When seen from Capitol Hill, Jerusalem looks a bit different
What’s the U.S. policy toward Israel? It may depend on which branch of government you ask.
On Capitol Hill, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got a warm reception during his Washington visit this week. Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, says Congress is on “a different page” than the Obama administration over Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and the overall U.S. relationship with Israel.
Netanyahu got a less obviously effusive welcome from the Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met him at a hotel on Monday and his White House meeting with the president on Tuesday took place behind closed doors, without photographers present.
But on Capitol Hill he was warmly, openly and officially received by leading lawmakers. Cameras clicked and rolled as Netanyahu was greeted in ornate reception rooms, first in the House of Representatives, then in the Senate Tuesday. In between, he lunched with lawmakers.
The Israeli prime minister got to hear his own words echo around the hallowed halls of Congress as well. At the morning meeting with Netanyahu, “Many of us said, Jerusalem is not a settlement,” Cantor told Reuters afterwards.
This had been Netanyahu’s line in a speech to the influential pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC on Monday evening, where he struck a defiant note after new criticism from Clinton of Jewish home construction in disputed territory in and around Jerusalem.
Cantor, the third-ranking Republican in the House, said he and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, are circulating for lawmakers’ signatures a letter to Clinton expressing concerns about the direction of U.S. policy. “We are writing to reaffirm our commitment to the unbreakable bond that exists bewteen our country and the State of Israel and to express to you our deep concern over recent tension,” the letter says.
Meanwhile Cantor said lawmakers did not need to be in lockstep with the administration on foreign policy, and warned that Congress can put its money where its mouth is, since it controls the federal government’s purse strings.
“We don’t have a parliamentary system; we certainly don’t have a monarchy here,” he said.
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Photo credits: REUTERS/Baz Ratner (Sheep graze in front of a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem, March 22, 2010)
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the AIPAC annual policy conference, Washington, March 22, 2010)