning President Obama’s Israel commitment.

“This ad is highly objectionable, indeed counter-productive, to its stated aim of supporting Israel,” David Harris, the AJC’s director, said in a statement Monday after the Emergency Committee for Israel’s full-page ad appeared in The New York Times.

The ad, headlined “Tell President Obama: Enough. It’s time to stand with Israel,” urges the president to defend Israel this week at the United Nations General Assembly, when the Palestinian Authority is pushing for statehood recognition.

It accuses the president of having “built a record that is not pro-Israel,” citing Obama’s criticisms of Israel’s settlement policies among other factors, and makes five recommendations that it says would redress that assessment.

Harris said the ad was inappropriate because the Obama administration was in fact ready to forcefully defend Israel this week. 

“As the U.N. session begins and high diplomatic drama is expected, to choose this moment to assail the Obama administration, when it laudably has announced its intention, come what may, to block Palestinian ambitions in the Security Council and work against a Palestinian-initiated resolution in the General Assembly, makes us wonder what are the true goals of the sponsoring group,” Harris said.

The Emergency Committee for Israel, ostensibly a nonpartisan group, last year targeted only Democrats in the congressional election.

Noah Pollak, the group’s spokesman, suggested that Harris focus on the five recommendations in the ad: that Obama refrain from criticizing Israel at the United Nations; that he threaten to cut off funds to the Palestinian Authority; that he recommit to not dividing Jerusalem; that he says that the 1967 lines and the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees are non-starters in talks; and that he visit Israel. 

“In his statement, David Harris says that the AJC ‘endorses policies we agree with and opposes those we don’t,’ ” Pollak said. “So we at ECI were curious which of our five suggestions for President Obama Mr. Harris opposes.” 

Harris’ comment was in the context of emphasizing that the AJC is a nonprofit organization uncommitted to any political party.

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