To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

APN's Briefing for the 111th Congress

Summary of APN's positions and recommendations on all relevant issues...
Go HERE for the publication in PDF format

Jump to Table of Contents

 

INTRODUCTION

Americans for Peace Now (APN) was established in 1981 to mobilize support for the Israeli peace movement, Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), and has since developed into the most prominent American Jewish, Zionist organization working to achieve a comprehensive political settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

We are the leading voice of American Jews who support Israel and know that only peace will ensure Israel's security, prosperity and continued viability as a Jewish, democratic state. Positions advocated for more than two decades by APN and Shalom Achshav - like calling for the evacuation of settlements and the creation of a viable Palestinian state - are now recognized by most American Jews and Israelis as basic requirements both for peace and for a secure future for Israel.

APN is a non-partisan organization with a non-partisan mission. We supply timely information and education, providing a pro-Israel, pro-peace, American Jewish perspective on issues and legislation. APN also engages in grassroots political activism and outreach to the American Jewish and Arab American communities, opinion leaders, university students and the public at large. We further promote our agenda through press releases, editorials and personal contacts with journalists, serving as a respected source of balanced information, analysis, and commentary.

The Israeli Peace Now movement, Shalom Achshav, was established in 1978, when 348 Israeli senior reserve army officers and combat soldiers came together to urge their government to sign a peace treaty with Egypt. They knew then what remains true today - real security for Israel can be achieved only through peace. In the years since its establishment Shalom Achshav has worked for the achievement of peace agreements between Israel and all her Arab neighbors, and has come to be recognized, both in Israel and abroad, as Israel's leading grassroots, Zionist movement. Best known for mobilizing mass demonstrations, for many years Shalom Achshav has also been the only group conducting comprehensive monitoring of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank (and the Gaza Strip, until Israel's 2004 evacuation of Gaza settlements). Shalom Achshav is widely cited in the Israeli and international media as the foremost authority on settlements.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A New Chapter in the Middle East
The Imperative to "Seek Peace and Pursue it"
The U.S.-Israel Special Relationship
Aid to Israel
Aid to the Palestinians
Peace Partners: Egypt & Jordan
Aid to Egypt, Jordan & Lebanon
The Arab Peace Initiative
Syria & Lebanon
Settlements
Settlements & U.S. Policy
Jerusalem
Jerusalem & U.S. Policy
Refugees
UNRWA
The Gaza-Hamas Challenge
Gaza, Hamas & U.S. Policy
Iran
Iran & U.S. Policy
Rejection of Violence and Terror
Incitement & Hate

 

A NEW CHAPTER IN THE MIDDLE EAST

In the 2008 Presidential election, President Obama received a clear mandate from America's voters - including 78% of American Jewish voters - to re-establish U.S. engagement and leadership in the Middle East policy arena.

In particular, he was given clear endorsement of his commitment to engage immediately in an effort to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace, to support Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations, and to adopt a more pragmatic approach toward Iran, including the support - where possible - of direct engagement with Teheran.

This election thus represents a moment of powerful promise and hope for all who care about Israel, peace, and stability in the Middle East. It offers an end to the pattern of neglect, foot-dragging and erratic, half-hearted engagement that characterized the previous administration's approach.

It also provides the opportunity to restore our nation's standing worldwide and to leverage America's recovered credibility toward the kind of robust peace efforts that can finally deliver Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace.

The Israeli-Palestinian and the Arab-Israeli conflicts are not the source of all problems in the region. At the same time, there is a clear connection between these festering conflicts and developments in other countries in the region, including the growing strength of extremist, militant groups ready and willing to use terror against their own governments, the U.S., and Israel. These developments directly impact the U.S. and its interests and goals in the region, and they impact its allies in the region and around the world.

Today, it is undeniable that achieving Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace is a key U.S. national security interest and must be a central U.S. strategic priority.

As the bipartisan, Congressionally-mandated Iraq Study Group observed: "The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability..."

Americans for Peace Now (APN) urges Congress to encourage and support President Obama in carrying out his mandate in the Middle East, and to work with him to realize the long-cherished and long-denied goal of peace, security, and stability for Israel and all inhabitants of the region.

Back to Table of Contents

 

THE IMPERATIVE TO "SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT"

Supporters of Israel must recognize that it is not sufficient to simply articulate a desire for peace and security for Israel; it is necessary to work to achieve it. This means, for the sake of both Israel and the U.S., working to resolve Israel's struggle with the Palestinians and the simmering conflict with the Arab world.

History is clear: Israelis were safest from Palestinian attacks when the peace process was on track and the Palestinian leadership was invested in maintaining quiet. It is no coincidence that the ONLY period in recent history when Palestinian terrorism against Israel ground to an almost total halt was during the mid-1990s, when Israel was engaged in an effort to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace and was working closely with the Palestinian Authority both to promote the peace process and to fight terror. Indeed, from 2000-2004, following the breakdown of the peace process, Israel suffered more casualties from terrorism than it did in the previous 52 years of its existence, and more deaths than in all but two of its wars.

History is clear, too, with respect to Israel's Arab neighbors: Israel achieved security along its borders with Egypt and Jordan not on the battlefield but at the negotiating table, with security guarantees that have stood the test of time. Where Lebanon is concerned, from Israel's first ill-fated foray into Lebanon in 1978, to its 18-year occupation of south Lebanon, to the summer 2006 war with Hezbollah, military action has been unable to deliver real security for Israel on that border. Lacking a political agreement, security has remained elusive.

Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion (quoted by Ehud Olmert on November 27, 2006) said, "I would consider it a great sin, not only towards our generation but towards future generations as well...if future generations had cause to blame the Government of Israel of missing an opportunity for peace." These wise words apply, equally, today, and to the efforts of the U.S. in this arena.

Finally, the U.S. would do well to bear in mind the words of former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who famously stated, "If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies." The policy of the past eight years of non-engagement with respect to Syria, Iran, and other parties placed at risk both Israeli and U.S. interests. For the sake of both the U.S. and Israel, this flawed and failed approach must be discarded.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Demand and support sustained, serious U.S. engagement to achieve progress toward Israeli-Arab peace; and
  •  
  • Urge the Obama Administration to bring to bear the full force of American political and diplomatic influence to achieve progress toward Israeli-Arab peace, including the re-opening of talks between Israel and Syria.

Back to Table of Contents

 

THE U.S.-ISRAEL SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

Since the birth of the Jewish state, American political leaders - from both major parties - have recognized and supported the special relationship that exists between the U.S. and Israel. This relationship is anchored in shared values and interests, and recognition of the historical imperative to provide a safe homeland for the Jewish people. It is buttressed by America's clear national security interest in a safe, secure, and strong Israel living at peace with its neighbors.

The U.S. commitment to Israel has been demonstrated with vital economic and military assistance and uncompromising moral and diplomatic support, and members of Congress from both parties have long sought to demonstrate their support for Israel and the special U.S.-Israel relationship.

In this regard, members of Congress should recognize that for Israel, the best U.S. Congress is not the one whose members try to outflank each other with dogmatically hawkish positions and legislative initiatives.

Rather, for Israel the best Congress is one whose members recognize that Israeli-Arab peace is essential to Israel's security, well-being, and viability as a Jewish democratic state. It is a Congress whose members understand that sustained, credible U.S. efforts to achieve Israeli-Arab peace are an essential element of U.S. support for Israel.

Unfortunately, supporters of hawkish views on Israel often try to portray their stance as the only "pro-Israel" position, and try to scare members of Congress by painting other positions as anti-Israel. Some try to play partisan politics with the issue, threatening to use Israel to score political points for or against one party or its members. These are transparently cynical tactics that come at the expense of the best interests of both the U.S. and Israel, and they must be rejected.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Support the special relationship and deep ties between the U.S. and Israel;
  •  
  • Reject efforts to politicize support for Israel, recognizing that pro-Israel credentials are not measured in point-scoring and hard-line declarations, but rather in policies that are consistent with Israel's security, stability, and viability as a Jewish, democratic state;
  •  
  • Support sustained, credible U.S. leadership of efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to achieve broader Israeli-Arab peace; and
  •  
  • Refrain from making statements or supporting initiatives that undermine U.S. credibility, foreclose political or diplomatic options or create obstacles for U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East.

Back to Table of Contents

 

AID TO ISRAEL

Annual U.S. assistance is a key element of U.S. support for Israel. It helps Israel maintain its vital strategic military edge in the region and helps keep Israel strong and secure.

It is also a tangible expression and potent symbol of the enduring U.S.-Israel relationship.

Continued robust U.S. assistance for Israel, and Congressional support for this assistance, sends an important signal of U.S. support for and solidarity with Israel. The longstanding ban on the use of U.S. assistance to support settlement activities - reflecting U.S. recognition that settlements are a threat to Israel's security and viability as a Jewish, democratic state - also sends an important signal of U.S. disapproval of Israel's settlement policies.

U.S. assistance is also vital, in real and symbolic terms, in preparing the ground for any future Israeli-Arab peace agreement. It should be recalled that U.S. assistance for Israel (and Egypt) was a key element of the Camp David Accords, which gave birth to an historic peace agreement that has stood the test of time.

Any future peace agreement with the Palestinians, Syria, or the Arab world will require Israel to take serious, calculated risks. It is in no small part the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship, embodied in U.S. financial support for Israel, which has provided Israelis the confidence to take such risks thus far, and will reassure them in similar decision-making in the future.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Support continued robust U.S. military assistance to Israel, consistent with the current Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel, and including early disbursal terms and use of a portion of military assistance for in-country expenditures;
  •  
  • Continue to require that no U.S. assistance be used to support settlement activities in the West Bank;
  •  
  • Demand expanded accountability regarding Israel's expenditures on settlements, including reporting from the State Department on the amount of funds Israel is expanding annually across the Green Line to support and expand Israeli residential development; and
  •  
  • If asked, consider additional support for Israel, with appropriate conditions to prevent any funding being used to support settlements.

Back to Table of Contents

 

AID TO THE PALESTINIANS

U.S. law has long barred direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The only exception is when the President makes a special determination that such assistance is necessary for U.S. national security reasons, and then the law requires extensive reporting to Congress on how the funds are used and accounted for. This ban has its roots in deep Congressional mistrust of now-deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and concerns about Palestinian corruption.

As a result of this prohibition on direct aid, virtually all U.S. assistance for the Palestinians has long been provided through non-governmental organizations, and Congress has placed far-reaching limitations and conditions on such assistance. Following the death of Arafat and the January 2005 election of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Congress placed additional conditions on U.S. assistance to the PA, making U.S. assistance to the Palestinians in the post-Arafat era even more conditioned than when Arafat was in charge.

The January 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections which brought Hamas - a U.S. designated Foreign Terrorist Organization - to power created new obstacles to U.S. aid to the Palestinians. As a result, the current U.S. aid program is subject to further Congressionally-mandated restrictions, conditions, and oversight requirements.

