Top Republican House members, including Reps. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Pete Session, have written a letter to the president, which reads in part:
Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s admission that the ill-timed announcement of the approval of a residential development was “regrettable,” it is our understanding that at your direction, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chastised the Prime Minister on the phone and then in public. Furthermore, your Senior Advisor, David Axelrod, chose to excoriate Israel on national television. Your Administration’s decision to escalate this issue is extremely harmful to US-Israeli relations, which, according to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, are now at a 35-year low.
While your Administration clamors over the announcement of a proposed residential development years away from completion, fran continues to develop its nuclear weapons capability and Hamas and Hezbollah rearm and re-energize. Remarks made by your Cabinet and advisers embolden Israel’s enemies — who are wholly committed to destroying the Jewish State — and undermine the critical relationship we have with our strongest ally for democracy and peace in the Middle East.
Israel has demonstrated its willingness to advance the peace process — even when its concessions have led to decreased security. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the region became a haven for Hamas and led to repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli cities. It is therefore unrealistic for you to request that Israel continue to make significant confidence building gestures while putting no real pressure upon the instigators of armed violence.
Instead of continuing to make unrealistic demands of Israel, we encourage you and your Administration to address the real issues threatening stability in the region. We respectfully request that you publicly express the United States’ unwavering support for Israel, acknowledge its status as a willing partner in the peace process, and reiterate its sovereign right to defend itself against attacks from those who seek its destruction.
Democrats who posit themselves as friends of Israel are now in a quandary: remain silent or try to drag the administration back into the bipartisan consensus on Middle East policy?
The newly Democratic Arlen Specter tried his best in a floor speech. He got off to a very poor start, misrepresenting that “there are 1,600 new settlements in East Jerusalem in violation of Israeli commitments.” To the contrary, the apartment complex is not a “settlement,” nor is this part of an Israeli commitment. The Israeli government never pledged to forgo building in its eternal and undivided capital. He concedes, “that Prime Minister Netanyahu was blindsided by the announcement. It is further acknowledged that the Israeli Minister of the Interior is a member of the ultra-conservative Shaos party whose participation is essential to the continuation of the coalition government.” And he implores the administration to get a game plan:
These matters need to be thought through before making public pronouncements that could significantly damage the U.S.-Israeli relationship and give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Mideast peace process. The rock solid alliance between the United States and Israel has withstood significant disagreements for six decades. The mutual interests which bind these two countries together have always been stronger than the most substantial differences. The United States needs to respect Israeli security interests, understanding that Israel cannot lose a war and survive. The United States has many layers of defense to protect our security interests and survive.
I suggest that if we all take a few deep breaths, think through the pending questions and reflect on the importance of maintaining U.S.-Israeli solidarity, we can weather this storm.
Democrat Robert Andrews has sent his own letter pleading that “minor policy differences” not be allowed to disrupt the relationship and imploring the administration to work out “differences in private whenever possible.”
Allowing for understandable partisan differences and some egregious factual errors, the message is the same: enough already. The Obami have few defenders on this one and many anxious lawmakers. It seems as though once again this gang did not think through the ramifications — either domestic or international — of their own actions.