Quick links: Obama's 5/19/11 speech; Obama-Netanyahu presser 5/20/11; Obama's speech at AIPAC 5/22/11; APN's reaction to Obama's AIPAC speech; Netanyahu at AIPAC 5/23/11; Netanyahu's speech to Congress 5/24/11, APN's reaction to Netayahu's speech to Congress
Also, on 5/26/11 the Senate confirmed Dan Shapiro as Ambassador to Israel, and Stuart Jones as Ambassador to Jordan
1. Bills, Resolutions and Letters
(1967 Borders Resolution) S. Res. XXX: Expected to be introduced by Sens. Lieberman (R, oh wait, I mean I-CT) and Hatch (R-UT), asserting that it is U.S. policy that Israel will not return to the 1967 lines (something that Obama is not saying it should do), that such lines are "indefensible, and that "it is contrary to the U.S. policy and national security to have the borders of Israel return to the boundaries of 1949 or 1967." For details see this report in the Hill. (Not introduced as of close of business 5/26/11)
(Support for Israel) H. Res. 270: Introduced 5/23/11 by Rep. Dold (R-IL) and currently having 37 cosponsors, "A resolution reaffirming United States principles regarding the security of Israel and peace in the Middle East; to the Committee on Foreign Affairs." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The resolution re-affirms the contents of two resolutions (H. Con. Res. 460 and S. Res. 393), both passed in 2004 by the 108th Congress. Those resolutions essentially endorsed President Bush's April 14, 2004 commitments to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. For analysis of those resolutions (which is in effect analysis of H. Res. 270), see excerpts from the 6/26/04 edition of the Round-Up, included in Section 8, below (the online archives unfortunately do not go back that far). Rep. Dold's press release about his resolution can be read here.
(Green Light for Israel to Attack Iran) H. Res. 271: Introduced 5/23/11 by Rep. Gohmert (R-TX) and currently having 44 cosponsors (all Republicans, more than half members of the Tea Party Caucus), "Expressing support for the State of Israel's right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Gohmert originally introduced this resolution in June 2010 (H. Res. 1553), but it died, with no action taken, at the end of the 111th Congress. See Jamal Abdi's powerful piece about the resolution here. Also see the 6/25/10 and 7/23/10 editions of the Round-Up for further background.
(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) S. 1048: (Senate companion to HR 1905) Introduced 5/23/11 by Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) and currently having 12 cosponsors, "A bill to expand sanctions imposed with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran, North Korea, and Syria, and for other purposes." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. [Note: this was introduced too late to get specific mention in AIPAC's talking points given to delegates going to lobby the Hill. Instead, those talking points asked supporters to urge House members to co-sponsor HR 1905, and to urge senators to cosponsor "expected companion legislation in the Senate." For more on this, see Josh Rogin's reporting in the Cable. Also, you can read Ros-Lehtinen's 5/24/11 statement on HR 1905 here.
(Rebuking Obama on 1967) Coffman/Tipton/Walsh letter to Obama: On 5/25/11 Reps. Coffman (R-CO), Tipton (R-CO), and Walsh (R-IL) circulated a Dear Colleague seeking co-signers on a letter calling on President Obama. Other reported signers as of 5/25/11 were Gardner (R-CO), Lamborn (R-CO), and McKinley (R-WV) - making this, so far, a largely Tea Party Caucus letter. The Dear Colleague mischaracterizes President Obama's May 19 speech, stating that "In President Obama's speech about Middle East issues last week, the President suggested that Israel revert to the territory it held prior to 1967." The letter to Obama urges the president to "retract the statements that you made last week regarding the Israeli and Palestinian border" and accuse Obama of taking it upon himself "to redefine the borders between Israel and Palestine." The letter goes on to accuse Obama has choosing to "appease your agenda at the expense of Israel." The letter is scheduled to close at close-of-business on 5/26/11. The letter appears to be part of an aggressive GOP campaign to mischaracterize Obama's position on the 1967 lines (for more, see section 2, below).
(Unified Jerusalem/Stand with Israel) Ross letter to Obama: On 5/17/11 Rep. Ross (R-FL) circulated a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to President Obama. The lengthy letter urges Obama "to oppose, without equivocation, any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and make it clear that the United States will not recognize any such state. In addition, we urge your Administration to support, without equivocation, the policy that an undivided Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the State of Israel and that any peace between Israelis and Palestinians must never be imposed, but can only come through agreement between the two parties." The letter was originally scheduled to close at close-of-business on 5/20/11. It was subsequently circulated again this week, and according to the latest Dear Colleague will close at close of business 5/26/11.