Even with this difficult history, U.S. aid has played and will continue to play an important role in building a Palestinian society ready and with the capacity to make peace with Israel. Today, the U.S. provides much-needed funding for, among other things, humanitarian projects, civil society programs, and training to bolster Palestinian moderate leadership and enable the PA to build a real security capacity.

This aid also has an important multiplier effect, as other countries view U.S. aid as a positive signal that they, too, should support such efforts.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Support continued and expanded humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians via NGOs and UN agencies;
  •  
  • Support continued and expanded assistance to the PA, in order to help stabilize the political and security situation and to address humanitarian needs;
  •  
  • Ensure that the President has the authority to waive, for national security reasons, restrictions on aid to the Palestinians; and
  •  
  • Reject efforts to impose additional sanctions on the Palestinians, bearing in mind that the impact of sanctions is felt mainly by innocent civilians and that unintended consequences of sanctions include humanitarian suffering and a political backlash against the U.S., Israel, and moderate elements of Palestinian society.

Back to Table of Contents

 

PEACE PARTNERS: EGYPT & JORDAN

In 1978, Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David Accords, ensuring stability and security on Israel's southern border for more than a quarter of a century and opening the way for diplomatic, security, and economic cooperation.

In 1994, Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement, ensuring the stability and security of the Israeli-Jordanian border and of the Israeli-controlled border between the West Bank and Jordan, and paving the way for diplomatic relations, economic ties, and water-sharing agreements.

These agreements came as the result of courageous and visionary leadership in all three countries. In the years since these agreements, both Jordan and Egypt have played a vital role in efforts to stop violence and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as to support other key U.S. policy priorities in the region.

Moreover, these peace agreements have dissipated the security pressures to Israel along two of its borders. They have freed up Israeli security resources and manpower and given Israel breathing room to focus on other security threats and challenges.

The enduring nature of these agreements, even under the strain of crises and pressures in the region, demonstrates that agreements based on mutual interests can succeed, and can pay huge dividends in terms of stability and security, both for Israel and its neighbors.

Clearly, it is hoped that the "cool peace" that exists today between Israel and these two Arab states will become warmer - something that is much more likely to happen when Israel achieves additional peace agreements that pave the way for normalization of ties with the entire Arab world.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Support continued strong U.S. relations with Israel's courageous partners in peace - Jordan and Egypt;
  •  
  • Urge Egypt to exert a 100 percent effort to stop smuggling and maintain security along the Egypt-Gaza border, and support efforts to help Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority work together, where possible, to address these problems;
  •  
  • Recognize and embrace the important contributions of Egypt and Jordan to efforts to make progress toward Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace; and
  •  
  • Refrain from actions that could undermine these key relationships.

Back to Table of Contents

 

AID TO EGYPT, JORDAN, AND LEBANON

America's investment in the Middle East helps preserve strategically crucial U.S. military relationships, cooperative arrangements, and access routes.

This investment helps sustain the historic Israel-Egypt peace agreement and the Israel-Jordan relationship.

It bolsters America's allies in the region and contributes to the stability of Israel's neighbors and moderate regimes.

It helps mobilize additional aid from governments in the region and around the world and demonstrates America's concern for the humanitarian needs of the people of the region.

America's assistance programs in the Middle East also protect and promote key U.S. interests, including helping to stem the spread of violent religious extremism, block the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, mobilize support for U.S. policy priorities, prevent the destabilization of international oil markets, and stabilize Iraq.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Recognize the vital strategic U.S. and Israeli interest in keeping Egypt strong and promoting strong bilateral relations; the important role that Egypt has played and continues to play in efforts to stabilize Gaza, promote Palestinian reconciliation and achieve progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace; and the very real threats that the Mubarak government faces from its own extremists;
  •  
  • Support continued robust U.S. economic and military assistance to Egypt and reject efforts to undermine these aid programs;
  •  
  • Urge the Administration to open a new strategic dialogue with Egypt, led by a senior official, to strengthen the bilateral relationship, including the U.S.-Egypt aid program and U.S.-Egypt military cooperation, and to work with Egypt and Israel to address security challenges associated with the Gaza border;
  •  
  • Support continued robust U.S. economic and military assistance to Jordan, a key regional partner which has played an important role in both the Israeli-Palestinian track and in Iraq, and which faces very real threats from extremists within its own borders; and
  •  
  • Support continued and expanded U.S. economic and military assistance to Lebanon.

Back to Table of Contents

 

THE ARAB PEACE INITIATIVE

Regional partners in peace are a key to Israel's security and, and Arab-Israel peace can be a key to regional stability. Indeed, Israel and the moderate regimes of the Middle East share both interests and threats. These include a shared desire for prosperity and stability for their citizens, and shared concerns about the rising tide of religious extremism, the growing influence of Iran in the region, and the dangers of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.

In February 2002, Saudi Arabia offered a comprehensive peace plan for Israel, Syria, and the Palestinians - including full normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab world. This plan, adopted in March 2002 by the Arab League, has become known as the Arab Peace Initiative (also called the Saudi Initiative or the Arab League Initiative).

Unfortunately, for more than six years Israel, the U.S., and the international community ignored the plan. What little discussion there was consisted of denouncing it as an all-or-nothing diktat by Arab states - ignoring the fact that the plan specifies that on issues like refugees, any solution must be agreed-to by Israel and the Palestinians (giving Israel a veto over unacceptable solutions).

