11:45am

Mon June 13, 2011
All Politics are Local

New Mideast Offers Hope, Chaos

Returning from a week-long visit to the Middle East, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., met with leaders from the region and believes there’s a mix of optimism and anxiety across different countries. The congressman was joined by four other Democratic colleagues during the overseas trip and made stops in Jordan, Israel and the West Bank to hear from leaders and citizens who are seeking peace. The group sat down with Egypt’s foreign minister and the Palestinian prime minister to discuss U.S. involvement in the region.

Yarmuth says he was disappointed the congressional delegation was rejected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding his policies have made the Israeli people more anxious about what might happen to their country in regards to the ongoing conflict with Palestinians.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has not helped the situation at all because his tendency is to keep the public on edge,” says Yarmuth, adding the prime minister is playing a dangerous “game of chicken” in the Middle East. “I’m not saying there’s not justification for some of that, but that’s been his style and strategy for a long time.

The delegation did meet with members of Israel’s parliament during the privately funded trip, which was sponsored by J Street, a liberal lobbying group that advocates a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

Yarmuth says there is broad support for Israel in the United States, which was demonstrated by a warm welcome during Netanyahu’s recent address before a joint session of Congress. However, he says that is not an endorsement of all the policies being implemented by the Israeli government.

“I think it would have been useful for (Netanyahu) to hear that the response that he received in Congress in my opinion illustrated and demonstrated a broad support for Israel, but not necessarily for his polices. And I thought that would have been useful for him to hear,” he says.

For the past few weeks, Netanyahu has been lobbying world leaders to oppose a Palestinian plan seeking United Nations recognition. The new state would be based on pre-1967 borders and  the U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote on the petition this fall.