Reid-McConnell Letter on Israel

Late on Friday the following letter signed by Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell was circulated to all senators for signature. It reads:

President Barack Obama

The letter certainly sets forth stark differences with the administration (which has ignored the IHH, edged toward an international investigation, and failed to offer full support for Israel). It is a robust statement of support for Israel, its right of self-defense, and its right to maintain the blockade. It rebuffs the administration’s efforts to internationalize the investigation. And unlike the Obama team, the senators put the spotlight on Turkey and on the terrorists.

However, the letter is weaker than Rep. Peter King’s proposed resolution as well as the statements of Sen. John Cornyn. It does not call for withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. It does not specifically identify Iran as a sponsor of Hamas or mention the growing alliance between Turkey and Iran. Most troubling, it commends the administration for downgrading (but not vetoing) the original UN resolution. This was an unprecedented action by Obama, an accommodation to the Israel-haters in the UN. It was yet another dangerous sign that the administration, rather than giving unqualified support to Israel in international bodies, is seeking to straddle between Israel and its antagonists. It is not helpful to encourage such conduct.

As I wrote yesterday, when you desire for the broadest possible coalition and shrink from pointedly challenging the administration, you wind up praising fraudulent UN sanctions and giving the president a pat on the back for crossing a line that no administration has. AIPAC released the following statement:

Along with on the 103 statements from Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate that we have seen in the just the last week, AIPAC strongly supports this letter from Senate Majority Leader Reid and GOP Leaders Mitch McConnell calling on the President to act in America’s national interest by standing with our ally Israel in international bodies and to firmly and publicly reiterate America’s unyielding support for Israel’s right to self-defense.  The letter also calls on the Treasury and State Departments to closely examine terrorist-linked (HAMAS, 2000 al-Qaeda attack on LAX, etc.) Turkish “charity” IHH, at the center of the Flotilla incident, and consider adding the HAMAS affiliated group to the U.S. list of designated terrorist organizations.

Supporters of Israel should be concerned that sails were trimmed. There is much good in the letter, but it cut Obama a break at Israel’s expense. It is most troubling that it was apparently necessary needlessly to praise Obama’s UN equivocation.

We can only hope that even with a less-than-ideal letter and, more importantly, with the reaction set off by the revelation (and later the confirmation) that the administration is still pursuing an international element to the investigation, that the administration will stand down and fully embrace an Israel-only investigation. Then we can work on getting the U.S. off the Human Rights Council.