PIPES: White House mischief

Obamans cloak Islamist solicitude as president’s popularity plunges

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The White House engaged in two furtive gambits last week that painfully exposed the Obama administration’s amateurish, deceitful Middle East-Islamic policies. The first case concerned the thorny issue of Jerusalem’s legal status in American law. In 1947, the United Nations ruled the holy city to be a corpusseparatum (Latin for separatedbody) and not part of any state. All these years later and despite many changes, U.S. policy holds that Jerusalem is an entity unto itself. It ignores that in 1950, the government of Israel declared western Jerusalem to be its capital and in 1980 it declared the whole of Jerusalem to be the capital. The executive branch even ignores U.S. laws from 1995 (requiring a move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem) and 2002 (requiring that U.S. documents recognize Americans born in Jerusalem as being born in Israel). Instead, it insists that the city’s disposition be decided through diplomacy.

Challenging this policy, the American parents of Jerusalem-born Menachem Zivotofsky demanded on his behalf that his birth certificate and his passport list him as having been born in Israel. When the State Department refused, the parents filed a lawsuit; their case has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Things started to get interesting on Aug. 4, when Rick Richman of the NewYorkSun noted, “The White House acknowledges on its own website that Jerusalem is in Israel - as does the State Department and the CIA on theirs,” undermining the government’s case. Mr. Richman pointed to three mentions of “Jerusalem, Israel,” in captions to pictures on the White House website in connection with a trip by Vice President Joseph R. Biden in March 2010: “Vice President Joe Biden laughs with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Israel“; “Vice President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Israel“; and “Vice President Joe Biden has breakfast with Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair … in Jerusalem, Israel.” Mr. Richman deemed this wording to be potentially “pivotal evidence” against the government’s case.

At 3:22 p.m. on Aug. 9, Daniel Halper of the WeeklyStandard reiterated Mr. Richman’s point by posting the first of those pictures. Two hours and four minutes later, at 5:26 p.m., Mr. Halper reported that “the White House has apparently gone through its website, cleansing any reference to Jerusalem as being in Israel.” The new caption read, “Vice President Joe Biden laughs with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.” Someone on the White House staff hoped to pull a fast one. As James Taranto noted in the Wall Street Journal, the Supreme Court does not take kindly to such pranks.

The second deceit concerns the guest list for the iftar (breaking-the-Ramadan-fast) dinner at the White House on Aug. 10. The White House published a guest list “of some of the expected attendees” that included four members of Congress, 36 diplomats and 11 “community members.” To the relief of those who watch such matters, the list mentioned no American Islamists.

But, it turned out, “some” was a weasel-word. Research by the Investigative Project on Terrorism and others established that the published list did not mention the American Islamists attending that dinner, including Haris Tarin of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Mohamed Magid of the Islamic Society of North America, and Awais Sufi of Muslim Advocates.

Also noteworthy: The White House invited not a single representative of the 12-member non-Islamist group the American Islamic Leadership Coalition, whose mission statement proclaims that its goal is “to defend the U.S. Constitution, uphold religious pluralism, protect American security and cherish genuine diversity in the practice of our faith of Islam.”

In combination, two deceits in two days make one wonder about the morality and even sanity of the White House staff under President Obama. Do his munchkins really think they can get away with such sleazy sleights of hand?

Separately, each of these deceptions warrants condemnation; together, they symbolize the tenor of a failed administration in panic over its lowest-ever poll ratings (43.4 percent approval, according to RealClearPolitics.com’s aggregation of surveys) and trying to revive its fortunes by whatever means necessary, even if its dishonesty might expose it to ridicule.

More specifically, the two incidents point to the bankruptcy of the administration’s Middle East and Islamic policies. The arrogance of 2009 remains in place, tempered by failure and desperation.

Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum and a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

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