'Troubling eagerness.' Obama
Photo: AP

Republicans slam Obama's hard line towards Israel

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor says spat with Israel 'jeopardizes America's national security', while another senior party member concerned about administration's 'softer approaches' toward Palestinian Authority, Syria and Iran

WASHINGTON – Republican lawmakers came out swinging Monday against President Barack Obama's hard line toward Israel over its controversial plans to expand a settlement in disputed east Jerusalem.


The number two Republican in the House of Representatives deplored the Obama administration's stance on Israel as "irresponsible" a week after Israel gave the green light to build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in the area the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.


Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top officials said last week's announcement of the new construction was insulting and damaging to efforts to revive long-stalled peace talks.


"To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, vice president and the secretary of state have made against Israel is an understatement," said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives.


"In an effort to ingratiate our country with the Arab world, this administration has shown a troubling eagerness to undercut our allies and friends."


He said the administration's public spat with the Jewish State "jeopardizes America's national security."


The government of hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave permission for the new construction in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood on March 9, just as Biden visited Israel, sparking a major diplomatic crisis.


Israel's ambassador to Washington said bilateral relations have hit a 35-year low.


It also came just two days after the Palestinians had reluctantly agreed to hold indirect, US-brokered negotiations with Israel.


Senator Sam Brownback said in a statement that "it's hard to see how spending a weekend condemning Israel for a zoning decision in its capital city amounts to a positive step towards peace."


The Kansas Republican, a staunch defender of Israel in Congress, said it would be "far more worthwhile" for the administration to focus its efforts instead on shifting the location of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a highly controversial proposal.


'Israel indispensable ally'

There are no embassies in Jerusalem, as Israel captured and annexed east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War in a move the international community does not recognize. Israel considers all of the city its capital despite Palestinian claims to east Jerusalem.


Brownback also urged the Obama administration to narrow its focus on the "growing Iranian nuclear threat," referring to the Islamic republic's continued defiance of international calls to halt its controversial uranium enrichment program. Israel considers Iran an existential threat.


House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement saying, “The Administration’s decision to escalate its rhetoric following Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel is not merely irresponsible, it is an affront to the values and foundation of our long-term relationship with a close friend and ally."


According to the Republican leader, "The Administration has demonstrated a repeated pattern since it took office: while it makes concessions to countries acting contrary to US national interests, it ignores or snubs the commitments, shared values and sacrifices of many of our country’s best allies.


“If the Administration wants to work toward resolving the conflict in the Middle East, it should focus its efforts on Iran’s behavior, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its state-sponsorship of terrorism, its crushing of domestic democratic forces, and the impact its behavior is having, not just on Israel, but also on the calculations of other countries in the region as well as on the credibility of international nonproliferation efforts," Boehner said in the statement.


"House Republicans remain committed to our long-standing bilateral friendship with Israel, as well as to the commitments this country has made,” he added.


Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, demanded that the Obama administration halt its condemnations of "an indispensable ally and friend of the United States."


"US condemnations of Israel and threats regarding our bilateral relationship undermine both our allies and the peace process, while encouraging the enemies of America and Israel alike," she said.


Ros-Lehtinen added that she was "deeply concerned" about the administration's "softer approaches" toward the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Iran.


Iran and Syria are the main foreign backers of the Shiite terror group Hezbollah but both deny that they provide anything other than moral support.


Washington also accuses Syria of turning a blind eye to militants crossing its border into Iraq.


AFP contributed to the report 


פרסום ראשון: 03.16.10, 00:29
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