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Israel, Stateside

How the controversy has played in America

Marc Tracy
March 17, 2010
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) last month.(Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) last month.(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Last week’s construction announcement in Israel has rippled through a political system halfway across the world. While most Republicans and many Democrats have criticized the administration, some have backed it and turned their criticism toward Israel. Anyway, the Obama Administration has its uses for that criticism, too: It may just help buttress its credibility in the Mideast as a genuinely honest broker. Below, several ways the controversy over Israel has played out in America:

• The most prominent elected U.S. official to criticize the Obama administration was Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia). He is the House Minority Whip, a GOP rising star, and the son of an Israeli. [JPost]

• In private, many pro-Israel Jewish politicians have expressed sympathy with Obama and frustration with Israel; at the same time, many have been reluctant to espouse these views all that publicly. [Laura Rozen]

• AIPAC asked its supporters to spread the word that the Obama administration went too far in its criticism of “our partner Israel.” The group’s annual conference begins Sunday in Washington, D.C. [Ben Smith]

• Sarah Palin, who has studied this issue long and hard from her perch on the Council of Foreign Relations, called for a “reset” of U.S.-Israel relations. [Ben Smith]

• The Democratic Party’s official Israeli branch has forcefully criticized Netanyahu and used the opportunity to try to register more Democratic U.S. voters living there. [JPost]

• Reps. Christopher Carney (D-Pennsylvania) and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) sent a joint letter to Obama arguing he should back off. [Ben Smith]

• Part of the reason more Congressional Democrats have not been behind the administration is they feel it has done a poor job bringing them in on these decisions; many specifically would like a phone call from envoy George Mitchell. [Laura Rozen]

• Rep. Howard Berman (California) and Sen. Ben Cardin (Maryland)—two hawkish Jewish Democrats—stood by Obama and chastised Israel. [Ben Smith]

• Last, but maybe not least, J Street collected over 18,000 signatures on a White House-bound petition, “demonstrating,” the group said, “that large numbers of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans agree with the Vice President when he says, ‘Sometimes only a friend can deliver the hardest truth,’ and urging the administration to turn this crisis into an opportunity for progress on two states.” [Haaretz]

(By the way, in case you can’t tell, you should really be reading Ben Smith’s and Laura Rozen’s Politico blogs if you want to keep up with this story.)

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.