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APN Legislative Round-Up - February 9, 2007

I. FY08 Foreign Affairs Budget Request; II. New Bills and Resolutions; III. Rice at the HFAC; IV. Ackerman on the Record on Iran; V. APN on the Jerusalem/Mughrabi Gate Crisis

...for the week ending February 9, 2007

I. FY08 Foreign Affairs Budget Request
II. New Bills and Resolutions
III. Rice at the HFAC
IV. Ackerman on the Record on Iran
V. APN on the Jerusalem/Mughrabi Gate Crisis


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I. FY08 FOREIGN AFFAIRS BUDGET REQUEST ===========================================

The following is a summary of the Middle East- related elements of the President's FY08 budget request, including the "Global War on Terror" (GWOT) FY08 Emergency Supplemental.

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Child Survival and Health Programs Fund
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Jordan: $21.350 million
West Bank/Gaza: $10 million
Yemen: $4.383 million

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Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities
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UNIFIL (Lebanon) $167.667 million
UNDOF (Golan) $8.673 million

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Development Assistance (DA)
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Morocco $ 6 million

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Economic Support Funds (ESF)
(Total budget request: $4,430,567
Total ESF for Near East: 2,022,332)
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Iraq: $298 million
Iraq (FY08 Supp): $772 million
Egypt: $415 million
Jordan: $263.547 million
Iran: $75 million
Near East Regional: $75 million
West Bank/Gaza: $63.5 million
Lebanon: $42.1 million
Morocco: $15.5 million
Yemen: $8.45 million
Middle East Regional: $3.8 million
Algeria: $1.165 million
Bahrain: $1.1 million
Libya: $500 thousand
Kuwait: $470 thousand
Tunisia: $200 thousand
Israel: $0

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Foreign Military Financing (FMF)
(total budget request: $4.536 billion
total FMF for Near East: $3,934,400 )
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Israel $2.4 billion
Egypt $1.3 billion
Jordan $200 million
Oman $ 10.105 million
Lebanon: $9.6 million
Yemen $ 4.676 million
Bahrain $ 4.3 million
Morocco $ 3.655 million
Tunisia $ 2.064 million

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International Military Education and Training (IMET)
(total budget request: $89.5 million)
Total IMET for Near East: $15.727 million)
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Jordan: $3.067 million
Iraq: $2 million
Morocco: $1.8 million
Tunisia: $1.8 million
Lebanon: $1.5 million
Oman: $1.5 million
Egypt: $1.3 million
Yemen: $1 million
Algeria: $700 thousand
Bahrain: $650 thousand
Libya: $350 thousand
Kuwait: $15 thousand
Qatar: $15 thousand
Saudi Arabia: $15 thousand
United Arab Emirates: $15 thousand

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International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE)
(Total budget request: $793.6 million
Total INCLE for Near East: $247.3 million)
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Iraq FY08 Supp: $159 million
Iraq: $75.8 million
West Bank/Gaza: $3.5 million
Egypt: $3 million
Lebanon: $1.8 million
Jordan: $1.5 million
Morocco: $1 million
Israel: $500 thousand
Yemen: $500 thousand
United Arab Emirates: $300 thousand
Algeria: $200 thousand Tunisia: $200 thousand

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Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA)
(total budget request: $808.5 million)
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Israel: $ 40 million Near East: $128.1 million

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Peacekeeping Operations (PKO)
total budget request: $196 million)
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MFO (Sinai): $ 21 million

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Other budget items
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Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue program: $875 thousand
Israel Arab Scholarship program: $375 thousand


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II. NEW BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
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(ISR-PAL) H. Res. 143: Introduced 2/8/07 by Rep. Davis (D-CA) and 10 cosponsors, "Urging the President to appoint a Special Envoy for Middle East Peace." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Original cosponsors on the resolution (including, with Davis, a total of four Jewish members) are: Blumenauer (D-OR), Ellison (D-MN), Klein (D-FL), McCollum (D-MN), Moore (D- WI), Murphy (D-PA), Price (D-NC), Schiff (D-CA), Schwartz (D-PA), and Snyder (D-AR). The resolution text is a follows:

Whereas peace and stability inside the Middle East have a direct and immediate impact on the national security of the United States and our allies around the world;

Whereas diplomacy must be made a central component of United States policy in the Middle East;

Whereas the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories has substantially deteriorated since 2000;

Whereas it is directly in the national interest of the United States to reengage both sides of this dispute in an urgent manner;

Whereas the creation of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians will reduce tension in the region and help repair America's image in the international community;

Whereas a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute will have a positive influence on the overall Arab-Israeli conflict and help reduce Iranian influence in the region;

Whereas if the United States is unwilling to take a lead in facilitating real sustained negotiations, powers hostile to the United States and our interests may seek to fill the leadership vacuum; and

Whereas the United States must be proactive in this endeavor: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the President should appoint a Special Envoy for Middle East Peace.

