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Bridget Johnson

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September 25, 2013 - 7:19 am

MSNBC host Chris Hayes tried last night to get an antiwar Democratic congresswoman to answer whether Israel is an “obstacle” to great relations and bonding between Iran and the U.S.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said she wasn’t surprised at new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s deliberate conciliatory tone, “but what’s important is that the president, our president gave a magnificent speech calling for a diplomatic opening, diplomatic initiative.”

“We know it’s going to be very tough as we, of course, heard today. But I think we need to applaud President Obama for really ensuring the rest of the world that he’s going to take that step and it’s going to be slow, but I’ve offered the legislation for many years now calling for a special envoy as it relates to Iran. And also, you know, getting rid of this no-contact policy that we have,” she said.

“I believe that in order to seek global peace and security, reduce the threat of Iran achieving and getting a nuclear bomb, that we have to have bilateral talks between the highest levels in our government,” Lee added.

Hayes asked if “there’s going to be growing political pressure on the president to not make sure that he moves too quickly toward diplomacy.”

“I think there will be. But I also think there will be growing numbers of voices in our own country calling for a strong diplomatic effort, because no one wants Iran to have a nuclear bomb,” Lee said. “…We do not believe the world should have any more nuclear weapons. We need to disarm and that’s the only way we’re going to achieve global peace. So, you know, we’re going to see both sides, I think, digging in.”

Hayes noted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “red line” speech last year at the UN. “Is Israel an obstacle to a diplomatic settlement between the U.S. and Iran?” he asked.

“I visited Israel many times. And, of course, Israel quite naturally should be concerned about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, just as we should be,” Lee responded. “And so, I believe, as I said earlier, we have to take every step we can to make sure that nonproliferation and the nuclear capability for a bomb is not there. And so, we have to ensure that what the president, our president, the steps that he is taking right now succeed, and that’s going to be a tough road to walk but…”

“Is Israel an obstacle?” Hayes pressed.

“I don’t believe Israel is an obstacle. I believe that the Middle East would be a much safer place if we reduce the tensions and really insist that nuclear weapons become not the weapon of the world,” Lee said. “And that is an extremely important part of our foreign policy that we need to embrace very quickly.”

Netanyahu speaks before the UN next Tuesday.

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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