By C. Coffey
President Obama’s hostility towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is creating a backlash in congress among Democrats, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) told The Washington Post in an interview published on Friday.
This backlash is beginning to damage the President’s agenda with respect to Iran and Israel, according to Graham. The deteriorating relationship also elicited a strong response this morning from Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a close Graham ally.
“It’s been unnerving seeing the president show his open hostility,” Graham told The Washington Post. “It’s immature and over the top and has made people suspicious…He makes it hard for Democrats to trust him.”
Sen. Graham’s comments came amidst escalating antipathy by the White House towards Prime Minister Netanyahu who scored a strong reelection victory on Tuesday.
After the Israeli Prime Minister backed away later in the week from his pre-election opposition to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian peace process, the White House publicly rejected this olive branch, saying it was going to “re-evaluate” its thinking. The White House is even considering an end to US opposition to a UN Security Council resolution supporting the creation of an independent Palestinian state, according to reports.
Obama’s hostility towards Netanyahu has reportedly become so personal, that he is also considering cutting all direct ties with the Israeli Prime Minister.
The increasing White House enmity towards the Israeli Prime Minister also resulted in an atypical statementfrom pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, which rebuked the President for rebuffing Netanyahu’s efforts to repair relations.
According to Graham, White House resentment towards Netanyahu is beginning to deliver very real political consequences for the President’s agenda. The South Carolina Republican is the cosponsor of legislationrequiring greater congressional review of any nuclear deal Obama strikes with Iran. Some Democrats are expected to sign onto the bill, and Graham told The Washington Post that he now has enough votes to override a veto of this bill.
Obama is even facing bipartisan pressure in the House of Representatives. Last week, a group of 360 Democrat and Republican House members prepared a letter to President Obama, reminding him that he cannot lift Iranian sanctions absent legislation from Congress.
Senator Graham even suggested to The Washington Post that UN funding might be on the table should the President attempt to bypass Congress:
Graham hinted at another avenue to stop the president from going to the United Nations in lieu of the Senate. In deliberate fashion he added, ‘As for using the U.N. to avoid coming to the Congress, well that will create a real crisis between Congress and the U.N.’ He notes that the United States pays for 22 percent of the U.N. budget and that the subcommittee he controls oversees State Department funding. Without directly threatening to cut off U.N. funding he says, ‘I am not going to ask American taxpayers to spend money on the U.N. that would [confirm a deal and undercut the Congress].” He added, ‘If the U.N. is used to going around Congress it would create a tremendous backlash.’
Senator McCain was more direct than his colleague Senator Graham about the deteriorating relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. “Get over your temper tantrum, Mr. President,” Sen. McCain said on CNNthis morning. “It’s time that we work together with our Israeli friends…the least of your problems is Bibi Netanyahu.”
Senators McCain and Graham are close political allies. McCain said last January during an ABC/ESPN podcast that Graham was a “dark horse” in the 2016 presidential field, and the one best equipped to deal with issues of national security.