White House Backs Ambassador Gutman After Israel Remarks

RTT News   December 6, 2011

The Obama administration has rejected calls by the Republicans to sack U.S. envoy to Belgium, Howard Gutman, over his controversial remarks linking anti-Semitism in Europe to the unresolved conflict between the Palestinians and Israel.

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday defended the Ambassador over his remarks and rejected suggestions that the administration did not fully support Israel. He insisted that the Obama administration “has consistently stood up against anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize Israel, and we will continue to do so.”

Also on Monday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner defended Gutman saying that the Obama administration continues to have full confidence in the Ambassador. He insisted that Gutman was expressing his personal opinion when he made those remarks, and stressed: “Our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad.”

The developments come after Gutman, a Jew and the son of a holocaust survivor, said last week while addressing a Brussels conference on anti-Semitism in Europe that Jews were being increasingly targeted in Europe because of the growing resentment over the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“It is the area where every new settlement announced in Israel, every rocket shot over a border or suicide bomber on a bus, and every retaliatory military strike exacerbates the problem and provides a setback here in Europe for those fighting hatred and bigotry,” he said.

“Were a lasting peace in the Middle East to be reached, were joint and co-operative Israeli-Arab attentions turned to focus instead on such serious, common threats such as Iran, this second type of ethnic tension and bigotry here in Europe, which is clearly growing today, would clearly abate,” he noted.

 Gutman’s speech had evoked calls for his immediate sacking from Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. While Romney accused Gutman of “rationalizing and downplaying anti-Semitism,” Gingrich urged President Barack Obama to sack the envoy “for being so wrong about anti-Semitism.”

In the wake of the strong Republican response prompted by his remarks, Gutman issued a statement stressing that he condemned all forms of anti-Semitism. The Ambassador added: “I deeply regret if my comments were taken the wrong way.”

 

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