Democrats in Congress are arguing that the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq harmed Israel and is tying America’s hands in dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat.
They put forth the argument in an October 27 online town hall meeting dealing with issues relating to Israel.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stressed in the online discussion that “the war in Iraq has made both America and Israel less safe.” Rep. Alcee Hastings, the Florida Democrat who is a candidate to chair the House Intelligence Committee if the Democrats win Congress, argued that “Republican foreign policy strategy in Iraq has encouraged terrorist acts against Israel, and has made other nations less likely to cooperate with U.S. policies in the region.”
The Democrats also claimed that the ongoing war in Iraq complicates the situation in the entire region, making it more difficult for the United States to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.
“The U.S. is less able to confront Iran credibly because we are tied down in Iraq. … We are also less able militarily to respond to them,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat. Hastings added that U.S. troops “are spread too thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our international credibility is too weak, to attempt any military action in Iran.”
House Democrats also made clear that they would not oppose Israeli negotiations with Syria and said that they do not believe that there needs to be pressure on Israel to negotiate with the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
Democratic lawmakers made an effort to stress that support for Israel is a bipartisan issue and that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans in the extent of backing they provide Israel with. At the same time, Rep. Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat, staked out a different view than that of the administration regarding Syria’s latest calls for negotiations with Israel. While the Bush administration reportedly asked Israel to reject talks, Sanchez says that “If Israel believes such a process would lead Syria to abandon support for terrorism and instead embraces peace, then I would welcome such a move.” Sanchez did, however, emphasize that the Democrats oppose removing Syria from the State Department list of states that sponsor terrorism.
Many of the questions in the online town hall meeting were from Democrats worried about the new book by former president Jimmy Carter and about claims that the Democrats are not as pro-Israeli as the Republicans.
Pelosi repeated her criticism of Carter’s new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” saying he does not represent the Democratic Party on this issue. Hastings said that those who do not support Israel are only on the fringes of the party.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.