2. GOP Campaign to Mis-Characterize Obama's Position on Borders
Republicans have reportedly decided to launch an aggressive campaign to mischaracterize President Obama's position on borders. The GOP theme is that the president is demanding that Israel return to pre-1967 borders. Obama's actual position, as stated in his May 19th speech and reiterated 5/22/11 at AIPAC, is that a peace agreement should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed on land swaps, resulting in, among other things, secure borders. The Republican Jewish Committee has launched its own campaign around this issue, with a petition drive entitled: "Urge President Obama not to pressure Israel to return to the 1967 borders."
Republican members of Congress are lining up to get in on the act. The following is just a sampling (you can read more on this topic at the Cable and can watch the flow of statements from GOP members in real time by following RJCHQ on twitter).
The biggest problem with the President's borders proposal is that reducing Israel's borders to the pre-1967 lines would endanger Israel...By endorsing the pre-1967 lines, the President has granted Abu Mazen a major concession without receiving anything in return...
...President Obama's endorsement of the Palestinian demand for their own State based on the pre-1967 borders completely reverses our longstanding policy that borders must be determined through negotiations and puts our relationship with Israel in peril. The Palestinians have been conducting a diplomatic campaign to portray Israel as a renegade, pariah State flouting the will of the international community, in prelude to demanding that the United Nations General Assembly unilaterally recognize a Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders. By essentially announcing his support of that proposal, President Obama has made that action very likely..It appears as though the President--either intentionally or unintentionally--is throwing Israel to the wolves...
President Obama's insistence that Israel revert to its 1967 borders is bad policy born of moral confusion. Pushing Israel back to borders that existed prior to the Six Day War would seriously jeopardize its security in ways that threaten its very existence...
...It is unfortunate that President Obama chose to use his speech on North Africa and the Middle East not to reject Palestine's bid before the UN to be a recognized state, or to pressure Palestine to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, or to encourage Palestine to make any other concessions to Israel. Instead, by pressuring Israel to give up their occupation of the West Bank, President Obama effectively rewarded the Palestinian Authority which has not only sought condemnation of Israel before the UN, but has also reconciled with the Hamas terrorist organization, without asking for anything in return...
While I welcome President Obama's reaffirmation of U.S. support for our close friend and democratic ally, Israel, some of his comments, such as his call for Israel to make further concessions on its borders, are troubling and difficult to square with his stated goal of upholding Israel's right and ability to defend itself...
...I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Netanyahu. Israel cannot give up territory and return to the 1967 borders as suggested by President Obama in an ill-timed statement last week...
Why President Obama insists on weakening the hand of our ally Israel is a complete mystery to me. It's ridiculous to expect Israel to begin negotiations with the Palestinians under the precondition that they pull back to the 1967 borders...
... Like Prime Minister Netanyahu, I do not agree with President Obama's suggestion that Israel revert back to the 1967 borders as a starting point for peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Nor do I agree with President Obama's assertion that Israel can remain secure next to a contiguous Palestine. Israel's right to defend itself and live under the protection of a safe and secure border is non-negotiable...
Mr. Speaker, in a failed attempt to play Solomon, the President has decided to split the nation of Israel in two. He wants Israel to give away more land to the Palestinians in the name of peace. Israel has a history of giving up land and still has no peace. The President's proposal would make Israel a land it could not defend. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said "nyet" to the President. Where does the United States get the omnipotent power to tell any country it should give away part of their sovereign land? What if Netanyahu told us that the United States should divide up our land and swap it among our citizens? We would not stand for such. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians must be resolved between the two groups. The U.S. Government should not take the side of the Palestinians over our ally, Israel. Such action lacks wisdom and shows contempt for the people of Israel. And that's just the way it is.
...We have a President who doesn't know history as well as he should or he would be aware that last Thursday, instead of saying what his spokesman was saying, gee, this was the starting point for all negotiations, actually, the facts are that the Clinton administration pushed Prime Minister Barak into basically that proposal. And it's my belief that just as I believe that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh when Moses made his request, he hardened Arafat's heart. He rejected the offer, and it does not need to be made again.
Mr. President, on Thursday, in a speech on the Middle East, President Obama said: We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. While the President has since sought to revise or clarify his remarks, it is valuable to remind ourselves what a retreat to the pre-1967 boundaries would mean for the security of Israel... I believe it is important for the United States to again oppose any plan to force Israel to withdraw to those 1949 boundaries... I oppose any plan or effort to force Israel back to those 1949 armistice lines and encourage my colleagues to work to see that is not the case. I ask my colleagues to support that position as well.
