WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John A. Boehner said Sunday that the U.S. commitment to Israel should be stronger now as the American ally faces challenges to its existence in the volatile Middle East.
In an address to the Jewish National Fund conference in Cincinnati, Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, dismissed suggestions that Israel has isolated itself, and he argued that the Jewish state stands above others as the “one true beacon of freedom and opportunity” in the region.
The United States, he said, must stand by Israel’s side “not just as a broker or observer, but as a strong partner and reliable ally.”
A text of Boehner’s address was made available in advance.
Mr. Boehner also noted that the United Nations will highlight the Durban Declaration, viewed by many as an anti-Semitic statement, and that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a foe of Israel, will address the General Assembly.
Mr. Boehner’s speech comes amid renewed attention to President Obama’s policies toward Israel. Republicans say the president isn’t forceful enough on behalf of Israel, and political questions have been raised on whether the GOP can capitalize on the discontent and make inroads with Jewish voters.
Last Tuesday, Republican Bob Turner scored a surprising win in a historically Democratic New York congressional district in part because of complaints about Mr. Obama’s Mideast policies. The district also has a large concentration of Orthodox Jews.
In May, Mr. Obama called for Israel’s 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps to serve as the starting point in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. That proposal was rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mr. Boehner, in his speech, did not mention Mr. Obama, but he did recall his invitation to Mr. Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress, also in May, and the message the prime minister delivered.
“The American people deserved to hear from him — and Washington, quite frankly, needed to hear what he had to say,” Mr. Boehner said. “I invite the people in this room — and anyone as concerned as I am about the future of Israel — to speak out. Washington needs to hear from you, too.”
Mr. Boehner said Israel has shown that it seeks “nothing more than peace … a peace agreed to by the two states and only the two states.” The speaker said Mr. Netanyahu understands that peace will require compromise.
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