(IRAN/SYRIA) S. 527: Introduced 2/8/07 by Sens. Feingold (D-WI) and Kyle (R-AZ), "to make amendments to the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act." Referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

(IRAN) HR 957: Introduced 2/8/07 by Rep. Ros- Lehtinen and 13 cosponsors, "To amend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 to expand and clarify the entities against which sanctions may be imposed." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on Financial Services, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Government Reform.

(JERUSALEM) HR 895: Introduced 2/7/07 by Rep. Reynolds (R-NY) and 13 cosponsors, "To take certain steps toward recognition by the United States of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. (This is perennial legislation introduced each Congress by Rep. Reynolds - see: 109th Congress - HR 588; 108th Congress - HR 167; 107th Congress - HR 598; and 106th Congress - HR 2529).

(HEZBOLLAH) H. Res. 125: Introduced 2/5/07 by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and 8 cosponsors, "Expressing deep concern over the use of civilians as "human shields" in violation of international humanitarian law and the law of war during armed conflict, including Hezbollah's tactic of embedding its forces among civilians to use them as human shields during the summer of 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and the State of Israel." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.


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III. RICE AT THE HFAC
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On 2/7/07 Secretary of State Rice appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to defend the President's FY08 Foreign Affairs Budget request. Middle East-related excerpts from that hearing include:

Lantos (D-CA) on Iran
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...Today, I want to focus my remarks on just two, Iran's nuclear ambitions and the war in Afghanistan. Madam Secretary, as the civilized world confronts the rising threat of Iran, it is imperative that we speak directly and accept no more excuses from any quarter.

The Iranian government has no end of excuses to justify its construction of a huge uranium enrichment facility. They argue Iran needs the fuel for civilian nuclear power plants. They assert the need for an uninterruptible supply of nuclear fuel that is not subject to the whims of other nations.

As you well know, Madam Secretary, these excuses are pure fiction. Iran is developing a nuclear weapons capability, and its enrichment facility is designed to feed the voracious appetite of that program. But in all candor, Iran's excuses hurt us severely with our friends and allies as we urgently seek to develop an international consensus that Tehran's nuclear ambitions must be stopped. Iran's excuses prevent us from exerting strong multilateral pressure on Iran through increased economic sanctions.

While I do not believe that Iran is likely to be deterred in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, the hollowness of its claims of peaceful intent can be easily exposed. If Iran's nuclear program is truly peaceful, Tehran should welcome an opportunity to ensure a stable supply of nuclear fuel from an internationally supported nuclear fuel bank located in a safe nation. If Iran is, instead, building a nuclear weapon, its nefarious intentions will be quickly exposed should it refuse to participate in this important project.

So, Madam Secretary, today I'm introducing legislation to provide both financial and material support for establishing an international nuclear fuel bank under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency. This bank will ensure that any state that keeps its nuclear nonproliferation commitments can get the fuel it needs without establishing its own fuel production facilities. Madam Secretary, with this legislation, we can put an end to the lame excuses of the government in Tehran.

Secretary Rice on Trilateral Talks and "Linkage"
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(in response to questions posed by Rep. Berman, D- CA)

Rice: .First of all, let me just say, in terms of any linkage, we see the Israeli-Palestinian issue as needing to be resolved on its own terms. And I think it's very important to say that. It is undoubtedly a pillar -- if you could resolve that conflict -- of the more stable and democratic Middle East. But I don't wish to suggest that we think that we think, if we do that, we're going to get something for it in some other part of the diplomacy. I think that would not be the way to think about, although I know it's sometimes presented in that way. So I just want to be very clear about that.

I do think that, after Lebanon, there is some kind of configuration of states that both have an interest in the resolution of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict -- some of the moderate Arab states, some of the even conservative Arab states, I think, are showing more interest in working toward the road map. And the fact that they have other interests in common with us, like securing the young government in Lebanon of Fuad Siniora and, as well, in Iraq -- because these are states, these are young democracies that are under attack from extremists. And in so, in that sense, there is a common -- I think -- approach, a common strategy that is developing among a number of states on each of those three fronts. But the Israeli-Palestinian issue will need to be resolved on its own terms.

