Obama's First Presidential Visit to Israel was an Opportunity for Him to Witness Firsthand the Obstacles Israel Faces, Says Ros-Lehtinen

Statement

By:  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Date: March 24, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement on President Obama's trip to the Middle East.

Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

"The President's trip to Israel was an opportunity for him to assess the current situation on the ground and examine the obstacles facing our friend and ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel but unfortunately failed to put forth a clear strategy to stabilize tensions in the region and bring both parties back to the negotiating table.

"Israelis live under constant worry that Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza will renege on the cease-fire agreement and once again fire rockets indiscriminately into Israel -- a reality illustrated when Sderot was once again hit by rocket attacks during the President's visit. Israelis see the rise of Islamist movements across the region in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood has come to power, fear that Iran is one step closer to a nuclear weapon, and worry that Assad's chemical weapons may fall into the wrong hands and be used against them.

"At the West Bank, the President fell short and missed the opportunity to press Abu Mazen to renounce Hamas and stress that any unilateral actions like last year's UN statehood scheme will have serious repercussions. It is misguided that the President believes Abu Mazen and Fayyad are true partners for peace. This is the same Abu Mazen who just last week said "I don't see much difference between [Hamas's] policy and ours. In this case, there is no need to label them as a terrorist organization,' as he called on the European Union to remove Hamas from its list of designated terror groups. If that is what qualifies as a "true' partner for peace, I'd hate to meet someone who wouldn't meet the criteria to fit that designation in the President's estimation."

"While I support a peaceful coexistence in the Middle East, we cannot ignore the grim realities of the current crisis by asking Israelis to ignore all the hate and the threats emanating from their neighbors in the region. That's a rather large leap of faith, given the history of Arab-Israeli relations, and one that could have dire consequences."