It’s a tale of two meetings.
Yesterday, I sat alongside Speaker Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, John Boehner, and a bipartisan group of other congressional leaders to reaffirm to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu our unequivocal support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Underlying our discussions was a clear commitment on all sides to move beyond the trivial bilateral rift the administration has inflamed over the past week — and to refocus America’s attention on truly pressing issues like Iran’s quest to obtain nuclear weapons.
A few hours later, President Obama offered a stunning contrast when he treated Mr. Netanyahu to a remarkably cooler reception at the White House. Conspicuously absent were all the niceties befitting a visiting head of state (and the leader of a critical strategic ally and historic friend to the United States, no less). No press in the room. No photo ops. No friendly gestures to suggest to the world that the United States stands with its fellow democracy at a dangerous moment for both nations.
Why the lack of a sincere effort on the part of the administration to dial back the tension? Could the White House truly be this offended by an Israeli decision to build 1,600 homes years from now in a part of its capital city that everyone understands will remain a part of Israel in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians? Or was the president simply trying to avoid difficult questions from the press? To whom was the White House sending a message — America’s allies or our enemies?
The administration’s disproportionate focus on Israel is counterproductive, because it draws attention away from the real stumbling block to peace in the Middle East: the widespread Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish State.
With the world’s collective gaze on Israel, the Palestinians continue to promote a culture antithetical to peace. This month, the Palestinian Authority dedicated a public square to a notorious terrorist responsible for killing 37 Israelis, including 13 children, on a bus in the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history. This is the same Palestinian Authority whose “moderate” leader was treated to a photo-op at the White House last May.
Congress has not forgotten who our true friends are in the Middle East. Yesterday, President Obama missed an opportunity to show the world that the special relationship between Israel and the United States remains strong. If the administration thinks it can bring about Mideast peace by currying favor with the Arab world at Israel’s expense, it is bound to fail.
– Rep. Eric Cantor is the House Republican whip.