Sen. Coats (R-IN) 5/23/11 (worth reading in full - includes indictment of virtually all aspects of Obama speech)
...President Obama's declaration that Israel must withdraw to the 1967 border lines is unprecedented and unwelcome. It is true that previous administrations have referred to the 1967 lines in the past as a reference point in the negotiations. It is also true that the Palestinians regard the 1967 lines as their beginning negotiating position. But even with the President's vague acknowledgment of the need for land swaps, no U.S. administration has previously adopted the Palestinian position as its official policy until now. How can this help restart negotiations or drive those negotiations toward a successful conclusion? As Mr. Netanyahu made clear to the President in the Oval Office, a return to the 1967 lines is "indefensible" and ignores new realities on the ground. This position was formally recognized by President Bush in 2004 and must now be reconfirmed by any realistic assessment of what steps are possible and necessary. The object of negotiations is to reach a successful and durable conclusion. But ignoring core realities cannot possibly contribute to progress and almost certainly would make it more difficult to achieve the ends we all seek...
Earlier, President Obama used the phrase, "The United States believes," to articulate his beliefs that this peace should be based on the 1967 borders. This is not how the United States feels or has ever felt about Israel, an ally and a close friend; a friendship based on common democratic values, religious affinities, and security interests. As a friend, we cannot force Israel into indefensible borders ultimately leading to its destruction, because Israel is surrounded by people who want to see it wiped off the face of the Earth. Israel is our friend, and we, the United States of America, believe in standing with our friend.
President Obama has called for Israel to accept a settlement with a government backed by Hamas, a terrorist group committed to Israel's destruction. President Obama's stark departure from past administrations asks Israel to retreat to its indefensible pre-1967 borders, jeopardizing the security of our long standing ally.
I applaud the Prime Minister's commitment to our shared goal of peace. His speech was particularly important given the President's recent comments regarding Israel's 1967 borders. Regardless of what the President meant, he sent the wrong message to Israel and the world. The people of Israel are our friends and are critical to peace and stability in the Middle East, and I believe the United States must stand up for Israel and its right to exist.
It pains me to say this, but President Obama is not pro-Israel. After last Thursday's speech, that should be clear. His call for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the 1967 borders should leave no doubt where he stands. The 1967 borders are entirely indefensible. He is not pro-Israel...
On 5/23/11 Rep. Walsh also uploaded a nifty video (apparently produced by or for his office) to YouTube: Now is the time to take a stand for Israel. Walsh's offers the following comments on the YouTube page: I am extremely disappointed that President Obama is turning his back on our strongest ally in the Middle East and rewarding the Palestinians for joining with Hamas -- a terrorist group committed to Israel's destruction. The President's 5/11/11 speech [sic] was another example of President Obama throwing our allies to the wolves in a vain attempt to appease our enemies. The President needs to make it clear that there will be no chance for peace unless Palestinian leadership distances itself from terrorism and recognizes Israel's right to exist. Once more, Obama failed to demonstrate to the Palestinian people and to the rest of the world that the United States stands with Israel, and that we will only support a peace that is negotiated in good faith by both parties. Only our unconditional support of Israel will lead to lasting peace in the region
...When Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke behind where I stand right now a couple of days ago, I think it was an historic speech, I think that he laid out the parameters that can allow the Jewish State of Israel to survive and defend itself against its enemies--and there are many--and I think he went about as far as he could without openly challenging the President of the United States who, by the way, had to walk back some of his comments a few days after his speech. So I'm happy with what has happened in the aftermath of President Obama's speech that I believe erroneously said that Israel would have to go back to the pre-'67 war boundaries.
3. ...And Some Dems Follow Suit
Some Democrats have also mischaracterized Obama's comments regarding the 1967 lines, and, like Republicans, have gone on the record disagreeing with something the president didn't say. For examples see here, here and here.
4. GOP ups the ante, rejects Gaza-West Bank Link
In addition to attacking Obama over his use of the words "1967 lines" in his recent speeches, some GOP members are attacking Obama for suggesting that a Palestinian state will need to be "contiguous" - suggesting that this is tantamount to an Obama call to divide Israel.
On 5/26/11 Rep. Gohmert (R-TX) held forth about this (see section 10, below, for more on this speech), stating:
...under the President's words, gee, he uses the statement, in a sovereign contiguous state. Well, Palestinians have the Gaza Strip and they are occupying the West Bank. For that to be contiguous, there's only one of two things that can happen, and that is, if you cut Israel up, or you give all of this area to the Palestinians that are now completely in signed agreement with a terrorist group, Hamas, then you give all of this for the use of a terrorist group, Hamas. And so then that would fulfill the President's desire as he had time to massage it and think about it, giving all of this land to Hamas, Palestinians, all of this area up here.
