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APN Slams Bush for Pressuring Israel to Avoid Peace Talks

APN today expressed outrage following reports that President Bush pressured Israel to refuse Syrian calls for renewed peace talks

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Washington, D.C.-Americans for Peace Now (APN) today expressed outrage following reports that President Bush pressured Israel to refuse Syrian calls for renewed peace talks. Israel's largest circulation newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, yesterday reported that Israelis "understood from President Bush that the United States would not take kindly to reopening a dialogue between Israel and Syria." This news story is the latest in a persistent stream of reports, which - if true - create an alarming pattern.

APN, a Jewish, Zionist organization dedicated to enhancing Israel's security through peace and to supporting the Israeli Peace Now movement, is appalled by the notion that an American administration would dissuade Israel from pursuing peace.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has been repeatedly calling in recent weeks for peace talks with Israel. And Israeli politicians - from Defense Minister Amir Peretz to Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter - have argued that it is time to consider engaging Syria to try to achieve a peace agreement. Public opinion polls show that most Israelis support resuming peace negotiations with Syria. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni even appointed a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official to be the special 'project manager' for possible future contacts with Syria.

"When the Syrian president says he wants peace, the least Bush should do is allow Israel to call his bluff. These days, when the memory of the Israel-Hezbollah war is fresh and Israelis fear another round of war on their northern border, it takes a lot of chutzpa to tell Israel not to even talk about peace with its neighbor," said Debra DeLee, APN President and CEO.

"If these reports are false, President Bush needs to issue an immediate denial. If these reports are true, Israel's citizens and their American friends deserve to know why he is squashing a potential peace track.

"It is bad enough for an American administration to be passive about helping Israelis and Arabs reach peace. It is outrageous, however, for the President to pressure Israel not to negotiate."

On August 29th APN 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. More information about the letter is available HERE. The White House sent no response to this letter.