Recently, positive interest in the Arab Peace Initiative has grown, both inside and outside Israel. This reflects both the increasing desperation to find some avenue that could lead to progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track, and the longstanding Israeli desire for normalized relations with the Arab world.

The re-emergence of the Arab Peace Initiative is a hopeful development. This historic plan represents a real basis for negotiations that could deliver comprehensive regional peace. At the same time, shortsighted attempts to exploit the initiative in order to normalize Israel's relations with the Arab world - absent progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track - will be counterproductive, weakening moderate Arab leaders who support the Initiative and bolstering extremists in the Palestinian arena and beyond.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Embrace the Arab Peace Initiative as a signal of a sincere willingness to pursue peace and normalize relations with Israel, and as a basis for negotiations that could resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict; and
  •  
  • Recognize that normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab world will not be achievable without tangible progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Back to Table of Contents

 

SYRIA & LEBANON

An Israel-Syria peace agreement can improve Israeli security and further American interests. It would at long last bring to an end the tensions and the state of war that exist on that border and pave the way for an Israel-Lebanon agreement that would weaken Hezbollah and contribute to security and stability across Israel's northern border.

Israel-Syria peace could also revitalize the Israeli-Palestinian peace track and could be leveraged toward comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab world. Moreover, it could drive a wedge between Damascus and Teheran, weakening Iran's influence in the region and helping the U.S. and its allies worldwide to deal with the challenges emanating from Iran.

Unfortunately, from 2001 to 2008 the Bush Administration adopted a policy of non-engagement with Syria, extending to U.S. non-support for or even outright opposition to Israeli-Syria talks. Nonetheless, given that significant progress in negotiating an Israel-Syria agreement was achieved in negotiations in 2000, and given repeated Syrian overtures to Israel since that time, it was clear that circumstances were ripe for resuming these negotiations.

In 2008, without U.S. support, Israel entered into peace talks with Syria, under the auspices of Turkey. It is regrettable that the Bush Administration failed to take the lead in brokering these talks. Israel did the right thing in pursuing its strategic interests by entering negotiations, even without the participation or over the objections of the U.S.

This promising track remains open today, but real progress requires American engagement and support, just as U.S. engagement has been vital to the achievement of other Israeli-Arab peace agreements. Indeed, it is widely understood that Syria's objective in pursuing a peace agreement is not simply regaining the Golan but also achieving improved relations with the U.S. and the international community.

While there are, undoubtedly, legitimate concerns about the nature and the actions of the Assad regime, Syria is a key player with respect to stability in the region and Israeli security. U.S. engagement with Syria, both on bilateral issues and to support Israel-Syria negotiations, is critically important in determining whether the role Syria plays in the future will be positive or not.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Embrace a smart approach to U.S.-Syria relations that is founded on engagement and diplomacy;
  •  
  • Encourage Israel and Syria to continue negotiations, and support U.S. engagement in such efforts; and
  •  
  • Reject any efforts to place preconditions on negotiations, pre-empt U.S. options for supporting negotiations, or block U.S. support for an agreement that such negotiations may produce.

Back to Table of Contents

 

SETTLEMENTS

Settlements - including settlement expansion and the proliferation of proto-settlements known as "illegal outposts" - are a political, security, and economic liability for Israel, and an existential threat to Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.

Politically, they extinguish hope among Palestinians that Israel is serious about making peace. They destroy the credibility of Palestinian moderates who reject violence and tell their people that negotiations with Israel are the correct path to statehood. They create facts on the ground that make any viable arrangements for a two-state solution difficult, and eventually, impossible.

In terms of security, Israel's "separation barrier" has been distorted to accommodate settlements, lengthening and contorting Israel's lines of defense, trapping large numbers of Palestinians inside it and leaving a large number of Israelis outside of it. Settler extremists are increasingly brazen in their willingness to use violence to promote their agenda - including unprovoked attacks on Palestinians and their property, as well as on Israeli soldiers, police, and peace activists. As a result of the need to focus so much energy on protecting settlers and, increasingly, trying to curb settler violence, the IDF has been transformed increasingly into a police force; it ability to adequately organize and train for its primary mission - to fight wars - has been eroded, as painfully demonstrated during the 2006 Lebanon War.

Economically, settlements drain Israel's beleaguered budget, with the government continuing to fund settlement-related construction, as well as providing substantial indirect funding that affords settlers a wide range of income, education, housing, tax, and transportation benefits.

Finally, settlements are an existential threat to Israel as a Jewish, democratic state. If Israel does not end the settlement enterprise and achieve a peace agreement that enables it to get out of most of the West Bank, Jews will soon become a minority in the area under Israel's control. Israel will be then forced to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic state.

Most Israeli politicians today, from across the political spectrum, acknowledge that most settlements will have to be removed as part of any final peace agreement. Polls have shown wide support among Israelis for a settlement freeze, removal of outposts, and further settlement evacuations.

Past Israeli-Palestinian negotiations suggest that many West Bank settlers may be able to remain where they are under a future peace agreement, as part of a land-swap deal. However, such a solution is predicated on an end to settlement expansion. Existing settlements already make such arrangements complicated; if settlements continue to expand and proliferate, they will further complicate negotiations and may destroy any chance for peace.

Back to Table of Contents

 

SETTLEMENTS & U.S. POLICY

The U.S. has long opposed settlements, recognizing them as a political and security liability for Israel and an impediment to achieving a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unfortunately, the U.S. has failed to translate this longstanding official opposition to settlements into a coherent policy that has stopped settlement expansion or the proliferation of "outposts."