Likewise, of 5/26/11, Rep. King (R-NY) made the same point (also demonstrating the depth of his expertise on Israeli-Arab issues when he implies that the Palestinians want the Golan as part of their future state...):
...President Obama, I'll say, broke the mold and went down a new path, a bit of a surprising path, unless you are reading between the lines on his position on Israel in prior times, to make the argument that there would be a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, that the Palestinians would have a single contiguous country. Right now it's either two pieces, West Bank and Gaza, or three pieces, West Bank, Gaza and whatever their claim might be to the Golan Heights. If you look at the map, it's not possible to tie together a contiguous Palestinian state without severing Israel from its components...
Bearing in mind that in politics there are many who will never let facts get in the way of what they think will be a winning argument, Reps. Gohmert, King, and anyone else planning to take up this argument would do well to note that treating the Gaza and West Bank as a single territorial unit, and talking about the need for a Gaza-West Bank connection, is not an invention of President Obama, but has been included in prior agreements signed by Israel, dating back to the Oslo Accords:
- the 1993 Oslo Accords, aka the Declaration of Principles On Interim Self-Government Arrangements (which can be found on the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs here). Article IV of the agreement stipulates that "the two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved during the interim period." The agreement stipulate further that Annex II will deal with "Arrangements for a safe passage for persons and transportation between the Gaza Strip and Jericho area."
- the 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement (which can be found on the website of the Israeli MFA here). Article XXIII stipulates that "The two Parties view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, the integrity of which will be preserved during the interim period." Article XI stipulates that "Arrangements for safe passage of persons and transportation between the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area are set out in Annex I, Article IX." Annex I (which can be found on the website of the Israeli MFA here), lays out details of the Gaza-Jericho safe passage.
- the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, (which can be found on the website of the Israeli MFA here). Article XI, point 1 stipulates that: "The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, the integrity and status of which will be preserved during the interim period." ARTICLE XXIX of that same agreement, entitled "Safe Passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip" stipulates that "Arrangements for safe passage of persons and transportation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are set out in Annex I." Annex I (which can be found on the website of the Israeli MFA here) lays out the details - agreed to by Israel - of the safe-passage between Gaza and the West Bank.
- the 1998 Wye River Memorandum (which can be found on the website of the Israeli MFA here). Article III(3) of this agreement stipulates that "Both sides will renew negotiations on Safe Passage immediately..." (this agreement was signed by Netanyahu).
- the September 1999 Sharm el Sheikh Memorandum (which can be found on the website of the Israeli MFA here). Point 5 of the agreement details interim agreement on safe passage routes.
- the October 1999 Protocol Concerning Safe Passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (which can be found on the website of the Israeli MFA here). This agreement further fleshes out details of the West Bank-Gaza connection.
6. APN Tells Congress: Reject AIPAC-backed H. Res. 268 and S. Res. 185
AIPAC activists were on the Hill 5/24/11 for (according to AIPAC) more than 500 meetings with members and staff. The focus of these meetings was: (1) urging members to support the full $3.057 billion in security assistance to Israel; (2) urging members to co-sponsor new Iran sanctions legislation (HR 1905 and S 1048), and (3) pressing members to co-sponsor resolutions blasting the Palestinians' diplomatic efforts to achieve international recognition, their planned efforts to go the UN for recognition in September, and their efforts to achieve national unity (H. Res. 268 and S. Res. 185).
APN strongly opposes H. Res 268 and S. Res. 185. On 5/23/11 APN circulated the following message to every Congressional office. APN also issued an Action Alert (that generated more than 6000 messages to Congress in its first 24 hours). APN also published an op-ed 5/23/11 in the Hill newspaper on the resolutions, entitled "Congress must re-think 'pro-Israel."
APN message to Congress 5/24/11: Be pro-Israel, reject AIPAC-backed anti-peace resolutions
Tomorrow AIPAC supporters will be on the Hill lobbying Congress to support resolutions - H. Res. 268 and S. Res. 185 - taking the Palestinians to task for seeking international recognition and for trying to achieve national reconciliation.
APN urges members of Congress to refuse to cosponsor these resolutions and to vote "no" when they are brought to a vote.
We urge you to look past the AIPAC talking points and recognize that these resolutions make the achievement of peace and security for Israel more difficult. For the sake of both Israel and the U.S., Congress today should be looking for ways to break the Middle East deadlock and achieve peace and security for Israel, not grandstanding at the expense of the real interests of both Israel and the United States.
Reconciliation: Peace for Israel requires Palestinian national unity. Congress should be welcoming and encouraging unity efforts, not seeking to undermine them.
