Studies show that US coverage is Israeli-centric. The main bureaus for CNN, Associated Press, Time, etc. are located in Israel and often staffed by Israelis. The son of the NY Times bureau chief is in the Israeli army;"pundit" Jeffrey Goldberg served in the IDF; Wolf Blitzer worked for AIPAC. Because the U.S. gives Israel over $8 million/day - more than to any other nation - we feel it is essential that we be fully informed on this region. Below are news reports to augment mainstream coverage.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

This Fourth of July, Israel-American kinship is thin on the ground

Haaretz- The warm words Netanyahu bestows upon the U.S. cannot mask the fact that there is very little trust left between the two countries.

Every year, a few days before the Fourth of July, the U.S. ambassador's residence in Herzliya Pituach opens its gate to thousands of guests in a celebration of American independence. The usual ritual – lots of American kitsch, a notable presence of the business, political and military elite, McDonald's and Pizza Hut stands and sappy speeches by the prime minister and the president.

Over the past three years, despite the growing tensions between Washington and Jerusalem, the event held last Thursday did not rock the boat. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played the role he was assigned. "When the American people celebrate their independence, the people in Israel celebrate with them, - because we know how blessed we are, how meaningful what happened on July 4, 1776 is for us," he said. "Over the years we have had to defend ourselves again and again. Our freedom, our independence. This struggle was possible because of the U.S.' support."

Netanyahu kept congratulating and the audience kept cheering, yet beneath the surface it is clear that the relations between the U.S. and Israel are undergoing a crisis, and that both sides are re-examining those very relations. There is a reason that these days there is a cynical remark being uttered around Washington - "For the U.S., Israel has been turned lately from an asset to a pain in the ass-et."

Netanyahu's speech in Congress a few weeks ago and the friction with President Obama a few days before destroyed the little trust the White House still had for the Israeli prime minister. Israeli officials who maintain close ties with the administration speak of a deep frustration over Israel's policy, in particular as the Palestinian vote on statehood at the UN nears.

More and more officials in Washington, who are involved in the Israel-Palestinian issue, are simply giving up. A key example was the resignation of Special Envoy George Mitchell, but even before he resigned many senior officials at the State Department and the White House stepped away from the peace process and began to focus on other areas such as the "Arab Spring" or the situation in Lebanon. "We decided to deal with issues where there is a chance to actually affect a change," said a senior administration official.

Despite the crisis in relations, it seems the White House has made a decision not to confront Netanyahu in public. The reason is namely the 2012 presidential elections and fear of losing Jewish votes. 80 percent of Jewish voters supported Obama in 2008.

The fight for the Jewish vote has only picked up speed in light of attempts by many Republican contenders to attack Obama for his administration's treatment of. "It breaks my heart that President Obama treats Israel, our great friend, as a problem, rather than as an ally," Tim Pawlenty, former Minnesota governor and Republican candidate for the presidency, said last week. "The president doesn’t really have a policy toward the peace process, he has an attitude… and he thinks the answer is always more pressure on Israel. I reject this anti-Israel attitude."

As Israel becomes an issue in the upcoming presidential elections, there is a growing sense that Obama will avoid any move that might lead to a public confrontation with Netanyahu. The White House will kee[ its anger and frustration to itself, and the president will avoid presenting a significant American peace deal that might block the Palestinian vote at the UN.

Obama will most likely settle for vetoing the Palestinian move at the Security Council, and thus portray himself to the Jewish community as someone who stands with Israel. "The politics won over the policy," said an Israeli official involved with the administration.

Over the past two months the White House has been making many efforts to accommodate the Jewish community. Obama himself dedicated an entire evening to meeting Jewish donors, where he patiently answered every question about Israel. His advisers have stepped up the frequency of conference calls with senior leaders of Jewish organizations, to update them on the efforts to block the Palestinian move in September.

The White House has even created a new section on its website, titled "advancing Israel's security." Sources at the White House have also sent an email with a link to this page to every Jewish community member on their mailing list. This move came as an effort to roll back the scathing criticism Obama received after saying in a May 19 speech that negotiations should be based on the 1967 lines.

Greg Sargent from the Washington Post reported a few days ago on the massive efforts by Obama to appease the Jewish community ahead of the 2012 elections. According to his report, the president's advisers formed a team charged with warding off Republican criticism of the president Israeli policy.

Obama's advisers have admitted the criticism of the president on the issue of Israel has increased fears of a "defection" by Jewish voters from the Democratic party to the GOP. Heading the new team is Obama's political adviser David Axelrod, and it includes Alan Solow, the former head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, former Congressmen Mel Levine and Robert Wexler and others.

The assumption in the White House is that as the elections near, the criticism of Obama on the Israeli issue will only increase. "We got close to 80 percent of the vote among Jewish Americans in 2008," Axelrod told the Post. "But we had to aggressively bat down efforts to divide the community and to inflame. Plainly we have to be at least as assiduous about it this time. If we’re passive in response it would be a mistake.”