For the sake of Israeli-Palestinian peace, Congress and the Obama Administration must convince Israel's leaders that U.S. opposition to settlements can no longer be dismissed. Continued settlement expansion - including in settlement "blocs" that are likely to remain under Israeli control under a future peace agreement - undermines Palestinian moderates, feeds extremism, exacerbates tensions on the ground, and diminishes the chances of achieving a negotiated agreement that could end the conflict and legitimize Israeli claims to settlement "blocs."

Likewise, Israel's failure to rein in settler renegades who persist in establishing and expanding unauthorized settlement "outposts," and who are increasingly using violence and intimidation against not only Palestinians but also against the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli police, threatens the viability of peace efforts.

For the sake of Israel's own vital interests, the U.S. must convince Israel that expanding settlements and coddling settler extremists is a self-defeating and dangerous path that threatens Israel's social contract, security, economic prosperity, and viability as a Jewish, democratic state. Absent a serious U.S. commitment on the issue, settlements and outposts have continued to grow, despite Israel's obligations under the Roadmap, Israel's repeated commitments to the U.S. and the international community, and - in some cases - Israeli law.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Urge Israel to stop ALL settlement construction and to take action against outposts;
  •  
  • Urge the Obama Administration to oppose ALL settlement construction;
  •  
  • Ask the Administration to regularly report to Congress on Israeli settlement activities and the U.S. response; and
  •  
  • Exercise oversight regarding the issue of Israeli settlement activities and their impact on efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by among other things, conducting hearings and public briefings, and requiring the State Department to provide regular reporting on settlement activity.

Back to Table of Contents

 

JERUSALEM

No one can deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Israel's capital is and forever will be the city of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is also a city within whose borders - unilaterally expanded by Israel in 1967 to include large areas populated by Palestinians - one-third of the population is Palestinian; additional large Palestinian urban areas lie just beyond these borders. Jerusalem has deep political, historical, economic and cultural significance to Palestinians - who consider it the only possible capital of a future Palestinian state.

Jerusalem also has a deep religious meaning not only for Jews, but for Christians and Muslims everywhere. These attachments are neither recent nor flimsy: for generations, long before the birth of the modern state of Israel, Christians and Muslims throughout the world have revered Jerusalem and its holy sites.

Peaceful coexistence in Jerusalem will be achieved only when all sides respect each other's beliefs and traditions. Similarly, Palestinian-Israeli peace will only be achieved when there is a negotiated solution to conflicting claims to Jerusalem - a solution that takes into account the sensitivities and needs of all stakeholders.

While some Israelis and American Jews strongly reject any notion of dividing Jerusalem, the fact is that today, Jerusalem is an "undivided" city only in slogans. On the ground, it is a divided city in virtually every sense but the legal one. Israeli policy since 1967 has differentiated between Jewish and Palestinian residents in almost every aspect of their lives; as a result, patterns of life there reflect two distinct populations living separate and rarely overlapping existences. Indeed, Israel's security barrier, which is virtually invisible to most Israelis in Jerusalem, runs through the heart of some Palestinian neighborhoods, dividing families and communities, cutting Palestinian Jerusalemites off from the city's West Bank hinterland, and in the process, destroying the generations-old fabric of life in East Jerusalem.
 A solution for Jerusalem, based on the principle of sharing or politically dividing the city, is entirely possible. Most proposed solutions for Jerusalem's future would put Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian control, Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli control, and the Old City under special arrangements agreed on by both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Whatever the arrangements, the emergence of a Palestinian capital in Arab areas of Jerusalem would not undermine Israel's claim to Jerusalem as its capital. Rather, it could clear the way - at long last - for international recognition of Jewish Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It would make Israel's capital a more Jewish city, solidify Israel's sovereignty over it, and allow Israel to shed the burden of ruling over hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are not and do not desire to be Israeli.

Back to Table of Contents

 

JERUSALEM & U.S. POLICY

Those who oppose negotiations or accommodation on Jerusalem are in effect calling for Israel to live forever by the sword, since a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - a two-state solution that will guarantee Israel's security and viability as a Jewish, democratic state - is impossible without resolving the conflict over Jerusalem. This is a price Israel cannot afford to pay, especially when other realistic options exist.

Moreover, what happens in Jerusalem does not stay in Jerusalem. It impacts attitudes and events not only in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, but throughout the region and beyond. Indeed, actions that are viewed as seeking to expand Israel's hold over East Jerusalem and the Old City reverberate throughout the world, undermining the credibility of Palestinian and other Arab moderate leaders, while bolstering extremists who use Jerusalem as a powerful symbol to rally followers.

Alternatively, a negotiated solution in Jerusalem could transform the city into a beacon of tolerance, coexistence, and peace.

For the sake of Israel's security and stability, a formula must be found to share Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians, and among Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Pragmatic, creative solutions exist to satisfy competing claims to Jerusalem and its holy sites; what is needed is the leadership, courage, and goodwill to explore them.

Finally, Congress has passed legislation directing that the U.S. embassy in Israel be relocated to Jerusalem, and allowing the President to postpone the move based on national security interests. Preserving this Presidential authority is vital: there is no doubt that the embassy should one day be in Jerusalem, but unilateral U.S. action to move it, outside of the context of a peace agreement that resolves the issue of Jerusalem, would harm the chances of achieving peace, undermine Palestinian moderates, endanger U.S. interests and strategic relationships in the region, and compromise America's position as a mediator in the peace process.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Support negotiations over the future of Jerusalem and refrain from statements or actions that could delay, harm or hinder such negotiations;
  •  
  • Reject any efforts to force the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem;
  •  
  • Support access to Jerusalem for all religions and respect for the delicate status quo regarding holy sites; and
  •  
  • Oppose Israeli settlement construction and other actions that change the status quo in Jerusalem and threaten to prejudge or create obstacles to an agreed-upon solution in the city.

