WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress this morning, ending a four-day trip to Washington that was defined by tensions between him and President Barack Obama that in turn led many potential Republican presidential candidates — including Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty — to openly accuse Obama of not standing strongly enough with Israel.
“In a shocking display of betrayal towards our ally, President Obama is now calling on Israel to give up yet more land and return to its 1967 borders,” Bachmann said in a statement Thursday. “In an era dubbed the ‘Arab Spring’ we have seen increased volatility in the Middle East region, and President Obama has only added to the heightened hostility by calling on Israel to return to the 1967 borders. I disagree with President Obama and I stand with our friend Israel 100 percent.”
On Sunday, after Obama addressed AIPAC, Netanyahu downplayed any potential tension between himself and Obama, telling the Associated Press: “It’s true we have some differences of opinion, but these are among friends. … There should be no doubt about the strength of the American-Israeli relationship and President Obama’s commitment to Israel and its security.”
Response from other likely and possible Republican presidential candidates matched Bachmann’s. Depending on whom you ask, the president “threw Israel under the bus” with his “extraordinarily dangerous plan,” one that is “a disaster waiting to happen.”
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who formally announced his candidacy Monday, said last week that pushing Israel to accept the 1967 borders is “a mistaken and very dangerous demand.
“The city of Jerusalem must never be re-divided. To send a signal to the Palestinians that America will increase its demands on our ally Israel, on the heels of the Palestinian Authority’s agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization, is a disaster waiting to happen,” he said in a statement released by his campaign. “At this time of upheaval in the Middle East, it’s never been more important for America to stand strong for Israel and for a united Jerusalem.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Obama “has thrown Israel under the bus.
“He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Romney said in a statement. “He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”
On CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ Sunday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called the plan a “disaster.”
“I think it is extraordinarily dangerous. I think that defining the 1967 border would be an act of suicide for Israel. They are totally non-defensible. I think for the United States, you know — we don’t have moral equivalence here. You have Hamas which is a terrorist organization whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel. You have a democracy. Now the idea that somehow we’re supposed to be neutral between Hamas and Israel is fundamentally flawed,” Gingrich said. “A President who can’t control his own border probably shouldn’t lecture Israel about their border.”
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin weighed in on Facebook, comparing Obama’s suggestion to Israel to a hypothetical demand of the U.S. that would never be accepted by the American public.
“I reject President Obama’s idea that Israel must cede back its territories to the 1967 line,” Palin wrote.
“Will we now be in the habit of telling our allies what their borders should be? Should Prime Minister Netanyahu suggest we return to our 1845 borders before the annexation of the southwest of the United States during the Mexican-American War? Should we give back parts of Texas, New Mexico, and California?”