Republicans continue to excuse Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-Arab remarks and open repudiation of the two-state solution, despite decades of bipartisan agreement that an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel is the only way to resolve the Israel/Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu’s election day video warning supporters that “Arab voters are going to the polls in droves” and his comments from earlier in the week admitting that he would not work to establish a Palestinian state, caused outrage around the world, including strong criticism from the Obama administration. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest characterized Netanyahu’s rhetoric as “deeply concerning and it is divisive” and Obama himself told the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein on Saturday that the Arab remarks undermines Israeli democracy.
But Republicans are rushing to congratulate the Israeli leader’s historic re-election while brushing away the consequences of his remarks.
“The president should get over it,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. “Get over your temper tantrum, Mr. President,” he continued, “The least of your problems are what Bibi Netanyahu said in a political campaign. If every politician was held to what they said in a political campaign obviously that would be a topic of long discussion.” Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) advised Obama to build on America’s special relationship with Israel “rather than try to make it personal.”
On ABC’s This Week, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) claimed “the peace process seemed like it was in a halt long before Netanyahu ran for re-election.” “Look, it’s always surprising to me when the president is upset about election rhetoric because it always happens,” he added.
The GOP is also rejecting Obama’s argument that Netanyahu’s disavowal of the two-state solution could change America’s approach toward achieving lasting peace in the region. Despite Netanyahu’s efforts to walk-back the comments, the administration believes that the loss of Netanyahu as a negotiating partner to any bilateral talks with the Palestinians could push it to involve multilateral organizations like the United Nations in resolving the conflict. Officials are reportedly considering introducing or backing a U.N. resolution that establishes the parameters and definitions for a two-state solution, a move that will be mightily opposed by the Israeli government and their allies in Congress.
“Of course [Obama] shouldn’t be considering it and second of all, if he does that, it would be approved by the United Nations, then the United States Congress would have to examine our funding for the United Nations,” McCain said. “It would contradict American policy for the last at least ten presidents of the United States.”
McCain’s comments were echoed by Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States. Dermer told NBC’s Meet The Press that any such resolution will undermine peace by hardening Palestinian positions. “It will prevent us from not only having peace today, it could prevent us from having peace for decades to come because no Palestinian leader will move from those positions that have been put forward at the United Nations,” he said.
The Palestinians have recently pursued a strategy of internationalizing the conflict in hopes of putting greater pressure on Israel to recommit to the goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state and possibly set the stage for imposing punitive measures against Israel for its violations of international consensus and the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
On Sunday, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) sought to downplay the growing partisan rift over Israel in the United States. “Everybody just needs to take a big breath and step back,” he told CNN. “What counts is the substance and on the substance the relationship between Israel and the United States has never been closer on military and strategic intel issues… What counts, and what we need to do, is get back to the fundamentals and stop with all the drama,” he said