IDF takes Obama aide, family to occupied Golan

There has been a longstanding policy in the U.S. that serving government officials should not take private visits to Israeli-occupied territories.
So why has Pres. Obama’s highest ranking adviser, Rahm Emanuel, been taking his family to the Israeli-occupied Golan? (HT: Didi Remez, here.)
What’s more, as if to underline the military character of Israel’s rule over this territory, the Emanuel family was conveyed there by an Israeli military helicopter.
As JWN readers should be well aware, Israel occupied the whole area of the Golan in the war of 1967, and it has been under military occupation since then. The Israeli Knesset annexed it in 1981– an act of outright aggrandizement that has received recognition from neither the U.S. nor any other government or inter-governmental organization in the world.
Why are Pres. Obama and his principal policy aide being so flagrant about flouting international law, international convention, and the rules of the U.S. government itself in this case? Just to try to keep on escalating their campaign of hostility against Syria?
Indeed, we U.S. citizens should also be asking why the president’s top policy aide feels the need to go to Israel to hold the religious ceremonies marking his son’s coming of age. The vast majority of Jewish Americans hold those ceremonies in their home synagogues here in the U.S.
Emanuel is also reportedly scheduled to meet with PM Netanyahu while he’s in Israel today.
Who is running Obama’s policy in the region, we might ask? No previous Secretary of State or National Security Adviser would have ever allowed the prez’s chief of staff to be playing such a prominent role in an arena of such intense diplomatic sensitivity and also, given the U.S.’s military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, such great centrality for the wellbeing and survival of U.S. troops.

Update 9:35 a.m.:
Here is a translation of a portion of the Maariv report on Emanuel’s visit:

    The IDF Spokesperson’s Office: “Rahm Emanuel and his family were hosted today by the IDF, visited an outpost on the northern border and an Air Force base. All components of the visit were approved by authorized officials.”
    In the afternoon, they returned to northern Israel and spent the second half of the day on a tour of sites, some of which serve as a symbol of Israel’s control of the Golan Heights land. They first visited Mt. Bental, near Kibbutz Merom Golan, where they looked over at the Syrian city of Kuneitra. From there they continued to Elrom Studios, and viewed “Oz 77,” an audiovisual presentation that depicts the heroic and bloody battle over the “Vale of Tears” in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

    “Emanuel has a very warm spot in his heart for the Golan Heights, because he volunteered there for two weeks in the Northern Command during the Gulf War. Presumably, he is opposed to giving back the Golan Heights,” a source in Washington said yesterday.

    Today, Emanuel’s visit to Israel will take on a slightly more official nature. He will meet this evening with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for a visit that was defined as unofficial. During the meeting, as stated by the White House, the two will discuss the bilateral relations between the two states. On Thursday, Emanuel and his family are scheduled to meet with President Peres.

8 thoughts on “IDF takes Obama aide, family to occupied Golan”

  1. Emanuel obviously considers himself more Israeli than American; I find it very difficult to understand how president Obama can accept a “FOREIGN AGENT” to be his chief of staff, especially when he promised to clip the wings of all interest groups.
    On the other hand how can the administration look at the Palestinians in the eyes and claim they can be unbiased in hosting the peace negotiations.
    Can anyone be surprised about the “I hate America Syndrome” prevalent in the Arab masses which has spawned and allowed to support the Jihadist Islamic Fundamentalist Group.

  2. “Indeed, we U.S. citizens should also be asking why the president’s top policy aide feels the need to go to Israel to hold the religious ceremonies marking his son’s coming of age. The vast majority of Jewish Americans hold those ceremonies in their home synagogues here in the U.S.”
    He goes to Israel for the same reasons that families talk about their roots in Ireland, France, China, and hundreds of other places. You seem to only begrudge Jews ties to their roots.
    You do recognize that Jews have historical ties to Israel?

  3. A Bar Mitzvah is a religious ceremony. Why would American citizens be concerned that an American Jew would celebrate a Bar Mitzvah in the place that is holy in Judaism? Would you apply this standard to other religions or ethnicities? What if an American Catholic wanted to spend Easter in Rome so as to attend mass at the Vatican? Perhaps citizens around the world be scandalized that Muslims feel the need to visit Saudi Arabia in order to observe the Hajj?
    I am largely sympathetic with your perspectives and you’re point regarding a US official in the Golan may well have merit. However, is it really your position that a Jew observing Judaism in Israel is cause accusations of dual-allegiance?

  4. I understand that Jewish people around the world have a religious attachment to locations in Israel (and also some in occupied East Jerusalem.) I think it’s wonderful for all my Jewish friends to be able to make meaningful pilgrimages to such sites. But as I wrote, young people’s bar and bat mitzvahs are usually held in their home synagogues– so was the reported desire of the Emanuel family to hold the young man’s bar mitzvah in Israel somehow a sign that they considered Israel– not America– to be home? I don’t know where the young Emanuel boy’s bar mitzvah was eventually held, but there was an earlier concern it would be held in occupied East Jerusalem. I’m glad that that apparently has not happened.
    But then, he and his family all went on that trip to occupied Golan?? I found that very troubling.
    The other part of this that’s deserving of real attention by US taxpayers is of course the question of who paid for the family’s apparently multi-stop helicopter tour around locations in Israel and occupied Golan. I certainly hope the family paid the entire market cost of that junket and that it was not given as a gift to this high official in my country by a foreign government.

  5. Thank you for picking up on this story, HC (and for the blog overall). I had not seen it raised elsewhere.

  6. Helena,
    Yes, generally the bar mitzvah is held in ones own synagogue. Most don’t have the money to go to Israel and those that do have to weight the options of how many family members will be there against the significance of the ceremony.
    To follow up on Matt’s point, many Jews feel more of a tie to Israel than Catholics do to the Vatican. This doens’t make Jews less American.
    And yes, they might have held it at the Western Wall which you consider occupied.
    Final note. There’s generally so many watch dog agencies looking at things like tax payer money spent on personal trips by top government officals that it just doesn’t happen. Local level, yes. White House level, no.
    Actually this will be my final note. Your desire to manufacture a scandal out of this makes you sound a lot like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.

  7. Clearly this is a case of conspicuous consumption.
    Coming from the office of the President of a country with tens of millions unemployed, underemployed and forty odd million on food stamps, at a time when Unemployment Benefits are running out for millions of families and while an unprecedented number of home foreclosures have taken, and are taking, place, this is not a very tactful time for Rahm Emanbuel to remind the world that he made a fortune, and raised a bigger one, from precisely those Wall St institutions whose irresponsaible behaviour has caused such misery.
    Apart from that it is a purely private matter. Althougfh one is tempted to believe that the tin eared politicos running this regime actually believe that most voters will be impressed by the vulgar ostentation of those who were once called Public Servants.

  8. The Emanuels have a lot of family in Israel and the means by which to celebrate their sons Bar Mitzvah at their religion’s holy sites. I think a very high proportion of the world’s Jews would, in that case, go to Israel. I think the same would be said for people of other religions with regards to their holy sites and places of family heritage. Also, does it really matter what ‘most’ people of a group do? Is that a principle you hold in general? Or perhaps only when it falls in in with a political point?
    And do you have any evidence at all that the Emanuels were given any kind of gift or discount with regards to the helicopter? Do you think that’s the kind of thing you should just throw out there? Perhaps I missed a story somewhere that suggested some kind of wrong doing. If so, I apologize to you. If not, I’m disappointed.
    I like your blog and respect your take on the Golan visit, but I don’t think the rest of your analysis on this issue is useful or particularly respectful.

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