The liberal backlash against Benjamin Netanyahu continues. First it was Sen. Barbara Boxer. Now The Hill speaks with two leading Jewish members of Congress who have some grievances with the Israeli prime minister’s recent actions.
Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) were asked about allegations (which have been disputed by the White House, and seized upon by GOP nominee Mitt Romney) that President Obama declined a request to meet with Netanyahu. The bigger issue though is Netanyahu’s strong criticism aimed at the Obama administration on the Iranian nuclear issue and his pressure for the U.S. to take a tougher line.
“I don’t think it’s necessary for the president to rearrange his schedule,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill. ”I didn’t think it was appropriate for the prime minister to publicly get into a dispute with the president of the United States, since we’re both very closely working together to impose sanctions and to force Iran to stop its development of a nuclear weapon.”
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, blamed ”internal Israeli politics” for the spat.
”Maybe Netanyahu’s for (Republican candidate Mitt) Romney. And he’s making a mistake if he is,” Frank told The Hill when asked why he thought Israel had leaked the news of a perceived ”snub” to the Reuters wire service.
”I think it was unwise for him to do as much,” he said. ”I think they’ve pulled back a little bit.”
”I think Obama played it right,” Frank added. ”The Israelis have to consider American public opinion; America’s not ready to go to war until it’s absolutely necessary.
”I think it’s a mistake from Israel’s standpoint if they give the impression they’re trying to push us into going to war. I don’t think any pressure’s going to work.”
But a third Jewish member of Congress, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who has at times been critical of the Obama administration’s approach to Israel, was more equivocal:
”There are always things that are done on both sides – with us, with the Israelis – for domestic political consumption, for party-building,” Engel told The Hill. ”I think there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that we are not privy to, and I would hope that in any kind of public rift – or the appearance of any kind of public rift – between the president and the prime minister would be healed and taken care of behind the scenes. I have confidence that both countries would like to see that.”