Members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, are pushing for President Barack Obama to improve his personal relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to rejuvenate the deteriorating U.S.-Israel alliance.
With Netanyahu’s recent re-election to his third term as prime minister, The Hill explains that it is now or never for Obama to essentially bury the hatchet.
“Now that he has been elected by the people in a free and fair election, the president should reach out to him. The president should say, ‘OK, there are too many issues that are important to us,’” said Sen. John McCain, who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential election.
“I’ll bet you that the president doesn’t, just because of the way he has been behaving since the elections last November,” the Arizona Republican added.
“My observation is that their disagreements are on policy as well as perhaps personality, and I would hope that both men would reach out to each other and work through it,” said Rep. Elliot Engel, a Democrat from New York. “The U.S.-Israel relationship is more important than the relationship between any two individuals.”
“Now that the election is over, continuing to mend tensions in the U.S.-Israel relationship needs to be a priority for everyone, regardless of political affiliation,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who is a member of the Intelligence Committee. “I hope the new Israeli government can work toward that end.”
Despite U.S. general policy to not meet with politicians within weeks of their election, Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of Congress several days before his election after receiving an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner. Netanyahu then used footage of his speech in a campaign commercial in Israel before the election, which angered Obama and the White House.
This was not the first time Obama and Netanyahu clashed — as they have had conflicting views on the Palestinian and Iran conflicts throughout both of their campaigns. Despite Obama’s long-term goal of reaching a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, Netanyahu stated that he no longer supports that idea.
"I don't want a one-state solution. But I certainly don't want a zero-state solution, a no-state solution, where Israel's very existence would be jeopardized. And that's what the people of Israel overwhelmingly elected me to do," Netanyahu said.
"Do we walk out and the Islamists walk in, backed by Iran, as happened in Gaza, as happened in Lebanon, as is happening in other parts of the Middle East. They're either backed by Iran or they're backed by al-Qaida or, if you will, by ISIS (Islamic State).”
With vastly different policies and opinions, it is clear the Obama and Netanyahu relationship has struggled and may possibly continue to suffer further. Republican Boehner, who invited Netanyahu to address Congress before the election, is planning a visit to Israel within the next few weeks and will likely try to strengthen the U.S-Israel relationship as it is evident that Netanyahu has a much stronger bond with Boehner.
“He looks forward to visiting the country, discussing our shared priorities for peace and security in the region, and further strengthening the bond between the United States and Israel,” Boehner’s spokesman Kevin Smith said in a statement.
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