Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Obama pressure on Israel draws concerns in U.S.

From a Reuters ANALYSIS-Wed Jun 3, 2009 by Susan Cornwell and Steve Holland:

* Some lawmakers urge Obama to use caution
* Democrats, Republicans among Obama critics over Israel
* Lawmakers are protective of strong U.S. ally

WASHINGTON, June 3 (Reuters) - As President Barack Obama courts Muslims in the Middle East, his pressure on Israel to halt Jewish settlement activity in occupied territory is starting to raise some concerns at home.

...Both political parties are raising doubts about Obama's pressure on Israel

...Referring to Obama's demands for a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, Representative Anthony Weiner said, "I think the president went beyond where I think it was appropriate for us to go in dealing with another democracy." ...Weiner and two other Democrats in the House of Representatives, Shelley Berkley and Joseph Crowley, said Obama should not be too tough on Israel. "...I think we have to be careful not to cross the line where it sounds like we are exerting the overwhelming pressure that we have at our disposal on our rather isolated ally," Weiner said in answer to a question about Obama's remarks on Israeli settlements.

...A day earlier, the House Republican Whip Eric Cantor issued a statement lacerating Obama for suggesting that the Middle East peace process and U.S. interests were harmed by the failure of the United States to be "honest" with Israel.

"As Palestinian terror shows no sign of abating, President Obama's insistence that it is in America's best interest to pressure Israel sends the wrong message to the region," declared Cantor, a member of the House Republican leadership.

...Democratic strategist Doug Schoen, who worked in the Clinton White House, said Obama is facing a "tinderbox" by trying to navigate between various Israeli and Arab constituencies.

"You have the Israelis on one hand who don't want any gap between themselves and the United States, you have the moderate Arabs who are scared to death of Iran, but are also publicly committed to the Palestinians, and then you have the radical Arabs who see any sign of dissension as an opportunity to expand their influence and undermine the United States," he said.

Washington has long been Israel's closest ally...

...Representative Berkley said she believed Obama had gone beyond what had been U.S. policy when he indicated "natural growth" of the settlements was not acceptable. "We ought not to be dictating to the Israeli people how many rooms they can have on their house or whether their particular settlement should have an additional school, or an add-on room to the school as well," Berkley said.

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