The Gaza-West Bank split is a very real hurdle to peace. Rather than responding to the Palestinians' national reconciliation effort with threats and new conditions, Congress should welcome the potential emergence of a Palestinian government representing all Palestinians, with security and governance capacity in both the West Bank and Gaza - something that is vital to the achievement of any peace agreement. Hamas is a terrorist organization, but asserting that fact is not a policy. Five years of U.S., Israeli, and international active efforts to sideline Hamas have failed, and it is time to embrace another way forward. For years the U.S. has made the mistake of opposing Palestinian reconciliation rather than encouraging it. It would be reckless and irresponsible for Congress, by passing these resolutions, to compound this mistake. U.S. relations with any Palestinian government - including about assistance - should be based solely on the positions and actions of the government.
Recognition: One of the biggest dangers facing Israel today is the absence of U.S. leadership and a credible U.S.-led peace effort; it is not the Palestinians' non-violent diplomatic campaign for international recognition. Rather than blasting the Palestinians and demanding that they desist from their diplomatic efforts, Congress should be pressing President Obama to re-accredit U.S. peace efforts and launch a diplomatic process that can break the impasse and quickly deliver results.
Doing so is the only thing that will give the Palestinians a real reason to suspend this campaign - something the Palestinian leadership has made clear it would welcome. Absent this, the Palestinian people will continue to ask why the Arab Spring, with its promise of freedom and democracy, doesn't apply to them. Recent demonstrations offer ample evidence that many are no longer willing to sit quietly and wait. Likewise, Palestinian leaders have given up waiting for U.S.-led peace efforts to deliver Palestinian dignity and self-determination. After two decades of disappointments, they apparently have concluded that unless and until the U.S. is ready to get serious, they must pursue their own course, irrespective of what the White House, or Congress, thinks.
Congress does Israel no favors by rallying behind knee-jerk, "play-by-our-rules-or-we're-taking-our-ball-and-going-home" initiatives like these resolutions. With the Middle East in flux and the stakes high, there is growing sympathy in the international community for the Palestinians' efforts to break out of the current peace process paradigm, with even our closest allies increasingly ready to pursue their own independent foreign policies in this arena. Absent a renewed and reinvigorated process, readiness to engage a unified Palestinian government and support for recognition of Palestine will only keep gaining momentum. Heavy-handed resolutions from Congress cannot stop this trend, but will only exacerbate the growing U.S. and Israeli isolation on this issue, and further undermine the chances of achieving peace and security for Israel.
We therefore urge you to refuse to co-sponsor these resolutions, and to vote "no" when they are brought to a vote.
7. APN on Bibi's Speech to Congress
On 5/24/11 APN issued the following statement in response to Netanyahu's address to Congress:
"Prime Minister Netanyahu was today granted a podium that few world leaders receive. He had the chance to demonstrate to the world that, contrary to many people's expectations, he grasps the urgency of the moment. Unfortunately for Israel, he did not rise to the occasion.
"For weeks, Netanyahu's aides had promised that today's speech to Congress would include a formula for a breakthrough. Netanyahu failed to deliver. Netanyahu's speech instead represents a step backward, away from the peace that Israelis and Palestinians yearn for and deserve. It appears that Netanyahu is determined to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
"Israel desperately needs peace with the Palestinians - to secure Israel's future as a Jewish state and a democracy, to protect Israeli security, and to head off a confrontation at the United Nations in September. Unfortunately, rather than laying out his promised new vision of peace, Netanyahu stayed mainly on the well-worn path of grandstanding, blame-laying, and fear-mongering. Rather than embracing the opportunity offered by President Obama to work together to get peace efforts back on track, Netanyahu offered little more than disingenuous words of support for peace.
"Worse still, rather than committing to a return to negotiations without preconditions, as he demands from the Palestinians, Netanyahu introduced his own preconditions. Rather than extending his hand to the Palestinians to come back to the negotiating table, Netanyahu laid out unyielding positions which he knows cannot serve as the basis for, or be the realistic outcome of, negotiations.
"Such preconditions are a non-starter and such positions are anathema to reviving negotiations and to achieving real peace and security for Israel.
"President Obama must not allow Netanyahu's public display of intransigence to discourage him from continuing to work to break the logjam in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Israeli-Arab peace is essential to Israel's security, well-being and viability as a Jewish state and a democracy. Sustained, credible U.S. efforts to achieve Israeli-Arab peace are an essential element of U.S. support for Israel."
