U.S. Republicans Disappointed by Obama's Mideast Speech

Republican Senator Mark Kirk expresses concern over Obama's decision to alter U.S. policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, says Israel needs must outweigh Palestinian calls for 1967 borders.

Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor expressed disappointment Thursday in regards to U.S. President Barack Obama's Mideast policy speech, saying he failed to propose a serious plan for achieving Mideast peace.

"Today, the President outlined his hopes for Mideast peace – a goal that we all share – but failed to articulate a serious plan for achieving this goal," Cantor said in a statement. "This approach undermines our special relationship with Israel and weakens our ally’s ability to defend itself."

obama - Reuters - May 7 2011

"The President’s habit of drawing a moral equivalence between the actions of the Palestinians and the Israelis while assessing blame for the conflict is, in and of itself, harmful to the prospect for peace. In reality, Israel - since its creation - has always proven willing to make the sacrifices necessary for peace, while the Palestinians on numerous occasions have rejected those offers."

Republican Senator Mark Kirk also expressed concern Thursday over Obama's decision to alter U.S. policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as expressed in the president's Mideast policy speech.

"The President’s new decision to alter U.S. policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process concerns me," said Kirk in a statement.

Kirk said Israel's needs must outweigh Palestinian calls for 1967 borders, adding that Israel is "a critical U.S. ally."

Furthermore, Kirk said the president should block U.S. taxpayer assistance to the Palestinian leaders following their reconciliation with Hamas – a group that the Obama Administration certified as a terrorist organization, who is responsible for the murder of at least 26 American citizens.

Newt Gingrich said in response that it was the "most dangerous speech given by an American President in terms of Israel's survival."

Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, the founder and dean and associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that while they welcome Obama's recognition of Israel's security needs, his "call for a return to the 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations, even with land swaps, is a non-starter, when at least half of the Palestinian rulers are committed to Israel's destruction."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center rabbis said the road to peace has been clear for a long time: "direct negotiations between parties who recognize each other's legitimacy."

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman also commented on Obama's comments regarding the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, saying he appreciates Obama's recognition that the unity poses major problems for Israel. Foxman added that he appreciates the President's " direct rejection of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state" and commended his "strong affirmation of the importance of the deep and unshakeable U.S.-Israel relationship."

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami "wholeheartedly endorsed" Obama's approach. Ben-Ami said he hopes the President will "put his words into action," and publicly urge both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to engage in intensive and immediate efforts to achieve a two-state solution based on the principles laid out in his speech.

"He has laid out the parameters of a workable two-state deal, and now the parties must decide if they are ready to work seriously to achieve that elusive goal," said Ben-Ami.