Senators Joe Lieberman, D-CT, and John McCain, R-AZ, , just took to the Senate floor to call on the Obama Administration to end its condemnation of Israel over the actions of a bureaucrat during the recent visit to that country by Vice President Joe Biden. The message from the two was pretty simple: It's time to lower voices and get over the family feud.
Both senators, longtime allies and proponents of Israel, particularly Lieberman, said the Administration needs to recognize that the feud opens up a potential avenue for "enemies" of the U.S. (they named Iran mostly, and Syria) to exploit.
During a visit to Israel last week to help start indirect peace talks, however modest, Eli Yishai, Israel's interior minister, announced the construction of new housing units in disputed east Jerusalem. Many U.S. commentators called it "the diplomatic slap heard 'round the world.'
By all accounts, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was blindsided by the announcement, every bit as much as Biden.
Biden, who was to dine with Netanyahu afterward, kept the Israeli leader waiting for 90 minutes and then, in a statement released during the meal, used rather explosive diplomatic words, not usually heard between the allies, words that Lieberman today called "a little strong."
"I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem," Biden said in the statement.
Lieberman and McCain seemed to say that had the condemnation stopped there, it might have been o.k. But the added criticism by the Secretary of State and the Administration's top political adviser, along with the State Department spokesman, set the duo off.
Lieberman called the rhetoric "very troubling."
Secretary Clinton and David Axelrod offered stinging rebukes of Israel's actions. Axelrod, on Sunday, called the action an "affront." Clinton told MSNBC'S Andrea Mitchell that the action was "insulting."
As well, a State Department spokesman, recounting a call Friday by Clinton to Netanyahu, said the secretary called "to make clear that the United States considered the announcement to be a deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral relationship and counter to the spirit of the vice president's trip."
And the Associated Press is now reporting that the Obama Administration is now calling on the Israelis to scrap all plans for the expansion in east Jerusalem, something the prime minister appeared to shrug off.
A stern rebuke of the Obama Administration by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), perhaps one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, has sparked a growing wave of concern by unhappy politicians. Unless this is resolved soon, there is little doubt the concern with the Administration's rhetoric will grow louder, as has been the historic response when past Administrations butted heads with Israel.
AIPAC, in statement released Sunday, called the Administration's statements "a matter of serious concern" and added, "AIPAC calls on the administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State."
Both Lieberman and McCain lauded Netanyahu’s "outright" apology and appointment of a review committee, calling the settlements incident a “bureaucratic” decision that Netanyahu is determined to bring in hand.
Clearly, this is not an issue that is going away any time soon.