Also see our 5/25/11 piece: Netanyahu's address to Congress - Annotated for Better Comprehension (which through satire takes on the key problematic points raised in the speech)
8. Excerpts from 6/25/04 Round-Up on H. Con. Res. 460 and S. Res. 393
HOUSE - NEW ISRAEL RESOLUTION
After lengthy discussion and negotiations House leaders this week introduced the long- awaited House resolution in support of President Bush's April 14th commitments to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
H. Con. Res. 460, "Regarding the security of Israel and the principles of peace in the Middle East," co-sponsored by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R- IL), was introduced late on June 22nd. On June 23rd the House agreed to suspend the rules (which would have required the measure to be considered first in the House International Relations Committee before coming before the full House for debate and a vote) and passed the measure by a vote of 407-9, with 3 voting "present" and another 14 not voting. Numerous members who voted in favor of the measure delivered statements expressing criticism and reservations about the text. [...]
A selection of (constructive) statements made or submitted by Members is included in section V, below [not included here]. Other floor statements delivered by key House members underscored what appears to have been the foremost intent of the resolution's drafters (and the actual content of the resolution) - codification of President Bush's commitments to Prime Minister Sharon with respect to borders (no return to pre-1967 borders) and refugees (no right of return).
In this regard, it is worth noting that while many members and commentators appear to be under the impression that the resolution's text quotes directly from the President's letter to Prime Minister Sharon. In fact, the resolution includes small, but substantively significant, changes to the President's positions.
Borders: With regards to borders, the resolution added the words "in Israel" after a clause relating to current realities on the ground. This new wording implies that areas of the West Bank in question are already part of Israel, rather than occupied territory:
- The President's letter states that "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949..."
- The resolution states "Whereas in the April 14, 2004, letter the President stated that in light of new realities on the ground in Israel, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949..."
Refugees: With regards to refugees, the resolution erases President Bush's linkage between resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue and the creation of a Palestinian state (consistent the views of some groups who are lobbying the Hill to support the view that the solution to the refugee problem is to force Arab states to absorb the refugees, rather than to create a Palestinian state):
- The President's letter states "It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."
- The resolution states "any agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a permanent alternative and the settling of Palestinian refugees there rather than in Israel..."
SENATE - NEW ISRAEL RESOLUTION
On June 24th Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), along with House Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Senators John Corzine (D-NJ), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and George Voinovich (R- OH) introduced S. Res. 393, "Expressing the sense of Congress in support of the United States policy for a Middle East Peace Process." The measure was brought to a vote on the Senate floor on the same day, and passed by vote of 95-3 (with 2 not voting).
In stark contrast to the House resolution, S. Res. 393 explicitly endorses the Road Map and the disengagement plan, and notes that the disengagement plan includes the removal of certain military installations and all settlements from Gaza and some military installations and some settlements from the West Bank. The Senate version also references both Israeli and Palestinian requirements under the Road Map, including the Palestinian responsibility to stop terror and incitement, and the Israel responsibility to halt settlement expansion and remove outposts. Regarding borders and refugees, the Senate version faithfully replicates the President's language.
APN ON H. CON. RES. 460
APN's Press Release on H. Con. Res. 240, released June 23rd, reads as follows:
"Americans for Peace Now (APN) today expressed regret that the U.S. House of Representatives resolution regarding Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement proposal fails to endorse the evacuation of settlers from Gaza and parts of the West Bank or the Road Map, both of which are key components to the current Israeli diplomatic initiative. APN is a Jewish, Zionist organization dedicated to enhancing Israel's security through peace and to supporting the Israeli Peace Now movement.
"The DeLay-Hoyer resolution fails to endorse the most important aspects of Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement proposal," said Debra DeLee, President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now. "It fails to back the evacuation of Israeli settlers, which is a central reason why President Bush offered his political assurances to Sharon. It fails to place the disengagement plan in the larger diplomatic context of the Road Map, which offers a way forward to achieve a bilateral agreement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And it fails to mention Prime Minister Sharon's commitment to President Bush to dismantle outposts, freeze settlement growth, and remove obstacles to Palestinian freedom of movement.
"On the other hand, this resolution embraces Bush's promises to Sharon regarding settlements, borders, and refugees. These promises may be substantively defensible, but they serve to undermine America's ability to act as an honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians in future peace negotiations. It's sad to see that Tom DeLay and his cosponsors could not bring themselves to adopt positions on settlements and a two- state solution that are supported by Prime Minister Sharon and the Israeli public."
