The US Ambassador to Israel, James B. Cunningham, spoke a few days ago at Tel Aviv University. Promised Land blog reports on proceedings and it’s an utterly depressing affair:
Ambassador Cunningham read a prepared lecture for 30 minutes, and than took questions for an additional half hour. I will report here some of the things the ambassador said, followed by my own commentary.
It seems that there is an effort by the administration to improve its image with the Israeli public, and much of what the ambassador said was in that spirit. In fact, one of his first remarks acknowledged that “polls indicate that there is doubt in Israel whether Obama is a good friend”. The Israeli public should know, said Mr. Cunningham, that “the president is Israel’s closest friends”.
Regarding operation Cast Lead, the ambassador said that “Israel has the right to defend itself, and Hamas’ terrorism must stop”. Later on he added that the US “is in agreement” with Israel on the role Iran is playing in the region through Hamas and Hezbollah.
With regards to the Goldstone report, the ambassador said that the US “objected the flawed mandate judge Goldstone was given… [and] we oppose its broad conclusions… we will object to the efforts to use the report to undermine Israel’s right to defend itself.” To this he added a rather strange remark, stating that the US has faith in Israel’s democratic institutions, and that it encourages Israel to use them to deal with the allegations in the report (I noted this sentence in Hebrew, so it’s not a word-by-word quote).
On the bus back home from the University, I couldn’t help feeling depressed and pessimistic.
For start, I was amazed by the atmosphere in the crowd, which was on the verge of hostility. Some guy asked “how is it that the administration is tough on America’s friends and soft on its enemies?” The University’s Rector had an incredibly short opening remark. All he said was that “America is our greatest friend, so we trust that it will veto the Goldstone report in the Security Council, because this report is a shame!” and most of the crowd applauded – the only time they did, during the entire hour. Indeed, TAU is not the progressive place it was ten years ago.