MKs: A reflection of changed relationship with US

Hermesh: The United States used to have a relationship with Israel much more based on diplomacy.

shai hermesh 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
shai hermesh 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As the conclusions of a US panel on American policy in the Middle East spread throughout the Knesset on Wednesday, MKs from across the political spectrum noted how drastically relations between Israel and the US had changed in the past year. The Baker-Hamilton report included a number of recommendations regarding Israel including a suggestion that Jerusalem talk to Syria and that "in the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelis should return the Golan Heights." Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin welcomed the report. "I hope this will end the chapter where the US used to be Israel's excuse not to respond to invitations by Syrian President [Bashar] Assad to open peace talks without preconditions," said Beilin. He added that Israel should encourage the US to intervene and help Palestinians and Israelis reach a final peace deal. MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima) said the report took Israeli-American relations back to the Yom Kippur War. "We can't expect the US to be the policeman of the Middle East. We are seeing a return to a different policy where the United States used to have a relationship with Israel much more based on diplomacy... I think we are seeing a return to that," he said. MK Colette Avital (Labor), who believes that the Bush administration's policies toward Israel have been dangerous at times, said the Baker report marked a return to a healthier US-Israeli relationship. MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who has always championed strong US-Israel relations, and who has served on a joint Congress-Knesset committee on defense issues for the past two Knesset terms, was one of the few MKs to criticize the report. "Washington's new approach vis- -vis Iran is disturbing. The Free World, under the leadership of the United States, must prevent a nuclear Iran, which poses a existential threat to Israel and the Middle East, as well as Europe and the US," he said. "If the West fails in this mission, such ineptitude will be viewed by future historians on par with the failure to block the rearmament of Nazi Germany in the 1930s."