Very briefly on what they could do on Iraq: I think the political support for Iraq as an Arab state, and treating the Shia-led government in its Arab identity, is extremely important. Because when people say, "Well is it too close to Iran," I think the only way that the Iraqis who have no desire to trade the Saddam Hussein yoke for Iranian yolk, the only way that that happens is if they are not fully accepted in the Arab world. I think that it's also the case that they can help with Sunni participation and outreach and, ultimately, with financial resources and particularly debt relief, which a couple of the Gulf states hold.

As to the Palestinian issue, Palestinian-Israeli issue, I do believe we can make progress. I think that, frankly, going all the way back now to Prime Minister Sharon, there has been a broadening of the base of support in Israel for the two-state solution. And I think that while it is true that Hamas is the government, you have in the Palestinian Authority and in Mahmoud Abbas, President Abbas, someone who's very devoted to the two-state solution, to the renunciation of violence, to the living side by side with the Israel. And he is, after all, the one who has the negotiating authority for the Palestinian people. So I would hope to use my discussions with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas to see what we can do in the context of the road map to begin to develop a clear political horizon for the Palestinian people so that they know what the establishment of the state would look like, what needs to get to be done to have it established.

There are elements that we simply never talk about, like Palestinian capacity to govern a state. That's an extremely important part of this discussion. And I believe, with a political horizon developed for the Palestinian people, that President Abbas will be able to go to the Palestinian people and say: Your future is in this two-state solution, not in declaring that you do not believe in the existence of Israel or not continuing to take violence as a legitimate means, but renouncing violence.

I think that Hamas has not -- you're right -- not yet come in line with the quartet principals. I don't know if they ever will. I fully believe that the Palestinian people, the great majority of them, want a better life; they want a peaceful life. And they recognize that they'll have to live side-by-side with Israel in order to do that. And I think that's the case that President Abbas has tried to make. I think, with the political horizon that has developed between the Israelis and the Palestinians, he will be able to make that more effectively -- and, ultimately, that Hamas will either have to stand against the aspirations of the Palestinian people or find a way to change.

Rice on Democracy in the Middle East
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Ackerman (D-NY): ...Where does democracy really fit into our foreign policy? Do we have a strategy for democratization that's going to work? Why are we not really pushing our friends in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? And if, as in Egypt, they worry about the Muslim Brotherhood and then beat up everybody who is running for office, they kind of leave room only for people who want to be terrorists to resist...

RICE: Well, thank you, Congressman. First of all, democracy is right at the core of what we are doing in our foreign policy because the president and I consider not just a moral cause -- although it is, of course, a moral cause -- but is also a matter of national security. The fact of matter is that a well-governed democratic states are allies and that is the source of the true stability. But is also the case that when there is a freedom gap or deficit politics will go on, but it will go on on the radical side; while the healthy forms of moderation and reform that could take place don't take place.

And I think that we have seen that in the Middle East. And it's one reason that I think authoritarianism has produced circumstances in which terrorism breeds -- because people go to the extremes rather than to more legitimate and more benign ways of carrying out their political interests. So it's very much the core.

The Cairo speech I felt was maybe the most important speech I've made as secretary. And I though the president's...second inaugural was one of the most important speeches an American president has made in years. And we are going to continue to press the case.

I know that when I was in Luxor recently -- and I was on the ground for two and half hours, I think, total -- to talk about the Palestinian issues, I did not have a democracy event, but I did raise with the foreign minister and with the president issues concerning our concerns about, for instance, the nongovernmental organizations like NDI and IRI and how they're operating; cases like Ayman Nour, where we think that his release would be wholly appropriate; and in internal reforms in Egypt.

And so we're going to continue to press for those. We pressed for it in Saudi Arabia. I think I did stand next to the foreign minister and say, "Women ought to vote in Saudi Arabia," and I'll continue to say that. I did have a democracy event in Kuwait where I met with about 30 women. As you know, women in Kuwait have just gotten the right to vote. And they are organizing -- and they didn't win in the last election, but that's only made them more determined this time -- and had a wonderful discussion with them.

We are trying -- through our democracy programs, through helping people to network, training in democracy programs, development of civil society, bringing young people together -- we're trying very hard to empower those inside these countries that want a democratic future, because nothing troubles me more than when I hear people say: Well you shouldn't try to impose democracy. And I said: Of course not. Democracy doesn't have to be imposed; tyranny has to be imposed.

And so we are working very hard to try to make it possible for people, because it's our moral duty and it's in our interest.

