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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reid distancing himself from Obama on Israel?

Shavua tov - a good week to everyone.

The news is overwhelmingly about Iran this evening and with good reason. I am following events there closely.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) released a public letter to President Obama on Monday in which he attempted to focus on the 'Palestinians' for Middle East peace, and not on Israel's responsibility. Here's part of that letter:
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.
Please note a couple of things here. First, as I noted above, Reid focuses on the 'Palestinians' - and the Arab states' - responsiblity and not on Israel's. Second, note the way he has the 'linkage' equation. If I'm reading him correctly, he's agreeing with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the Iranian nuclear program has to be resolved before there can be a 'Palestinian state' and not - as Obama has it - the other way around.

At CQ Politics, David Nather points out another interesting point about Reid's letter.
There’s something weird about the whole idea of Reid sending a public letter to Obama in the first place. As the Senate majority leader, and especially as a former mentor who helped raise Obama’s profile in the Senate, Reid can pick up the phone and call Obama anytime he wants. So it’s fair to conclude that any public letter has some broader message Reid is trying to convey to the political world — especially as he gets ready to run for re-election next year.
Nather believes that Reid is attempting to shore up his own position as he runs for re-election in Nevada next year. I believe there's more to it than that.

Obama's approval ratings have become purely personal as more and more Americans disagree with him on policy. One place where polls have shown that they disagree with him on policy is when it comes to Israel. A poll last week found that only 5% of Americans believe that the United States should support the 'Palestinians' (the same poll found that support for Israel has dropped from 69% to 49% in the last nine months - probably due to the reporting of Operation Cast Lead). Eventually, all of the policy disagreements are bound to catch up with Obama. Reid is trying to make sure they don't catch up with the Democratic party. A key Obama plank that only has 5% support is a good place to start that process.


At 12:31 AM, Blogger R-MEW Editors said...

There's another interesting element in Reid's letter. Note this bit:

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.

Reid is (not so) subtly correcting Obama on his deliberate mis-characterization of Israel as a contemporary Holocaust-related creation detached from the 3,000-year-old Jewish connection to the land.

Though we can be cynical about Reid's motives in writing the letter, it's a good one. May many similar letters follow from other friends of Israel.

At 4:40 AM, Blogger FrumiousFalafel said...

Bravo -- Excellent analysis!

At 8:19 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

A Democratic Congress broke with the President on Iran. It could also break him on Israel. Obama is finding out his personal popularity has political limits.


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