A number of leading Jewish Democrats are standing behind President Obama's decision not to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and are warning Israel to keep out of the upcoming U.S. elections.
Last week, President Obama snubbed the Israeli prime minister once again by refusing to meet with him during his visit to New York for the U.N. General Assembly meeting, claiming that pressing “campaign obligations” would force him out of the city at that time.
Recent reports indicate that the president also refused to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who will also be in NY at the time, despite citing no such “campaign obligations” that would explain his absence.
''I don't think it's necessary for the president to rearrange his schedule,'' Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the 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.) added, ''I think Obama played it right. '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,' he said.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), a top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that any such rift between the U.S. and Israel should be resolved behind closed doors.
''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 heeled and taken care of behind the scenes. I have confidence that both countries would like to see that.''
Obama’s snub came immediately after Netanyahu said that the U.S must identify “clear red lines” regarding the Iranian nuclear program, a position the administration has been unwilling to take.
In an interview with Bloomberg Radio, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. is “not setting deadlines” with regard to Iran.
Netanyahu responded by saying, "The world tells Israel 'wait, there's still time.' And I say, 'Wait for what? Wait until when?' Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."
Romney called Obama's decision not to meet with Netanyahu ''confusing and troubling'' during a fundraiser in New York and 128 House Republicans wrote to the president to urge him to reconsider.
''We are astounded by your refusal to grant this request to one of our closest allies at such a critical time for that region,'' they wrote in a Sept. 13 letter, according to The Hill. ''The rejection of this request represents disturbing treatment of a vital partner and illustrates a lack of regard for the indispensable relationship between the United States and Israel and the current dynamics in the region which are essential to our national security.''