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US Support for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

-- Speech by Rep. Gary Ackerman

-- Letter by Sen. Diane Feinstein and 31 other Senators

-- Statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

US Efforts for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

(1) Speech by Rep. Gary Ackerman cites Israeli Settlements
as well as Hamas Terrorism as Obstacles to Peace.

[Rep. Ackerman is one of the most pre-eminent supporters of Israel in the Congress. He accompanied Mayor Bloomberg and Police Chief Kelly to Israel during the Gaza conflict]

(Washington, DC) February 12, 2009 -- Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-Queens, LI), chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, made the following statement today at the Subcommittee's first public hearing of the 111th Congress.


It only looks like we're going in circles. In fact, we're spiraling downward. I don't know where the bottom is, but I know its there and I know it's getting closer every day. It will hit with shattering force when, through malice and terror, through shallow calculation and venal self-interest, through short-sightedness and through political cowardice, the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is finally rendered impossible.

The downward pressure comes from terrorism and the march of settlements and outposts, from the firing of rockets and the perpetration of settler pogroms. It comes in daily images of destruction and the constant reiteration that "they only understand the language of force." It comes in the form of a political party that's always just a few months away from reform and in the form of governing coalitions whose chief purpose is avoiding new elections. It comes in the form of promises that bloodshed is what God desires and declarations that dirt and stones mean more than human life. It comes from tunnels in Gaza and from digging in Jerusalem as well. There is no moral equivalence between these acts but they part of the same destructive dynamic.

Since the end of the Clinton Administration, the basic outlines of a peace agreement have been clear. And in fact, in its waning days, the government of Ehud Olmert--like other departing Israeli governments--further closed the gaps and added even more detail. Except now there are three sides. And one of these sides is looking for an outcome very different than the other two. Hamas is the odd-man out.

Which brings us to Gaza, where so many of the contradictions in this conflict come into focus. Start with Hamas, a terrorist organization, an entity beyond the pale. They are the enemy and no one can talk to them until they accept the Quartet's conditions of recognizing Israel, repudiating violence, and accepting the PLO's agreements with Israel.

Except that for years, Israel has been talking to Hamas through Egypt, and directly to the Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails. And when the IDF was in Gaza in force, with reserves building up outside, the Israelis announced that the destruction of Hamas was absolutely not their goal. Hamas is a deadly, vicious, implacable enemy, but somehow, one that had to be left in place.

And even Hamas itself--the great paragon of ideological purity--insists in Arabic that its goal is the complete liberation of Palestine, which is to say, the elimination of the State of Israel, while in English it declares that Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders would be sufficient for a long-term, but not permanent, peace.

The one real bright spot in all the chaos is the work of the U.S. Security Coordinator, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, who without fanfare, and with very little money, has helped stand up a force of several hundred competent and disciplined Palestinian security forces. Trained in Jordan, and deployed successfully to major cities in the West Bank, these mostly young Palestinians have restored law and order in Jenin and Nablus, and are finally starting to put some authority back into the Palestinian Authority, which for years has been leaking the stuff like a bucket with no bottom.

I think we've learned from our own awful experience in Iraq that between politics and security, security has to come first. So what can be made of the new and growing security dynamic in the West Bank, remains to be seen. A lot will depend on whether Israel--in a break from years of habit--can recognize its own self-interest in the success of this Palestinian enterprise. And even if that happens--and I think we really must try hard to help that process along--how developments in the West Bank can be used to reestablish a connection with Gaza is far from clear.


(2) Letter by Senator Diane Feinstein Urges Secretary of State Clinton
to Support Peace Process during Visit to Israel and West Bank Next Week.

Signed by 32 Senators.

(Senator Lautenberg is one of the signatories)

We are writing to applaud your decision to travel to Israel and the West Bank next week. Your trip sends another important signal of the Obama Administration's seriousness about dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last month, while announcing Senator Mitchell's appointment as Special Middle East Peace Envoy, President Obama stated that "It will be the policy of my administration to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel and its Arab neighbors."

At that same ceremony, you expressed your own commitment to Israel-Palestinian peace, noting that Senator Mitchell's mission will be to "lead our efforts to reinvigorate the process for achieving peace between Israel and its neighbors… [to] help us to develop an integrated strategy that defends the security of Israel, works to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will result in two states, living side by side in peace and security, and to achieve further agreements to promote peace and security between Israel and its Arab neighbors" and "to support the objectives that the President and I believe are critical and pressing in Gaza, to develop a program for humanitarian aid and eventual reconstruction, working with the Palestinian Authority and Israel on behalf of those objectives."

We commend both you and President Obama for these statements and we urge you to use your upcoming visit to Israel and the West Bank to underscore your personal commitment, and that of President Obama, to Israel's security and to achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace. Both are vital U.S. national security interests that must not be neglected. The continuing launching of rockets from Gaza into Israel, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and the ongoing challenge of formalizing an Israel-Hamas truce, underscore the importance of tenacious American leadership and engagement, now and in the future.


(3) Secretary of State Clinton and Palestinian Pres. Abbas say Hamas
must Recognize Israel. Clinton will Offer $900 million for Gaza.

Haaretz 2-28-09

Abbas: Unity depends on Hamas recognizing Israel

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday any unity government with Hamas would have to agree to a two-state solution with Israel, a demand quickly rejected by his Islamist rivals

Hamas leaders have offered a long-term truce with Israel in return for a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Islamist group continues to say it will not formally recognize Israel and its 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Also Saturday, Hamas rejected U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks that a successful Palestinian reconciliation process must include recognition of Israel by Hamas.

"Hamas will not recognize Israel or the Quartet's conditions, and Clinton's statement is not acceptable to the Palestinian people," said Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan.

Clinton said Friday that a successful Palestinian reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas must include recognition of Israel by Hamas.

Speaking ahead of her first visit to the Middle East as Secretary of State, Clinton told the Voice of America that "I believe that it's important, if there is some reconciliation and a move toward unified authority, that it's very clear that Hamas knows the conditions that have been set forth by the Quartet, by the Arab [League] summit."

She said that Hamas must "renounce violence, recognize Israel and abide by previous commitments. Otherwise, I don't think it will result in the kind of positive step forward either for the Palestinian people, or as a vehicle for a reinvigorated effort to obtain peace that leads to a Palestinian state."

The former first lady and former U.S. senator from New York is kicking off her second overseas trip as the nation's top diplomat by attending an international conference in Egypt where she will announce on Monday a U.S. government pledge of up to $900 million in humanitarian assistance for the rebuilding of the war-shaken Gaza Strip.

Clinton also will visit Israel to underscore President Barack Obama's commitment to finding a "two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that establishes a sovereign Palestinian state at peace with Israel.
Clinton also will venture into the West Bank to meet with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas.

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