Daily Israel Report

Senate Majority Leader Disagrees with Obama on Israel Policy

Senate majority leader Harry Reid disagreed with U.S. President Barack Obama on his tough policy against Israel in a public letter sent last week.
By Yehudah Lev Kay
First Publish: 6/21/2009, 11:49 AM

White House

Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) disagreed with U.S. President Barack Obama on his tough policy against Israel in a public letter he sent last week.

Reid declined to call on Israel to end construction in Judea and Samaria in his letter, as Obama has done, and instead said the PA must take the initiative in the peace process.

“I believe negotiations will be successful only with a renewed commitment from the Palestinians to be a true partner to peace,” Reid told Obama. “All parties must recognize Israel’s right to exist, end terrorism, and respect previous agreements made with Israel.”

The Democratic Senator also disagreed with Obama's claim that an Israeli-PA peace agreement would facilitate his efforts to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

“It is also vital [the Israeli-PA] process not take away from your commitment to deal with the ongoing threat from Iran,” he said. “I believe that resolving the problem of Iran’s nuclear program will help facilitate the Arab-Israeli peace process."

In addition, Reid recognized “the historic kingdom of Israel, which was established more than 3,000 years ago" in his letter, in contrast to Obama who was criticized for singling out the Holocaust as the basis for Israel's existence in his speech in Cairo.

Senator Reid, recognized as a strong supporter of Israel, joined a growing number of U.S. public figures who have criticized Obama’s Israel policy. Senator Robert Menendez, for instance, also of Obama's Democratic party, delivered a long speech last week outlining the Jewish People's claim to the Holy Land, and stating that the Holocaust is not the justification for the founding of the State of Israel, as Obama had implied.

Also last week, American Jewry lay leader Malcolm Hoenlein said that Jews who supported Obama are now “very concerned about him.” The Zionist Organization of America also said that the U.S. President’s Cairo speech “may well signal the beginning of a renunciation of America’s strategic alliance with Israel.”

Earlier in the month, several democratic congressmen also took issue with Obama’s Israel policies. “I think that the President went beyond where I think it is appropriate to go in dealing with another democracy,” representative Anthony Weiner said about Obama’s call on Israel to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria.

“We are very, very concerned that the statements were made so publicly to such a close and strong ally as the state of Israel,” representative Shelley Berkley added.

Full text of Reid's letter:

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.