Back to Table of Contents

 

REFUGEES

The refugee issue is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967 gave birth to a large population of Palestinian refugees - men, women, and children who lost property, homes and livelihoods in the land which is now Israel. Any effort to resolve the conflict without resolving the issue of refugees will almost certainly fail, sowing deeper frustration and creating fertile ground for future protest and violence.

Moreover, the issue impacts the stability and security of countries of the region that are home to refugee populations and provides a powerful point around which extremists rally support.

A resolution of this human tragedy, in a manner that recognizes the grievances and dignity of refugees and does not threaten the character of the State of Israel, must be one of the most important goals of the peace process.

Clearly, the solution to the refugee issue will have to be found for the most part within the borders of a future Palestinian state, rather than inside Israel. Arguing that Palestinians must be able to exercise a "right of return" to property inside Israel is tantamount to a demand that Israel cease to exist as a Jewish state.

Successive peace plans - including the Clinton parameters, the Geneva Initiative, and the Arab Peace Initiative - all make clear that a solution to the issue must be found that is acceptable to both sides - respecting both the sensitivities of the Palestinian refugees and Israel's sovereign right to determine who may live within its borders.

Finally, Jewish refugees from Arab countries - Jews who fled or were forced to flee from their homes as Israel came into existence and thereafter - have every right to seek redress. However, resolution of such claims is not an Israeli-Palestinian issue. Rather, it is a bilateral issue between Israel (or France, or the U.S., or whatever country these Jews now live in) and the countries these Jews fled. Israel's ability to negotiate peace should not be held hostage to the resolution of these claims.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Support a political process to resolve all issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including refugees;
  •  
  • Reject actions that prejudice the outcome of negotiations on this issue; and
  •  
  • Recognize the existence of claims by Jewish refugees from Arab countries, but reject efforts to use this issue to block an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Back to Table of Contents

 

UNRWA

The issue of Palestinian refugees has been recognized by all parties -including Israel, the Palestinians, and the U.S. - as an integral part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and one of the key "final status issues" to be resolved through negotiations. Until there is such a resolution, the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) is the UN body charged with providing humanitarian support for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon.

Looking specifically at the West Bank and Gaza Strip, UNRWA has long played a vital role as a source of stability and humanitarian assistance - food, medical care, education - to a population in severe distress. The continued effective operations of UNRWA - until such time as a permanent and mutually acceptable solution for the Palestinian refugees can be achieved - is crucial to the security interests of both the U.S. and Israel, permitting the maintenance of some degree of stability and helping stave off the outbreak of a wholly-avoidable and potentially catastrophic humanitarian disaster, particularly in Gaza.

Over the years, the U.S. government and U.S. taxpayers have contributed generously to UNRWA. This funding should be recognized as an investment in the stability and security of the region and the well-being of Israel. It also ensures that Israel is not forced to shoulder the burden of caring for refugees in the West Bank and Gaza.

It is appropriate for the U.S. to demand accountability and oversight of U.S. funding to UNRWA. However, attacks on UNRWA - including demands for unreasonable levels of oversight of operations and programs, efforts to disband or restructure the organization, and demands that an agency that has no security mandate or military resources actively fight terrorists - are perceived by many in the Middle East, not unreasonably, as attempts to disenfranchise refugees and prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations.

Moreover, undermining UNRWA operations is inconsistent with the interests and publicly-articulated policies of both the U.S. and Israel. International sanctions imposed on Gaza in order to put pressure on Hamas have already brought the people there - the majority of whom are under the age of 18 - to the brink of an entirely man-made humanitarian catastrophe, and UNRWA is one of the only things preventing a total collapse. For the sake of Israeli and U.S. interests, and for the sake of innocent civilians, Congress must resist efforts to politicize support for UNRWA or undermine its operations.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Reject efforts to undermine or de-legitimize UNRWA; and
  •  
  • Support continued U.S. funding of UNRWA, with reasonable oversight and accountability of U.S. taxpayer funds.

Back to Table of Contents

 

THE GAZA-HAMAS CHALLENGE

In January 2006, Palestinian legislative elections, held under pressure from the U.S., were won by Hamas - a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. In response, the U.S. and the international community adopted policies designed to force Hamas to radically change its positions and behavior or to give Palestinian voters the incentive to oust Hamas from power. These policies, including a virtual blockade of the Gaza Strip, led to a dramatic deterioration in the health and welfare of Gaza's civilian population.

During this same period, the world also witnessed an increase in the firing of rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza into Israel, where they have sown destruction, fear, and death. The firing of rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel is unacceptable, as is the use of tunnels to smuggle weapons into Gaza. Israel has the right to protect its citizens from such attacks and threats.

The Gaza war that broke out at the end of 2008 underscored the volatility and complexity of the situation in Gaza. Israel has learned through painful experience that military force alone cannot eliminate threats: while the IDF can achieve short-term tactical gains in Gaza, it cannot destroy popular support for Hamas, stop all rockets from falling, or force the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Indeed, military escalation risks playing into the hands of extremists.

