Republicans - Reuters - June 14, 2011
Senator Rick Santorum, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, former Speaker of the House of Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at the debate, June 14 2011 Photo by Reuters
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The current partisan atmosphere concerning Israel is “very dangerous” and “like playing with fire”, according to Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, a veteran pro-Israeli lawmaker who is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee that deals with foreign aid.

“I’ve never seen such partisanship,” she said, declaring that “Israel should not be used in order gain a political foothold.”

Lowey was speaking in New York at a press briefing organized by the Israel Project advocacy group, together with Republican Representative Peter Roskam, the Chief Deputy Majority Whip in the House of Representatives.

“Let’s not act as if people have to agree all the time about Israel,” he responded “and we want to avoid a situation where one party cannot criticize another party. That would be absurd.”

The two were referring to the harsh tone of the attacks on President Obama’s policies towards the Middle East, especially at this week’s Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Washington.

Roskam said the administration should “remove” U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, who aroused controversy last week by suggesting that that the lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinians was one of the reasons for Muslim anti-Semitism in Europe. He also chided Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for criticizing Israel in her address to the Saban Forum in Washington last week, as well as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta for voicing his reservations about a military attack on Iran: “Panetta should make clear that ‘all options are one the table really means all options are on the table. There are things that are better not said than said.

Nonetheless, both lawmakers extolled the extraordinary collaboration between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and Lowey said both parties were strong supporters of tightening sanctions on Iran. She called for the US and other countries to impose sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank “so that it is clear to them that nuclear is unacceptable.”