Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) is sticking to his statement made Tuesday that President Obama is “tilting towards Hamas” — and went further on Wednesday complaining that the President’s comments last week about the starting point for peace negotiations, and the subsequent uproar, has bolstered the Palestinians’ standing.
Andrews said Obama had given Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party has entered into a unity agreement with their rivals Hamas, an excuse to insist on preconditions before sitting down at the negotiating table with Israel. He was referring to comments Obama made during a major speech last week that the borders of Israel and a future Palestinian state should be based on 1967 lines with agreed upon swaps.
“Hamas is the determining factor in Palestinian decisions,” Andrews said to TPM. “They have yet to renounce [Hamas’] acts of terror. They are the ones who think that a Palestinian state should start with a return to the 1967 lines, and I think the President ratified that position.”
Obama’s remarks, though a statement of long-held U.S. position, were met with derision from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many on Capitol Hill. Following a frosty exchange with Netanyahu at the White House on Friday, Obama voiced strong support for Israel on Sunday during a speech before the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, but held firm to his position.
After the dust settles on the uproar over the border issue, Andrews argues, the Palestinians have made some serious gains by Obama’s more even-handed take on the issue than his presidential predecessors.
The official U.S. position has long tilted in favor of Israel, Andrews argued, and now it’s more balanced to each side. Andrews implied that balance is a bad thing.
“I think it’s evened out,” he said. “I think [Obama] has come to a conclusion different than mine.”
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), a strong supporter of Israel, dismissed Andrew’s comments about Hamas but said he thought Obama was “unwise” to make any comments about the 1967 border lines.
“It was a mistake,” Frank said. “I think he was overconfident that his words were gong to be parsed like it was legal document.” Frank said Obama should have anticipated the reaction.
Despite whatever criticism faced elsewhere, Israel has long been able to look to Congress for unwavering support — on both sides of the aisle.
In his initial remarks about the 1967 boundaries, Obama ended up giving the Palestinians an excuse to latch on to another precondition before they agree to come to the negotiating table, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) said.
“I just thought it was a tactical mistake,” Engel said.