Moreover, it is clear today that the effort to pressure Hamas through boycotts and blockade has failed to oust that group from power or force it to moderate its behavior and rhetoric. Instead, it has contributed to creating a desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza - even before the recent Gaza war - that led to harsh criticism of Israel throughout the world. Given both the failure of this strategy to achieve its goals and its highly problematic consequences, continuing such a strategy in hopes of a different result does not make sense.

For its part, Hamas' unconscionable strategy of sending rockets into Israel has failed to win the group international legitimacy or to force an end to the siege of Gaza. While Hamas will no doubt seek to portray any end to the siege as a victory, ultimately it will be the people of Gaza, whose lives have been devastated by the siege and by the Gaza war, who will deliver a verdict on whether this "victory" has been worth the steep price Hamas' policies forced them to pay.

Finally, while most of the world would prefer to see more pragmatic Palestinian political forces take root in Gaza, it must be the Palestinians - not Israel or the international community - who choose their leaders. To the extent that the U.S., Israel, and the international community are truly committed to aiding and strengthening Palestinian moderates, it is time to at last empower these moderates with the political and economic resources and diplomatic dividends that, by demonstrating such moderates' relevance and effectiveness, can help them earn the support of their constituents.

Back to Table of Contents

 

GAZA, HAMAS & U.S. POLICY

The U.S. should adopt a serious, far-sighted policy toward Hamas. This must include working to support a ceasefire, but only as a mechanism to halt violence in the short term, creating the space necessary to put into place robust mechanisms to prevent Hamas from rebuilding its capacity to threaten Israel in the future, to improve the humanitarian situation and to establish a political process. It is only these improvements and a political process that can prevent the re-emergence of violence in the longer term. Absent such follow-up, a ceasefire will be, once again, little more than a temporary pause in the violence, during which militants have the chance to re-arm, re-trench, and prepare for the next round.

Most important, the U.S. must work to establish a political process that can deal with the core issues at stake in this conflict. Even the most durable, sustainable ceasefire cannot be an alternative to a diplomatic process that seeks to deal with the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is, at its heart, a political conflict. In the absence of a credible effort to reach a long-term solution that meets the needs and aspirations of both sides, extremists will inevitably draw popular support and will invariably resort, once again, to violence.

A new, serious policy toward Hamas need not, necessarily, mean engaging Hamas directly. Indeed, the U.S. should redouble support for moderate Palestinian leaders with whom it and Israel have been working for many years. At the same time, the U.S. should recognize that a Palestinian government with the legitimacy and capacity to enforce its will in terms of security and governance - one that is seen as representing all Palestinians - is vital to the achievement and implementation of any future peace agreement.

Bearing this in mind, the U.S. should encourage and support efforts to promote Palestinian reconciliation, including the possibility of forming a national unity government. And the U.S. should make clear that relations with any Palestinian government - including a unity government - will be determined based on the positions and actions of that government and the national security interests of the U.S., not on the basis of whether Hamas is included in it.

APN calls on members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Recognize that past U.S. policies have failed to weaken Hamas and may even have strengthened it;
  •  
  • Expand U.S. efforts to bolster moderate Palestinian leaders and support programs, like the mission of Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, to build Palestinian security capacity;
  •  
  • Welcome and support efforts by third parties, including Egypt, to promote Palestinian reconciliation; and
  •  
  • Reject any efforts to further tie the Administration's hands with respect to U.S. policy toward a future potential Palestinian national unity government.

Back to Table of Contents

 

IRAN

For years Iran's leaders have espoused virulently anti-U.S., anti-Israel positions, complemented by moral and financial support for extremists and terrorist organizations - including Hamas and Hezbollah. The rise to power of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - arguably the most anti-Western, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic Iranian leader in history - heightened concerns about Iran's intentions in the region and in the world. These concerns have grown over the past decade, as Iran has tenaciously pursued a nuclear program.

An Iran armed with nuclear weapons represents an alarming scenario that neither the U.S. nor Israel, nor for that matter, the world, can afford to ignore, and one that the U.S. and the international community should be exerting all efforts to avoid.

A nuclear-armed Iran poses a potential existential threat to Israel and is likely to trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. An unchecked Iran will likely continue to use support for terrorist groups to destabilize the region and threaten Israel and other vital U.S. interests, including in Iraq and Lebanon.

Moreover, in the absence of an effective international strategy to deal with Iran, domestic pressure for Israel to take matters into its own hands will continue to grow.

Unfortunately, instead of an orchestrated international effort to engage Iran and address these very serious issues, the U.S. has for the past eight years adopted a one-dimensional strategy toward Iran - a strategy based on the notion that the U.S. and its allies can threaten, browbeat and sanction Iran into submission.

This strategy has failed to stop Iran's nuclear program or Iran's reckless meddling in the region. Perversely, it may even have had the opposite effect: today Iranian hard-liners burnish their nationalist credentials with pledges to stand up to American "bullying." Such nationalist rhetoric is today one of the only planks Iranian hard-liners have left to run on, given the domestic economic and social challenges facing their country. It should surprise no one that pushed into a corner, many Iranians have come to view the nuclear program as a symbol of national honor and pride.

While it is true that the United States has at times offered to engage Iran in a limited manner, such engagement has been preconditioned on Iran first freezing its nuclear program.

This approach - in which, as a precondition to negotiations, Iran is required to take an action that from its perspective should be the outcome of negotiations - has been unsuccessful. Indeed, preconditioning negotiations in this manner does not constitute genuine diplomacy.

Back to Table of Contents

 

IRAN & U.S. POLICY

Sanctions can be a powerful tool for putting pressure on Iran, but they are not a replacement for diplomacy. Similarly, constantly reiterating that "all options are on the table" does not constitute a responsible or effective Iran policy. Clearly, the option for military action is always available, but it must be reserved as the option of truly last resort.

