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Reid Distances From Obama on Israel and Iran

1:12 AM, Jun 16, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Harry Reid releases a letter to the president offering his support for the administration's "decision to make the Middle East a priority." But amidst all the praise, the intended audience will spot numerous attempts by Reid to distance himself from the the president.

1) The administration has made a big show of pressuring Israel on settlements, while some supporters of Israel have criticized the president and urged a more private approach. Reid tells Obama that he "hope[s] your administration will work behind the scenes with all involved on the steps they must take to move forward." [emphasis mine]

2) The administration has made clear that it views efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon as linked to the the peace process. President Obama said that the peace process "‘strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat," but critics of the president's approach say he as having it exactly backwards -- the peace process hinges on dealing first with Iran's nuclear program and its support for terrorism. Reid sides with the president's critics and writes, "I believe that resolving the problem of Iran's nuclear program will help facilitate the Arab-Israeli peace process you and I both seek to promote."

3) In his Cairo speech, President Obama said the Jewish aspiration for a homeland was "rooted in a tragic history," but many supporters of Israel reject the notion that the state was "established to atone for Europe's crimes," a prominent trope in anti-Israel propaganda, and criticized the president for failing to acknowledge the Jewish people's "2,000-year continuous quest to rebuild a national homeland." Reid goes out of his way in the letter to "recognize the historic kingdom of Israel, which was established more than 3,000 years ago."

Reid also says that "negotiations will be successful only with a renewed commitment from the Palestinians to be a true partner in peace," something the president has not called for and has little hope of obtaining. The majority leader is pushing the president to take a more even-handed approach to the Middle East and to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat first.

Full letter after the jump...

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing in support of your decision to make the Middle East a priority for your administration. I also applaud you for reiterating during your recent speech in Cairo the importance of America's "unbreakable" bond with Israel.

Like you, I am deeply committed to bringing peace to this critical, but troubled, region. I believe negotiations will be successful only with a renewed commitment from the Palestinians to be a true partner in peace. Arab states in the region must also act to support the peace process. All parties must recognize Israel's right to exist, end terrorism, and respect previous agreements made with Israel.

The pursuit of peace is never easy. Many difficult decisions lie ahead. I hope your administration will work behind the scenes with all involved on the steps they must take to move forward.

As these discussions continue, it is also vital this process not take away from your commitment to deal with the ongoing threat from Iran. Iran has continued to call for Israel's destruction while repeatedly defying the international community with its nuclear program. I believe that resolving the problem of Iran's nuclear program will help facilitate the Arab-Israeli peace process you and I both seek to promote.

Last year, the Senate passed my bipartisan resolution to proudly celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the modern state of Israel and recognize the historic kingdom of Israel, which was established more than 3,000 years ago. Today, we must once again stand with our ally and ensure the continuation of the Jewish state.

I look forward to working closely with you to achieve the goal of a long and lasting peace in the Middle East, one in which a Palestinian state is willing to live side-by-side in peace with a strong and secure Israel.