"It is difficult to assess the president's goals and objectives for the
region when considering some of his most significant decisions since taking
office, which have included pressuring Israel to make concessions to the
Palestinians while at the same time reaching out to the Syrian and Iranian
regimes," Ms. Ros-Lehtinen," a Florida Republican, said.
On May 19, Obama, in a speech that focused on Israel, outlined what
was touted as a U.S. strategy toward the Middle East. The president
reserved his harshest criticism for two of the leading U.S. allies in the
region — Bahrain and Israel — while failing to call for the ouster of
Assad or Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi.
"He should have been harder," Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, said. "He
should have called on [Assad] to step down."
Obama also said the United States would relieve Egypt of up to $1
billion of debt. The president did not link debt reduction to the results of
presidential and parliamentary elections later this year, in which the
Muslim Brotherhood was expected to win.
"Unfortunately, President Obama's important and constructive speech
embracing and supporting the peaceful, democratic revolutions in the Arab
world was also undermined by an unhelpful and surprising set of remarks
about Israel and the Palestinians that will not advance the peace process
and in fact is likely to set it back," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent
from Connecticut, said.
The president called for a fast-track process that would result in a
Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and most of Jerusalem. Obama
said such a state should be established even if Israel and the Palestinians
cannot agree on so-called core principles such as the Palestinian demand for
their ancestors to return to their pre-1948 homes in the Jewish state or the
boundaries of Jerusalem itself.
"The international community is tired of an endless process that never
produces an outcome," Obama said. "The dream of a Jewish and democratic
state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation."
Members of Congress also cited Obama's refusal to address the
Palestinian demand for unilateral statehood in September 2011. The president
also ignored the Palestinian reconciliation agreement to establish a
government with Hamas, deemed a terrorist organization by the European Union
and United States.
"Today, President Barack Obama has again indicated that his policy
towards Israel is to blame Israel first," Rep. Michele Bachmann, a
Republican from Minnesota, said.
Congressional sources said opposition to the new administration policy
would be expressed by the Republican-dominated House. But they acknowledged
that Obama retains significant support for his agenda, particularly among
Democrats, to oversee the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West
Bank in 2012.
"Going forward, I hope that the president will work closely with
Congress to advance a comprehensive and consistent regional policy focused
on protecting and promoting U.S. security," Ms. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said.