House, Senate Back Sharon Disengagement Plan
(June 23-24, 2004)
The Senate voted June 24, 2004, to embrace President Bush's support of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. The Senate's action came a day after the House approved a similar measure by a 407-9 roll call vote.
The concurrent resolution states that Congress: (1) strongly endorses the principles articulated by President Bush in his letter dated April 14, 2004, to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon which will strengthen the security and well-being of the State of Israel; and (2) supports continuing efforts with the international community to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat to the security of Israel.
By 95-3, Senators approved nonbinding language that also said "it is unrealistic'' for any peace settlement between Israel and Palestinians to require Israel to return to the borders that existed before the 1967 war. In addition, the resolution said a Palestinian state would have to be part of a "just, fair and realistic framework'' for peace with Palestinian refugees settling there, not in Israel. The Senate resolution said Palestinians must stop "armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere.''
Both chambers' resolutions endorsed Bush's April 14 letter to Sharon in which Bush backed Sharon's plan to remove Jewish settlements and some military installations from Gaza, and some military bases and settlements from the West Bank.
In the Senate, Robert Byrd, D-WV; James Jeffords, I-VT; and John Sununu, R-NH voted against the resolution, and Senators Richard Lugar, R-IN, and John Kerry, D-MA did not vote. In the House, Representatives John Conyers, D-MI, John Dingell, D-MI, Carolyn Kilpatrick, D-MI, Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, Barbara Lee, D-CA, Ron Paul, R-TX, Fortney Stark, D-CA, Maxine Waters, D-CA, and Lynn Woolsey, D-CA opposed the resolution. Reps. Donald Payne, D-NJ, Diane Watson, D-CA, and Melvin Watt, D-NC voted present, and Doug Bereuter, R-NE, Howard Berman, D-CA, Rick Boucher, D-VA, Julia Carson, D-IN, Jim DeMint, R-SC, Peter Deutsch, D-FL, Richard Gephardt, D-MO, Alcee Hastings, D-FL, Steve Israel, D-NY, Mark Kirk, R-IL, Kendrick Meek, D-FL, Randy Neugebauer, R-TX, W.J. Tauzin, R-LA, and Curt Weldon, R-PA did not vote.
The text of the resolution follows:
Regarding the security of Israel and the principles of peace in the Middle East. (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)
Whereas the United States is hopeful that a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be achieved;
Whereas the United States is strongly committed to the security of Israel and its well-being as a Jewish state;
Whereas Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has proposed an initiative intended to enhance the security of Israel and further the cause of peace in the Middle East;
Whereas President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Sharon have subsequently engaged in a dialogue with respect to this initiative;
Whereas President Bush, as part of that dialogue, expressed the support of the United States for Prime Minister Sharon's initiative in a letter dated April 14, 2004;
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, but realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities;
Whereas the President acknowledged that 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;
Whereas the principles expressed in President Bush's letter will enhance the security of Israel and advance the cause of peace in the Middle East;
Whereas there will be no security for Israelis or Palestinians until Israel and the Palestinians, and all countries in the region and throughout the world, join together to fight terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations;
Whereas the United States remains committed to the security of Israel, including secure, recognized, and defensible borders, and to preserving and strengthening the capability of Israel to deter enemies and defend itself against any threat;
Whereas Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorism, including the right to take actions against terrorist organizations that threaten the citizens of Israel;
Whereas the President stated on June 24, 2002, his vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security and that vision can only be fully realized when terrorism is defeated, so that a new state may be created based on rule of law and respect for human rights; and
Whereas President Bush announced on March 14, 2003, that in order to promote a lasting peace, all Arab states must oppose terrorism, support the emergence of a peaceful and democratic Palestine, and state clearly that they will live in peace with Israel: Now, therefore, be it
(1) strongly endorses the principles articulated by President Bush in his letter dated April 14, 2004, to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon which will strengthen the security and well-being of the State of Israel; and
Passed the House of Representatives June 23, 2004.
Sources: Thomas; Associated Press, (June 24, 2004)