WASHINGTON – Top House Democrats said Wednesday they are "disappointed" with Jordanian King Abdullah's address to a joint meeting of Congress in which he singled out the plight of Palestinians without mentioning the role of Palestinian groups in preventing a Mideast peace.
In a room with a number of pro-Israeli politicians, the king devoted his speech to discussing an end to the conflict in the Middle East, but he focused primarily on the needs of the Palestinians and suggested that Israel was holding up the peace process.
At no point did he discuss the role of Hamas, the U.S.-designated terror group that is the majority partner in the Palestinian government. Hamas has refused to recognize Israel or change its charter calling for the destruction of the Jewish state.
"The security of all nations and the stability of our global economy are directly affected by the Middle East conflict. Across oceans, the conflict has estranged societies that should be friends," Abdullah told the packed House chamber.
"I meet Muslims thousands of miles away who have a deep, personal response to the suffering of the Palestinian people. They want to know how it is, that ordinary Palestinians are still without rights and without a country. They ask whether the West really means what it says about equality and respect and universal justice," he said.
The king described how Palestinians have suffered through "60 years of Palestinian dispossession, 40 years under occupation, a stop-and-go peace process, all this has left a bitter legacy of disappointment and despair, on all sides."
Several lawmakers told FOX News that it was strange that Abdullah would discuss the Palestinians, who are a large minority in Jordan, without recognizing that the use of terror by Palestinian organizations.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he was "disappointed" in the king for not mentioning the "principle undermining factor in getting to peace," namely, Palestinian terrorist organizations, as well as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda.
"He should've talked about Hamas. ... This is a forum in which he could have done that usefully," said Hoyer, D-Md.
"Profoundly disappointing … a missed opportunity," Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said of the speech.
In fact, during the speech, when Abdullah said, "The source of resentment and frustration ... is the denial of justice and peace in Palestine," a number of elected officials refused to applaud and shook their heads in disapproval.
Major pro-Israeli politicians like Lantos, Sens. Joe Lieberman and Frank Lautenberg, all of whom are Jewish, were among the 20 or so elected officials to remain stone-faced.
Abdullah set the tone for his 30-minute speech at the outset when he noted the historic make-up of the 110th Congress, which "welcomes its first woman speaker and its first Muslim-American member of Congress."
He then described his personal experience in the United States, where he attended boarding school before going to college in Oxford, England.
"The America I know so well believes that opportunity and justice belong to all. In my days in Massachusetts, I also learned something of New England virtues. There wasn't actually a law against talking too much, but there was definitely an attitude that you didn't speak unless you could improve on silence. Today, I must speak; I cannot be silent," he said.
Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison is the first Muslim member of Congress. Upon Abdullah's recognition, he shook hands with his seated neighbors, Reps. John Lewis, Rahm Emanuel and Hoyer.
At the end of the speech when the king offered a traditional Arabic greeting for peace, Ellison vocally responded in kind. He was the only attendee to do so and gave an embarrassed laugh as people turned to look at him.
At two points in his speech, Abdullah spoke of how peace would also help Israel to be part of the regional neighborhood and free of suicide bombers, but the king offered no substantive advice on how to make it happen, saying only that it's the moral imperative of the United States to take the lead.