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APN Calls on Bush to Clarify U.S. Views on Israel-Syria Talks, Review Current U.S. Policy towards Syria

APN today sent a letter to President Bush calling on him to publicly clarify that the U.S. does not oppose renewed Israel-Syria negotiations. The letter also urged a reappraisal of the American approach towards Syria, noting that current policy has helped push Syria closer to Iran.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 29, 2006
CONTACT: Noam Shelef - (202) 728-1893

Washington, D.C.-Americans for Peace Now (APN) today sent a letter to President Bush calling on him to publicly clarify that the U.S. does not oppose renewed Israel-Syria negotiations. The letter also urged a reappraisal of the American approach towards Syria, noting that current policy has helped push Syria closer to Iran. APN is a Jewish, Zionist organization dedicated to enhancing Israel's security through peace and to supporting the Israeli Peace Now movement.

The APN letter said, in part: "In the wake of the Israel-Hezbollah war, Syria is on the agenda in Israel. Israelis realize that the longstanding conflict between Israel and Syria has given Syria an incentive to aid and abet Hezbollah and helped push Syria into the arms of Iran. Israelis also know that significant progress in negotiating an end to the conflict with Syria was made under Prime Minister Barak, leading some to wonder how the situation would have been different if that round of negotiations could have continued. Today, Israeli politicians and analysts - from Defense Minister Amir Peretz to Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter (who is also the former head of the Israeli General Security Services) - are arguing that it is time to consider engaging Syria to try to achieve a peace agreement. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has gone so far as to appoint a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official to be the special 'project manager' for possible future contacts with Syria.

"Unfortunately, many in Israel and the U.S. believe that your Administration is standing in the way of renewed Israel-Syria contacts. We urge you to clarify, publicly and expeditiously, that this is not the case.

"We also urge you to open a new chapter in U.S.-Syria relations and reject the thinking of those who view the Syrian regime as irredeemable and favor policies that seek to change the regime, rather than those that seek to change the behavior of the regime. Those who endorse such an approach do so at the peril of U.S. interests and Israeli security, ignoring the possibility of both failure and unintended consequences - like increased violence on the Israel-Lebanon border. While the Syrian regime is no doubt distasteful and guilty of many sins, despising a sovereign nation does not, on its own, constitute responsible foreign policy. Syria will continue to play a critical role - positive or negative - in a region which is central to U.S. national security. Unfortunately, current U.S. policy has helped push Syria closer to the most dangerous player in the region, Iran, and diminished Syria's incentive to moderate its behavior. It has also resulted in an historically unprecedented situation in which the U.S. has cut off all avenues for constructive engagement, meaning that when the situation spirals out of control on the ground - as it did recently in southern Lebanon - there is no address for the U.S. to turn to in Damascus. A reappraisal of this policy is long overdue.

"History is clear: Israeli safety and security is a function of not only Israeli military strength but also peace agreements and accompanying security guarantees. Absent these or progress toward these, there is not stable status quo in the Middle East; periods of apparent calm are in reality only the prelude to the next outbreak of violence. It is time for the U.S. to pursue Middle East policies that are consistent with U.S. national security interests, including launching a new opening to Syria and supporting Israeli efforts to renew Israel-Syria negotiations."