Addressing the challenges posed by Iran requires a smarter strategy - combining incentives and sanctions with strong U.S. direct engagement and leadership. A bipartisan group of former Secretaries of State, speaking at a September 15, 2008 forum, agrees:

Madeleine Albright: "I believe we need to engage with Iran. I think the whole point is you try to engage and deal with countries you have problems with.I think it's one of the most important relationships that we need to work on. We are not gaining anything by this [current approach]."

Gen. Colin Powell: ".we should start to talk to them. Don't wait for, you know, a letter coming from them. Start discussions."

Warren Christopher: ".our relationship with Israel needs to be strong enough so we can say to them 'Look, we want to have a comprehensive dialogue with the Iranians.' We can't be complacent about the nuclear possibilities in Iran, but nevertheless we cannot afford not to have a comprehensive dialogue to see if it can't be stopped, because, frankly, the military options here are very, very poor."

James Baker: "We ought to engage. Yes. We're all saying that you [the next U.S. President] ought to engage."

Henry Kissinger: ".I am in favor of negotiating with Iran."

Such a diplomatic effort will not be easy; indeed it will almost certainly be a long and arduous process. Nor is its success a foregone conclusion. But such an effort is indispensable if the U.S. is serious about dealing with the challenges Iran poses to U.S. foreign policy and to U.S. national security.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Recognize that the longstanding U.S. approach to Iran, consisting almost exclusively of sanctions and saber-rattling, has failed;
  •  
  • Support a serious, results-oriented Iran policy, comprising sanctions and meaningful incentives and founded on direct, determined diplomacy, without preconditions;
  •  
  • Encourage closer coordination and cooperation with U.S. allies to develop a more unified international effort in negotiations with Iran; and
  •  
  • Abandon casual rhetoric about U.S. or Israeli first-strike options.

Back to Table of Contents

 

REJECTION OF VIOLENCE & TERROR

Rejecting violence as a tool to solve grievances is the sina qua non of the peace process, and as Israel's peace partner, it is the obligation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to make a 100% effort to stop violence and terror in and emanating from the areas under its control. Violence and terror will not bring the Palestinians any closer to statehood and will only guarantee tragic consequences for the Palestinian people.

Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens by fighting terror. This requires a strong security posture coupled with determined efforts to achieve a negotiated peace. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once said that Israel must "pursue the peace process as if there is no terrorism, and fight terrorism as if there is no peace process." Former Mossad Director Danny Yatom wrote in November 2006, "the time has come to internalize the basic truth: there is no way to defeat terror through military means only. Terrorism will be defeated when we utilize diplomatic moves alongside uncompromising war, and time is not playing in Israel's favor." These words remain true today.

Israel also has a responsibility to stop violence committed by Israeli extremists. Settler lawlessness - including desecration of religious sites and violence against Palestinian civilians, Israeli police, soldiers and peace activists - must not be tolerated. This is nothing less than terrorism aimed at destroying any chance for peace and challenging the sovereignty of the state of Israel. It is incumbent upon Israel to enforce the rule of law on its citizens and to pursue, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of such acts, just as Israel would pursue, arrest, and prosecute Palestinian perpetrators of analogous crimes.

Fighting terror is critical, but in the absence of credible efforts to achieve peace, the void will be filled by the kind of violence and instability - perpetrated by both Palestinians and Israelis - that now plagues Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. Tangible progress toward peace is necessary to extinguish the fires of hatred and violence and deny extremists the ability to re-kindle them in the future.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Support and provide funding, where appropriate, for serious efforts by the Administration to help end violence - including efforts to achieve and maintain ceasefires, build Palestinian security capacity, and promote security cooperation;
  •  
  • Support and encourage efforts to achieve Palestinian national reconciliation, recognizing that a unified Palestinian government, capable of imposing its will on all Palestinians, is a key to security and stability; and
  •  
  • Support and encourage Israeli efforts to stem violence and other illegal activities by Israeli extremists.

Back to Table of Contents

 

INCITEMENT & HATE

Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric remain serious problems in the state-run press, textbooks, mosque sermons, and official statements of the Palestinians and countries throughout the Middle East.

Unfortunately, this is the case even in countries that have strong relations with the U.S. and countries that have signed peace agreements with Israel.

Incitement against Israel and Jews is an extremely serious problem that must not be ignored or dismissed, particularly in light of the Jewish people's painful history. It plants the seeds of hatred in successive generations and helps cultivate a culture of intolerance toward Israel and Jews.

Combating this problem must be an important element of U.S. bilateral relations and regional policy in the Middle East.

In addition, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim rhetoric must also be rejected. A fundamental tenet of democracy is that discrimination and incitement against people based on their religion or ethnicity is unacceptable, and neither acts by extremists nor profound political disagreements change this.

APN urges members of Congress to:

  •  
  • Condemn and reject anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement emanating from the Arab world, including from friends and allies of the United States;
  •  
  • Condemn and reject anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incitement, keeping in mind that a double standard by the U.S. when it comes to racist speech will only strengthen extremists;
  •  
  • Encourage efforts to build tolerance and understanding;
  •  
  • Support the re-constituting of a high-level multilateral anti-incitement committee or a similar entity to monitor and report on incitement in the Israeli-Palestinian arena and progress in combating it; and
  •  
  • Support the fight against anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement in the UN and other international forums.

Back to Table of Contents