WASHINGTON – A slew of Republicans and even several Democrats took issue Friday
with US President Barack Obama’s declaration that an Israeli-Palestinian peace
should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.
senior GOP senator promised to introduce a resolution opposing the stance
expressed in Obama’s landmark Middle East speech Thursday, and Republican
presidential contenders bashed his position as harmful to Israel.
Mideast Quartet supports Obama's vision for peace
is strong disapproval in Congress for the president’s new posture toward Israel,
and I will introduce a resolution next week affirming Israel’s right to maintain
its territorial integrity,” said Utah Republican Sen. Orrin
“Rather than stand by Israel against consistent unprovoked
aggression by longtime supporters of terrorism, President Obama is rewarding
those who threaten Israel’s very right to exist.”
Declared and potential
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich and
Michele Bachmann all criticized Obama’s assertion.
suggested the issue of Israel’s borders, as well as the peace process as a
whole, could become a political rallying point in the 2012
“President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus.
has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” charged
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.
Bachmann, a Minnesota
representative, argued that “President Obama has again indicated his policy
toward Israel is to blame Israel first.”
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (RFlorida),
chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, also issued a sharply worded
“The President’s call is a stark change in long-standing US
foreign policy, contradicting pledges to Israel by multiple US presidents,” she
said. “This about-face sends the wrong message to US allies about our
willingness to stand by our commitments.”
Democrats took a softer line in
responding to the speech, with many welcoming sections that rejected the idea of
Palestinians seeking a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN and ruling
out Hamas as a partner for peace.
But many Democrats also strongly
contested the idea that Israel should set its borders along the 1967 lines,
saying this would threaten security.
“The 1967 armistice lines were
simply not defensible, and Israel must not be made to return to them,” said New
York Rep. Eliot Engel.
A handful of Democrats also implicitly took the
president to task when they made suggestions for what he should say at the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference he will be addressing
“He ought to emphasize that any deal on territory must be
‘mutually agreed,’ effectively giving American backing to an Israeli veto over
any new lines,” Gary Ackerman of New York, the ranking member of the House
Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East subcommittee.
should make plain that America’s goal is for Israel to remain both a Jewish and
a democratic state, which would speak volumes concerning the Palestinians’
so-called ‘right of return.’” Some Democrats, however, strongly defended the
John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, said he backed Obama’s formulation and that “what he called
for was the framework that president Clinton operated on, that most countries
have accepted and that “everybody knows from prior negotiations that a certain
amount of settlements are going to be annexed to Israel.” Speaking on WBZ radio
Thursday night, Kerry disputed the argument that Israel at the 1967 borders,
just nine miles wide at its narrowest point, would be
“That’s just not accurate anymore, to be honest with you,
because the nature of the threat to Israel is frankly not a [conventional
threat],” he said. “The threat to Israel now is the rockets that Hezbollah has
and that other people have, and higher technology, and frankly Iran and the
potential of weapons of mass destruction.”
He suggested that
international and potentially American forces could patrol Israel’s eastern
border and provide help with missile defense to secure the country.
is going to be a real test now as to whether or not Israel is prepared to make
peace and how,” he said. “But it’s also a test of the other side.”
National Jewish Democratic Council also made the case that Obama’s policy on the
borders was consistent was that of previous administrations.
basis and approach was used previously during the Obama administration, and by
presidents Bush and Clinton before in their negotiations between the parties,”
the organization said in a statement put out after the speech.
also circulated a quote from former president George W. Bush made in 2005 at an
appearance with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which he
referred to mutually agreed adjustments to the 1949 armistice lines, a different
term which refers to the same delineation as the 1967 lines.
status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the
1949 armistice lines must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution
must ensure contiguity on the West Bank” Bush said at the time.
the position of the United States today; it will be the position of the United
States at the time of final status negotiations.”