A former top Democratic congresswoman on Friday criticized two Republican U.S. Senators for interfering in Secretary of State John Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to facilitate peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
Kerry is in the region this week to push a “framework” for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in recent days indicated that he’s not optimistic about the process. “There’s growing doubt in Israel that the Palestinians are committed to peace,” Netanyahu said, contradicting his predecessor Ehud Olmert, who has repeatedly insisted that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is a partner for peace.
Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) showed up in Israel on Friday and appeared to side with Netanyahu. “No one has worked harder than Secretary Kerry on this issue but at the same time when we hear very serious and legitimate concerns on the part of the Prime Minister we take those into consideration,” McCain said.
Former Democratic Congresswoman and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee Jane Harman (CA), who is now President and CEO of the Wilson Center, blasted McCain and Graham during an MSNBC segment on Friday.
“I understand that Lindsey Graham is in a tough primary but gee whiz guys, I think being the mouthpiece of the Prime Minister of Israel while our Secretary of State is there is not very smart,” she said. “And Bibi Netanyahu has direct channels to John Kerry any time he wants to use them either public or private and I think frankly what they did, however well intended it might have been or however focused on their politics it might have been, should not have happened.”
“Senator Graham and McCain made some good points,” said former George W. Bush administration State Department official R. Nicholas Burns during the same segment, but added: “I think Secretary Kerry is doing the right thing. This issue … is the core issue of the Middle East.” Watch the clip:
Despite the lack of support from McCain and Graham, Kerry is pressing ahead, vowing to work with both sides “to narrow the differences on a framework that will provide the agreed guidelines for permanent status negotiations.”
Kerry has been working hard on the peace process out front and behind the scenes since becoming the nation’s top diplomat, and even reportedly setting the stage for the effort in the years prior as Senator. He has repeatedly warned about the urgency to get the conflict resolved soon. “I believe the window for a two-state solution is shutting,” Kerry told a House panel last April. “I think we have some period of time a year, a year and a half, to two years or its over.”
This isn’t the first time that Republican lawmakers have interfered in the administration’s diplomatic efforts while visiting Jerusalem. In 2009, at the head of a GOP delegation to Israel, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) — who has regularly spoken out against U.S. administration policy on the conflict — defended Israel’s highly provocative evictions of Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes against U.S. and international criticism.