Berman, Cardin point finger at Israel


A handful of Democrats have spoken out against the Obama administration (The Hill has a rundown).

Almost all of them are from New York (Reps. Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey, Steve Israel, Anthony Weiner and, facing a tough reelection, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand), and generally stake out a more hawkish line on Middle East issues than many of their Democratic colleagues. On the latter point, the same can be said of Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nevada). [UPDATE: Lowey does not belong on this list — her statement was more along the lines of: Can’t we all just get along and move on?]

So are they speaking for themselves, reflecting their state’s particular political realities and constituencies, or do their criticisms suggest that the White House is losing the support of the wider Democratic caucus?

Well… in an exclusive interview with JTA’s Ron Kampeas, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Israel deserved the spanking it’s been receiving from the Obama adminsitration:

The administration had, I think, real justification for being upset because a process was supposed to be in place that would keep it from being blindsided, and that process failed and once again the U.S. was blindsided and the Israelis have to get this right. They’ve got to put in place a system that keeps this from happening."

It’s worth noting that, as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Berman has taken the lead in the push for new, tougher Iran sanctions and is a staunch supporter of Israel, with strong ties to AIPAC.

Another Jewish Democrat — Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee — also has come out with criticism of Israel. Here’s his statement:

“There is no excuse for Israel’s announcement of plans to expand housing units in East Jerusalem when Vice President Biden was on the ground meeting with the highest levels of the Israeli government. While the Vice President was on a mission to restart the peace process, such an announcement was a mistake.

“This incident does not diminish the fact that Israel is a critical ally of the United States and our bond runs deep, based on mutually important values and respect. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s quick expression of regret is a positive step forward and recognition of our continuing strong relationship. It is important for friends to have an open dialogue.”

It’s also worth nothing that while several top Republicans — House Minority Leader John Boehner, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor and the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Illeana Ros-Lehtinen — have criticized the Obama adminsitration, Democratic leaders have been quiet this week.

Recommended from JTA