9. Odds and Ends
New York Times 5/26/11: U.S. Announces Sanctions Against Israeli Company
Matt Duss at MiddleEastProgress 5/26/11: Congress Makes the Case for Palestinians' UN Approach
New York Times 5/25/11: Parties See Obama's Israel Policy as Wedge for 2012
Laura Rozen at Yahoo News 5/24/11: U.S. sanctions 7 firms, two Israeli-owned, for violating Iran sanctions
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) Statement 5/24/11: U.S. Must Pledge No Role in Durban 3 Meeting
Pittsburgh-Post Gazette 5/24/11: Casey (D-PA) endorses united Jerusalem
White House Nomination, 5/23/11: Anne W. Patterson to be ambassador to Egypt
Robert Wexler and Zvika Krieger in the Wall Street Journal 5/21/11: Obama's Speech was Misunderstood
Josh Rogin in the Cable 5/23/11: Granger: No aid for Egypt if Muslim Brotherhood has large presence
10. And finally, fun with Rep. Gohmert (R-TX) and Sen. Inhofe (R-OK)
Rep. Gohmert's (R-TX) fairly short, relatively coherent comments on 5/23/11 (above) apparently did not suffice to express the depth and breadth of his feeling on the subject, so on 5/26/11 he followed up with a long and characteristically rambling floor statement on the subject (the full rant makes for very entertaining reading). Most bizarrely, perhaps, is that in this statement the focus of Gohmert's righteous indignation on Netanyahu's behalf is not Obama's mention of 1967 lines, but his statement that the outcome of negotiations should be Palestine with permanent borders with Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, and Israel with a permanent border with Palestine. Gohmert interprets this to mean that the president is demanding that Israel give up land to the Palestinians along ALL of its borders, leaving Israel surrounded on all sides by the Palestinians (he doesn't say so, but perhaps he also means that the Palestinians should get custody of the Mediterranean coastline). In effect, he is suggesting that Obama wants Israel to hand over to the Palestinians land on the Israel-Lebanon border (land that is part of 1948 Israel) along with the Golan Heights (which of course Israel took from Syria, not the Palestinians, and whose return to Syria is the sine qua non of any Israel-Syria peace agreement down the road). Gohmert demonstrates his expertise in all things Middle East when he goes on to suggest that the area of southern Lebanon that Israel withdrew from in 2000 - land that Israel never claimed and in which Israel never implanted settlements - is actually a part of the state of Israel that Israel graciously gave away to Lebanon in an effort to achieve peace.
Gohmert of course courageously proves his pro-Israel credentials by rejecting these outrageous (and wholly fictional) demands. (An excerpt from Gohmert's rant is included below).
Likewise, Senator Inhofe (R-OK) also chimed in on 5/26/11 with his own rambling political/theological defense of why every inch of the land in question belongs to Israel. Mixed in with the history and theology lesson he offers his 7 reasons why all the land belongs to Israel, including his main reason - because God said so:
"The seventh reason--and this will upset some people, but I have to say it, and it is printed up there--that Israel has a right to the land--and this is the most important reason--because God said so. As I said a minute ago, look it up in the book of Genesis. In Genesis 13, verse 14, 15 and 17, the Bible says: The Lord said to Abram, 'Lift up now your eyes, and look from the place where you are northward, and southward, eastward, and westward: for all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed forever. ..... Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it to thee.' That is God talking about Israel. The Bible says that Abram removed his tent and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is what we call the Hebron, and built there an altar before the Lord. Hebron is in the West Bank, right here on the map. It is this place where God appeared to Abram and said: ``I am giving you this land,'' the West Bank. Everybody will yell and scream because I am quoting the Bible, but that is their problem, not mine. This is not a political battle at all; it is a contest over whether the Word of God is true."
Inhofe also suggests, among other things, that the reason the U.S. has been so prosperous is because God is happy with the U.S. for its embrace of Israel.
If all of this sounds familiar to die-hard followers of Congress and the Middle East, it should - this speech was a reprise of his March 4, 2002 sermon - I mean floor statement - on the same topic.
Excerpt from Gohmert (R-TX) statement, 5/26/11
"...So, after the President's speech, which basically amounted to a slap in the face of the leader of our friend, Israel, after the inaccurate representation by the White House that, gee, this is where all the talks have always started, well, not exactly. That was the point to which the Clinton administration pushed Prime Minister Barak, when he was the Prime Minister of Israel and, who knows, God knows, I think God hardened Arafat's heart so that when the Clinton administration had pushed Prime Minister Barak, what I think was far too far, which would have made Israel indefensible by any conventional means when Arafat had basically everything that he wanted, except the extinction of Israel, Arafat's heart was hardened and he said, no, I am not entering the deal, thank goodness for Israel. So Israel remained a defensible Nation.
"Now, when the White House, when the President tried to walk back his comments and explain--and as someone besides me has said before, when you hear someone say what I said was, it normally means that it isn't what they said. It's them trying to get a better twist than actually was the words that were said.
