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Congress & the Middle East: Senate Letter Calling on President Clinton to Support Israel

(October 12, 2000)

All but four members of the U.S. Senate signed the following letter to President Clinton expressing their solidarity with Israel. The four senators who did not sign were Spencer Abraham [R-MI], Judd Gregg [R-NH], Robert Byrd [D-WV] and Chuck Hagel [R-NE]. The bipartisan letter was circulated by the Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott [R-MS] and Tom Daschle [D-ND].

Dear Mr. President:

We write to you to express our solidarity with the State of Israel at this moment of crisis and our profound disappointment and frustration with PLO Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. We are dismayed that they would allow violence by Palestinians to be carried out without restraint or comment.

Resorting to violence constitutes a fundamental violation of the Peace Process. Following the signing of the Declaration of Principles in September 1993, Chairman Arafat wrote Israeli Prime Minister Rabin that:

The PLO commits itself to the Middle East Peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides ad declares that all outstanding issues in relation to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.

The PLO considers that the signing of the Declaration of Principles constitutes a historic event, inaugurating a new epoch of peaceful coexistence, free from violence and all other acts which endanger peace ad stability. Accordingly, the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence, and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators.

It was on the basis of these assurances that Prime Minister Rabin, among other things, recognized the PLO.

We are deeply concerned at the continuing, coordinated campaign of Palestinian violence. That campaign leads us to believe that Arafat either seeks to use violence as a negotiating tool to extort even further concessions from the Government of Israel, or that he in fact intends to end the peace process in its entirety as a prelude to a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.

This stands in contrast to what the Government of Israel has -sought throughout this crisis. We note, for example, that the Government of Israel proposed unprecedented compromises to achieve a final peace agreement Despite subsequent provocations, despite the violence, despite the wanton destruction of Joseph's Tomb -a revered Jewish holy site-Israel has sought to see the violence stopped so that peace negotiations could be resumed. Yet, Arafat has failed to issue a statement to the Palestinian community that violence is unacceptable, unlike Prime Minister Barak who has said publicly that "I urge our Jewish citizens to refrain from attacking Arabs and their property under any circumstances."

We urge you to express American solidarity with Israel at this crucial moment, to condemn the Palestinian campaign of violence, to do everything possible to secure the return of the three kidnaped Israeli soldiers from Lebanon, and to stand with Israel in international arenas - not only because we should, but because such actions are also the best way to restore the negotiating process. Arafat vast understand that he will achieve none of his political objectives through violence, that a unilateral declaration of statehood will not be recognized by the United States that only through negotiations can the Palestinians' legitimate political aspirations be realized, and that abandoning the negotiating process will have serious repercussions.

This is a very dangerous hour in the Middle East. America's open and abiding commitment to the security of Israel is the surest way to see our way safely through it.

Sincerely yours,

Sources: AIPAC