Democrats rebuff Obama's Israel comments



WASHINGTON - On the eve of President Barack Obama's key address to Muslims as part of a Middle East tour, the US leader faced growing pressure from fellow Democrats in Congress over his tough stance on Israel.
"I think the president went beyond where I think it was appropriate for us to go in dealing with another democracy," said Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner.



Democrats rebuff Obama's Israel comments
"Any conversations about settlements, which are perfectly reasonable, have to be coupled with a sincere effort on the part of the Palestinians."
In a rare public spat between Israel and its staunchest ally, the Obama administration has repeatedly demanded that Israel halt all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads a largely right-wing cabinet, has so far refused and insisted on Israel's right to "natural growth" in the settlements, a euphemism for additional construction to accommodate population growth.
Weiner told a news conference he agreed with Netanyahu's stance.
"To say that a family that introduces a new child to their house can't build a wing onto their home, I think goes beyond what I think should be US policy," Weiner said.
"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 ... The concern that we have is that that line has been approached by President Obama."
His comments were an unusual rebuke by Democrats of Obama, who has popularity ratings north of 50 percent, and points to the broad support Israel enjoys in both parties in Congress.
Weiner was also seconded by other Democrats, who enjoy broad majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The administration's stance "was a decisive change of American policy and prior American-Israeli agreements" of the past 20 years, said Shelley Berkley, a Nevada Democrat.
"We are very, very concerned that the statements were made so publicly to such a close and strong ally as the state of Israel."
New York Congressman Joseph Crowley said he was "very careful in questioning another democracy and the decisions that they make that would impose on their sovereignty."
Israel, he added, "has demonstrated over and over again her willingness to work towards a lasting peace within the Middle East."
But the Democratic leadership gave staunch backing of Obama's policy.
"President Obama has reiterated the policy of the United States against the expansion of settlements," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters.
During Netanyahu's visit to Washington two weeks ago, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders reiterated that the settlements were an issue that he needed to address and he needed to constrain," he added.
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Thursday, June 4th 2009
AFP
           


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