"But in the President's speech, where he tried to massage the words that he had given on Thursday, the President's word, and I have got a transcript of his speech here, President Obama said, 'The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.' He goes on and says, 'The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves and reach their potential in a sovereign and contiguous state.'
"So this is the President's speech after he has been chastised by so many in his own party and so many across America who apparently are better friends to Israel than our President. He has had time to think about it, to pour over and make sure he doesn't make a mistake of saying something this time that he doesn't mean.
"So if we want to give the President the benefit of the doubt that he made mistakes on what he said Thursday, then let's look at what he said this past weekend, and that should be what he really meant because he had time to massage the words he said.
"I think it is helpful to look at a map of Israel right now. This is the West Bank where Palestinians are located, but it's under the control, ultimately, of Israel right now. This was originally Israel's territory after 1967. This down here is the Sinai Peninsula where Egypt is now.
"After Israel was attacked unprovoked, Israel defended itself and took the Sinai Peninsula, took over the West Bank, took over Jerusalem, and took over the Golan Heights up here. And that was a defensible state. But Israel--and I didn't really understand it fully until I went to Israel for the first time. I couldn't understand, Why do you guys not get it, that when you unilaterally give away land trying to buy peace, you lose the land and you provide a staging area from which you are ultimately attacked again?
"But once I had been in Israel and I saw locations of families and friends being blown up by suicide bombers, saw the location of children and families that were killed, terrorized by rockets, now about 12,000 of them, I understood a little better. They are so tired of being terrorized and losing friends and family that they're willing to say, Look, we'll give you this area up here in Lebanon that we were able to control after the '67 war when you attacked us, we will give it back to you if you'll just leave us alone.
"Patrick Henry said, People cry, peace, peace, but there is no peace. Israel wanted peace, so they gave away northern Israel, what's now colored as part of Lebanon. And so it wasn't but a few years ago Lebanon starts attacking, comes across the border, takes hostages, attacks Israel from the very area which Lebanon had been given in Israel's unilateral quest for peace.
"Now, during the times before they controlled the Golan Heights, this area is quite high. It overlooks the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. And it was real easy to just lob artillery shells from the Golan Heights into Israel, terrorizing farmers and killing. It was indefensible. So by the grace of God, after they were attacked, they took the Golan Heights, and they still hold them. And it is an area that by holding they can avoid having cheap mortars that are a lot cheaper than rockets just being lobbed over into their settled areas, their civilized areas, killing and terrorizing all the more.
"The West Bank--my hats go off to Prime Minister Fayyad for the efforts he has made in trying to bring up the West Bank and the Palestinian areas. I was critical because Palestinians have received billions of dollars, and yet they have not been building homes for the rank-and-file refugees, which seems to indicate to me they wanted to keep fomenting hatred toward the Jews, toward the Israelis.
"Now let's take the President's words that he had time to massage. He learned from his mistake on Thursday, supposedly. He says that it should result in two states with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. Well, you've got the Gaza Strip that Israel unilaterally gave back, and now they have suffered thousands and thousands of rockets, terrorism, and death as a result of that generous gift of the Gaza Strip back. If you'll just leave us alone, we'll give you this wonderful strip. They gave it back. People cried peace, peace, but there was no peace. There is no peace now. They're still ready--if you'll just leave us alone--to make peace.
"But under the President's words, gee, he uses the statement, in a sovereign contiguous state. Well, Palestinians have the Gaza Strip and they are occupying the West Bank. For that to be contiguous, there's only one of two things that can happen, and that is, if you cut Israel up, or you give all of this area to the Palestinians that are now completely in signed agreement with a terrorist group, Hamas, then you give all of this for the use of a terrorist group, Hamas. And so then that would fulfill the President's desire as he had time to massage it and think about it, giving all of this land to Hamas, Palestinians, all of this area up here.
"Well, but wait a minute. He said that after he described the borders that we would demand for the Palestinians, he said they would have a border with Egypt and with Jordan, comes clear up here, and that Israel would have permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. Well, he described the borders he wanted for the Palestinians. So his massage words, it seems, would mean that for Israel to only have borders with the Palestinians, you also have to give Palestine up here into Lebanon so that you have this little area, this little strip left for Israel, because that's what the President said.
"After he had days to think about his mistake on Thursday, this is the best that he can do? We're going to give Israel a little strip?
"And, by the way, can you imagine if Canada or Russia or China, one of their leaders, made a speech and said, United States, by the way, we think you ought to give away Arizona? You know, you've got drug smugglers up there; it would be a lot safer. You basically let them have it anyway. Why don't you just give it to the drug smugglers? Can you imagine that? Well, that's the interdiction of a meddling President. He is trying to tell another sovereign state where they can have their borders and where they can't. That is not what you do to a friend..."
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