Obama's Mideast speech concerns LI polsBy KERY MURAKAMI
May 20, 2011
Several members of Long Island's congressional delegation on Thursday raised concerns about President Barack Obama's call for Israel to negotiate borders of a Palestinian state based on those prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who heads the House Homeland Security Committee, said he could have seen Israel reaching that position on its own in peace negotiations. But he said that for the United States, Israel's closest and strongest ally, to publicly back the Palestinian demand "really undercuts Israel's position."
"It's a body blow to Israel," he said. King noted it comes as the rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, "are joining forces and posing a greater threat to Israel."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in a statement she was taken aback by Obama's announcement.
"This is, indeed, an unpredictable time in the region," she said. "Steps toward a lasting peace, with real security, cannot start with pre-conditions on Israel."
Gillibrand and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) stressed that before negotiations can begin, Fatah would have to recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce terror.
"While I applaud the president saying that the path to peace is not through unilateral declarations, attempts to delegitimize Israel, or the path of terror," Gillibrand said, "the reality is that Israel does not have a credible partner as long as the new Fatah-Hamas government maintains anti-Israel positions."
Schumer agreed. "There can be no negotiations until Hamas, recognized as a terrorist group by the United States, renounces terror and recognizes the reality of a two-state solution."
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) also criticized Obama's call. "We all want a lasting and permanent peace in the Middle East, but rolling back the clock to 1967 and taking away land from Israel flies in the face of logic and our interests in the region, which are dependent upon a robust and unwavering support for Israel."
She wrote Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week asking that they stop U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it cuts ties with Hamas.
"I think it's irresponsible of the president to ask our most reliable and important ally in the region to cede territories while ignoring increasingly dangerous threats to its security," McCarthy said.
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights), the top Democrat on the House Subcommittee on the Middle East, said in a statement, "The president said there will be no borders or lines to which Israel does not agree. That is the bottom line."
Neither Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) nor Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) could be reached for a comment.