The moment any American politician of any stripe dares to even begin to suggest, in public, that Israeli policies are unsupportable the Israeli/Jewish lobby, Pat Robertson's Christian Fundamentalists, and Jewish politicians compete to warn and cajole. And it just gets worse and worse...
September 10, 2003
House Dems Criticize Dean's Israel Remarks
By NEDRA PICKLER
WASHINGTON (AP) -
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean drew fire from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and several Jewish lawmakers on Wednesday over his remarks concerning Israel.
"This is not a time to be sending mixed messages," Dean's critics said in a letter circulated by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and signed by Pelosi and more than two dozen other Democratic House members who are supporting other candidates. "On the contrary, in these difficult times we must reaffirm our unyielding commitment to Israel's survival and raise our voices against all forms of terrorism and incitement."
Last week at a rally in Santa Fe, N.M., Dean said an "enormous number" of Israeli settlements must go to make progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "It's not our place to take sides," he said.
The former Vermont governor's comments drew criticism from some Jewish Democrats, a key party constituency. During a Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman accused Dean, the front-runner in the race, of turning his back on Israel.
Pelosi, Berman - who is Jewish - and several others who signed the letter are supporting Rep. Dick Gephardt's presidential candidacy, while others back Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.
New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Dean supporter who is Jewish, said he was comfortable with Dean's position, although Dean initially used some language that could concern some pro-Israelis. But Nadler said Dean's clarifications since then should have cleared that up.
"This is sent out by Gephardt supporters and it should be seen for what it is - a political document trying to exploit his statement before he has a chance to clarify it," Nadler said.
Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said she did not sign the letter because of her endorsement of Gephardt, but because she was concerned about Dean's comments on Israel.
"It is unacceptable for the U.S. to be `evenhanded' on these fundamental issues," the letter said.
During the debate Tuesday night, Dean defended himself by saying he and former President Bill Clinton held the same view on the issue - that the United States must have the trust of both sides to negotiate between the two countries. He repeated that argument during an appearance Wednesday on CNN's "Wolf Blitzer Reports."
"I believe the position that I take on Israel is exactly the position the United States has taken for 54 years," he said on the show. But he acknowledged that saying there should be an "evenhanded policy" toward the Israelis and the Palestinians may have been a poor choice of words.
"I have since learned that is a sensitive word to use in certain communities," he said. "So perhaps I could have used a different euphemism. But the fact of the matter is, at the negotiating table, we have to have the trust of both sides."