Confronted with allegations of secret plans to sanction longtime ally Israel, White House spokesman Josh Earnest insisted nothing of the kind is in the works.
Earnest said Monday that reports of any sanctions against the Jewish state were “unfounded and without merit.”
WND reported over the weekend a letter signed by dozens of members of Congress demanded a response to the reports.
“Recent reports suggest that your administration has held classified meetings over the past several weeks to discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions against Israel for its decision to construct homes in East Jerusalem. We urge you and your administration to clarify these reports immediately,” said the letter assembled by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.
“I’m appalled that the administration would even consider the idea of sanctioning Israel – one of our closest allies. We need clarification from the White House on this immediately,” Meadows said.
“What message does it send to the world for the U.S. to impose sanctions against Israel while easing sanctions on Iran – a state-sponsor of terror with an abysmal human rights record?” Meadows added.
The Washington Free Beacon reported the White House last week refused to discuss the allegations. And State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf “dodged several questions,” the report said. Then Earnest gave a similar response Monday.
The Free Beacon reported Israel’s daily Haaretz said meetings regarding possible sanctions included officials from both the State Department and the White House.
Such a move would take the Obama White House, which has been cold and distant to America’s ally, to new levels of antagonism, critics said.
Meanwhile, Obama’s administration is actively trying to prevent Congress from approving new sanctions against Iran.
Meadows letter Friday was signed by Reps. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich.; Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla.; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Jim Bridenstine, R-Mich.; Larry Buschon, R-Ind.; Curt Clawson, R-Fla.; Doug Collins, R-Ga.; Paul Cook, R-Calif.; Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.; Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.; Chuck Fleishmann, R-Tenn.; Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.; Scott Garret, R-N.J.; Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.; Tim Griffin, R-Ariz.; Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.; Joe Heck, R-Nev.; Richard Hudson, R-N.C.; Sam Johnson, R-Texas; Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; Mike Kelly, R-Pa.; Peter King, R-N.Y.; Doug Lamborn, R-Colo.; Leonard Lance, R-N.J.; Billy Long, R-Mo.; Tom McClintock, R-Calif.; Luke Messer, R-Ind.; Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.; Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss.; Pete Olson, R-Texas; Steven Palazzo, R-Miss.; Robert Pittenger, R-N.C.; Mike Pompeo, R-Kan.; Bill Posey, R-Fla.; Reid Ribble, R-Wis.; Todd Rokita, R-Ind.; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.; Aaron Schock, R-Ill.; David Schweikert, R-Ariz.; Pete Sessions, R-Texas; Adrian Smith, R-Neb.; Jackie Walorski, R-Ind.; and Joe Wilson, R-S.C.
“At no point in time has Congress given the administration the authority to sanction Israel,” the letter said.
“In fact, Congress has continued to show its unwavering support for Israel and has recently taken steps to increase our economic and military cooperation. At a time when you have requested an additional seven months to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear weapons program, any attempts to undermine the U.S.’s support of Israel will only further diminish the administration’s ability to get congressional support for any potential agreement with Iran.”
Jennifer Dekel, director of research and communications for the Endowment for Middle East Truth, told WND, “Reports that the White House would even consider imposing sanctions on our greatest ally in the Middle East, the only democracy in the region that safeguards the rights of minorities, women and all religions, is another example of this administration’s twisted policy of punishing our allies and rewarding our enemies.”
She said it is “reprehensible that the administration is telling Congress not to put sanctions on Iran, a country that the U.S. is technically at war with, and which is the leading state sponsor of terrorism, yet would call for sanctions on Israel.”
“If the reports are true, the act of sanctioning Israel would be unprecedented and would signal a major and dangerous policy shift of U.S. foreign policy,” Dekel said.
While Earnest insisted Monday there were no plans to sanction Israel, he criticized the construction of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem.
“We believe actions are counterproductive, that they don’t serve to facilitate the kind of trust that we believe is necessary for both sides to try to hammer out their differences in a way that is consistent with the national security concerns of the Israeli people and with the broader aspirations of the Palestinian people,” he said.