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Schumer: Obama's Israel Policy "Counter-Productive"

Chuck Schumer
N.Y. United States Senator, Charles Schumer AP

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer on Thursday criticized the Obama administration's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, calling it "counter-productive."

The United States has to maintain a solid standing with Israel, the New York senator said on the Nachum Segal Show, a conservative Jewish talk radio show.

"I told the president, I told [White House chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk," Schumer said.

The United States last month condemned Israel's decision to construct new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, which was announced while Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel to try and revive talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Biden maintained that the U.S. has "no better friend" than Israel.

Later, however, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "It was insulting not just to the vice president, who certainly didn't deserve that ... but it was an insult to the United States."

Schumer said that many in Washington are "pushing back" against the administration and that some Jewish members of Congress are meeting with President Obama within the next couple of weeks.

"We are saying that this has to stop," he said. "You have to have, in terms of the negotiations, you have to show Israel that it's not going to be forced to do things it doesn't want to do and can't do... And right now there is a battle going on inside the administration, one side agrees with us, one side doesn't. And we're pushing hard to make sure the right side wins, and if not, we'll have to take it to the next step."

Recently 76 senators signed a letter, organized by the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, urging Clinton to "reaffirm the unbreakable bonds that tie the United States and Israel together and to diligently work to defuse current tensions."

Schumer said that "90 percent of the Senate is overwhelmingly in support of Israel."

Mr. Obama on April 19, the 62nd anniversary of Israel Independence Day, released a statement saying the United States shares an "unbreakable bond" with Israel and he was confident the relationship "will only be strengthened" into the future.

Still, Schumer said, "The only way the Palestinians will sit down and talk is if they know Israel and the United States are as close as could be. And each administration learns it... We are at a crucial moment here, and I am hopeful that administration will see the right way to go. I am working on it."