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Sen Byrd Speech -- Finding True Path to Peace in Middle East / 06-24-04

Remarks by Senator Byrd

June 24, 2004

Finding a True Path to Peace in the Middle East

Senator Byrd was one of three Senators who voted against the Frist-Daschle resolution on the Middle East peace process.

Mr. Byrd delivered the following remarks after voting against a resolution portending to support the Bush Administration's road map to peace in the Middle East. Senator Byrd has long supported the peace efforts, but believes strongly that the White House approach has been unfair. As a result, he thinks that the United States is no longer seen as an honest broker in the peace effort between Israel and Palestine.

I opposed the Frist-Daschle resolution on the situation in the Middle East. I know that the leaders – and indeed all the members of this body – are genuinely committed to advancing the cause of peace in the Middle East. But no one should be naive enough to think that this resolution will move the process forward one inch. If anything, the lopsided pro-Israel slant of this resolution will serve only to strengthen the growing distrust of moderate Arab states toward the United States.

This resolution is a blatantly unfair reading of the current status of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It claims that the President's Road Map for peace is still relevant, even though it has been completely stalled for more than a year. The resolution wholeheartedly endorses Prime Minister Sharon's view of the barrier wall being built in West Bank, without so much as a mention of the wide opposition to its construction from moderate Arab countries such as Jordan.

The resolution contains language that could easily be construed to be in support of the controversial – and some claim illegal – practice of the targeted assassinations carried out by the Israeli armed forces. The United States is completely right to condemn the violence carried out by Palestinian terrorists. But we cannot turn a blind eye to the unwarranted excesses of the Israeli government. If our country truly wants to push both sides toward the negotiating table, we should condemn all violence arising from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including that which has claimed the lives of innocent Palestinians. There is blame to be shouldered by both sides. If we are to regain our credibility as honest brokers in the Middle East, we need to acknowledge that fact. Progress will only be made in resolving the Middle East violence when the United States weighs in with a fair, even-handed position that points out the wrongdoings of both sides. Resolutions such as this one are a far cry from being fair, objective, or even-handed.

Besides the specific provisions of this resolution, I oppose the thrust of the resolution, which is intended to express "the sense of the Congress in support of United States policy for a Middle East peace process." The United States has been completely disengaged from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for far too long, and the number of victims on both sides is growing far too fast. I cannot support a policy that boils down to a benign neglect of the violence in the Middle East.

Resolutions such as the one the Senate is taking up today may serve as a useful platform for a press release or stump speech, but they do nothing to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. I would jump at the chance to vote for a meaningful resolution that articulated the Senate's support of a viable policy to resolve the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. But this Administration has abandoned any pretense of promoting such a policy. To voice the Senate's support for what amounts to a set of empty promises and incendiary rhetoric is a foolish exercise of which I want no part.


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