(JTA) — Two Democrats with solidly pro-Israel records are blaming Israel for the heightened U.S.-Israeli tensions.
The chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), told JTA that Israel deserved much of the criticism it has been receiving over the announcement during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel last week of plans to construct 1,600 housing units in a Jewish neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem.
“The administration had, I think, real justification for being upset because a process was supposed to be in place that would keep it from being blindsided, and that process failed and once again the U.S. was blindsided and the Israelis have to get this right,” said Berman, who has taken the lead in the push for new, tougher Iran sanctions. He is considered a staunch supporter of Israel and has strong ties to AIPAC. “They’ve got to put in place a system that keeps this from happening.”
Also Tuesday, another Democrat with a solidly pro-Israel record, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), issued a statement criticizing Jerusalem while stressing that Israel’s prime minister had taken an important step in expressing regret over the incident.
Meanwhile, as of Tuesday, Democratic congressional leaders appeared to be keeping silent.
Republican congressional leaders criticized the Obama administration for coming down hard on Israel. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued statements criticizing the administration.
A handful of Jewish Democratic House members from New York — Reps. Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey, Steve Israel and Anthony Weiner — also have said that the Obama administration went too far with its criticism of Israel. A fellow New York Democrat, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is facing a tough re-election fight, joined them.
Two other Democrats with substantial Jewish constituencies — Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Ron Klein (D-Fla.) — echoed their New York colleagues, saying it was time for the administration to move past the incident.
“The security threats that the United States and Israel face are too great and too urgent to be overwhelmed by a disagreement among friends,” Klein said.