Tags: Israel | Israel | Netanyahu | Obama | Likud | election

Rep Lee Zeldin to Newsmax: US-Israel Bond Crucial No Matter Who's PM

By    |   Saturday, 14 Mar 2015 07:49 PM

No matter who is Israeli's prime minister after Tuesday's elections, "it's important that the American people and the Israeli people maintain that strong bond," New York Rep. Lee Zeldin told Newsmax on Saturday.

"There is going to come a point in time when President Obama will no longer be in the White House and the Israeli prime minister will no longer be the prime minister," said Zeldin, 35, the only Jewish Republican in Congress.

Elected in November after serving four years in the New York State Senate, Zeldin is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"As far as Tuesday's election goes, it's up to the Israeli people to decide who they want to lead their country — and America must continue to pursue a strong relationship with the Israelis, no matter who is in charge, whenever they are in charge."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fourth term on Tuesday. His conservative Likud Party faces a strong challenge from his primary rival, the Zionist Union joint list, which is led by Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog and his running mate, Tzipi Livni.

Netanyahu has been trailing in recent polls — and he is now accusing his challengers of being used by foreign governments and others in a global campaign to usurp his power.

"There is a huge international effort, with major money, that is partnering up with leftist organizations here and also with media figures in order to bring down the Likud government that I head," Netanyahu told Israeli television on Saturday.

"Whether legal or not, it certainly is not legitimate for foreign governments and all kinds of donors to meddle here," he said.

Zeldin told Newsmax that while "I personally have a lot of respect and admiration for the prime minister's efforts to secure his people … ultimately it's up to the Israelis to decide who they want to be in charge."

The congressman said that he was not involved in the Israeli elections, but that "it’s clear that those who are challenging those in power are trying to score votes" — even if it means blaming Netanyahu for the strained relations with President Barack Obama and the United States.

One of the prime minister's toughest critics, Shabtai Shavit, a former head of the Mossad spy agency, said in Tel Aviv this week: "You and you alone turned the United States from an ally into an enemy."

The comments were reported by The New York Times.

Such blistering attacks illustrate the bitterness of the Israeli campaign, Zeldin said.

"If they are able to convince one additional voter to change their mind and blame the prime minister on Tuesday for something, regardless of whether it is a fair criticism or not, obviously it is a fairly intense campaign going on, jockeying for votes.

"For the prime minister's opposition, they have everything to gain by maximizing blame wherever they can find it, regardless of merits," he said.

Netanyahu also came under fire from some challengers for his speech to Congress last week at the invitation of GOP House Speaker John Boehner. The attacks did not phase some Israelis, however, as the speech gave the prime minister a slight boost in the polls immediately afterward, according to news reports.

In his 39-minute address, Netanyahu warned Congress that a nuclear deal with Iran would be a "countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare" by a country that "will always be an enemy of America."

Obama later panned the speech as offering "nothing new" — and Vice President Joe Biden and many other Democrats boycotted the speech.

"With President Obama negotiating a deal with Iran that could eventually lead us to cutting a deal just to cut a deal, the prime minister really didn't have a choice" but to address Congress, Zeldin said.

He also slammed any potential nuclear deal that could not be voted on by Congress and supported the positions stated in a letter sent to Tehran this week that was signed by 47 Republican senators. The effort was led by freshman Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.

The letter warned that no nuclear deal signed with the United States would last after President Obama leaves office.

Besides the president, the letter was slammed by Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, the probable 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. Kerry this week told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that any Iran deal could not be changed by Congress.

Several Republicans who signed the letter, including Arizona Sen. John McCain and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, have since expressed regret for supporting the document.

"The specific purpose of the letter, to highlight Congress' role in approving any deal is something that I very strongly support," Zeldin told Newsmax.

When asked whether he supported the senators' letter going directly to Iranian officials, the congressman responded: "The media is making a bigger deal about the tactics and are focusing a lot less than they should on the substance."

He added that he believed that those who signed the document did so based on its content, not how it would be relayed.

"I would venture to believe that those who signed the letter, what drove them to sign the letter, was based on personal beliefs regarding the content — and on members of Congress searching around in all places for ways to solidify its role in the constitutional process," Zeldin said.

"The consequences of ignoring the Constitution and what it means may lead to some hurt feelings on the part of the president," he added. "But just because the president chooses to call a deal an executive agreement, it doesn’t mean that he's going to be successful at silencing Congress.

"It's quite possible that the advocacy is only going to become more amplified if the president chooses to continue down the path he's on."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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No matter who is Israeli's prime minister after Tuesday's elections, it's important that the American people and the Israeli people maintain that strong bond, New York Rep. Lee Zeldin told Newsmax on Saturday. There is going to come a point in time when President Obama...
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Saturday, 14 Mar 2015 07:49 PM
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