Rice and Wexler (D-FL) on Iran
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Wexler: ...Madam Secretary, I think, as you're well aware because you have participated very eloquently, the committee has undergone, I think, a very thorough analysis under the chairman's leadership of our policy in Iran, particularly relating to the Iraq Study Group's recommendation for a dialogue. We heard from former Secretary Madeleine Albright, and her testimony essentially was in accord with the study group, suggesting the dialogue with Iran. Yourself and others in the administration have taken a different view.

What concerns me regarding the administration's approach is that it seems to undermine what I think has been a very positive effort by you and others since the president first visited Brussels in February after the election and he joined with the E.U.-3. And then subsequently the administration supported further European offers to Iran, I think wisely so, and wisely supported the Russian offer to do the enrichment in Russia. All very wise moves which culminated in the first round of sanctions in a multilateral forum.

It seems to me that accepting the Iraq Study Group's recommendation and others would strengthen the administration's hand with China, with Russia, in engaging those nations to ferret up, to increase the sanctions on Iran. The thing that troubles me in terms of determining which policy is best, quite frankly, are the reports that in 2003 that Iran apparently sent to the administration what the administration officials have said seems to be an authentic offer, a proposal, as was reported in The Washington Post and other publications, which essentially put everything on the table, including full cooperation on Iran's nuclear programs, acceptance by Iran of Israel, and Iranian termination for its support for Palestinian militant groups.

I don't think anyone naively believes that Iran is going to change its colors overnight, but it seems that what concerns me most are the representations of members of the administration as they have left. For instance, I think it's a Mr. Leverett, Flynt Leverett, who may have been on your staff, if I understand it correctly, who says in responding to this Iranian offer, "They believed" -- meaning the administration, the Bush ministration -- this is the quote, "They believed that just with a little prodding from us, pushing from us, it would be over. They were wrong."

So here we have the senior director of the National Security Council staff -- if I understand it correctly -- saying the administration was wrong in its analysis of the Iranian offer for negotiations. Given that somewhat damning conclusion, why should we accept the administration's analysis today that it is correct to yet again not engage with Iran when administration officials at the time now have concluded -- at least this one and one or two others -- that the administration was wrong?

Rice: Well, first of all, I don't know what Flynt Leverett's talking about, quite frankly. Maybe I should ask him when he came to me and said, "We have a proposal from Iran and we really ought to take it." I have read about this so-called proposal from Iran. We had people who said, "The Iranians went to talk to you," lots of people who said, "The Iranians want to talk to you." But I think I would have noticed if the Iranians had said, "We're ready to recognize Israel." And, Congressman, I just don't remember ever seeing any such thing.

Wexler: So you did not see that supposed fax?

Rice: I just have to tell you that perhaps somebody saw something of the like, but I can tell you I would have noticed if the Iranians had offered to recognize Israel. So let me not repeat the past. Let me go to the present. You listed a number of things that we did. And I appreciate very much that you support the efforts that we've made with the Europeans and, indeed, with the Russians. And I think it has paid off. I think that's why you have a 15-0 Chapter 7 resolution.

But there is one other thing that we did. I went out in May, and, having worked on a package of incentives that we offered the Iranians with the Russians, with the Chinese and with the Europeans, we said we are prepared to sit and negotiate from the basis of this set of incentives, if you'll just do one thing -- suspend your enrichment and reprocessing activities so people know that you're not trying to perfect a nuclear weapon while we talk -- just suspend.

And that, by the way, had been a demand of the Europeans. It had actually been -- the Iranians had actually agreed to do it. And then they were the ones who walked out of the talks with the Europeans and began their enrichment and reprocessing activities again.

So I just have to repeat, Congressman, I think the question isn't why won't we talk to Tehran? The question is why won't they talk to us? What is so important in continuing to enrich and reprocess that they can't take the offer of the United States to reverse 27 years of policy, to sit and talk about whatever they'd like?

So I would, again, put the offer on the table. The world is worried, not the United States, the world is worried about Iran's nuclear activities. They won't answer questions from the IAEA. Mohamed ElBaradei reports that all the time. Their president talks incessantly about how they're becoming nuclear, they're going to have 3,000 centrifuges, they're going to go to industrial scale production. He does it, having uttered in the same breath, practically, that Iran ought to wipe Israel off the map.

It's frankly, Congressman, not talk that I want to engage. But I'm perfectly ready to engage with the Iranians when they demonstrate that they are not seeking a nuclear weapon by doing what the world has asked them and has been asking them for two years: simply suspend enrichment and reprocessing, and we'll talk.


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IV. ACKERMAN ON THE RECORD ON IRAN
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Opening statement of Rep. Ackerman (D-NY) at HFAC hearing, 1/31/07 on the Iran situation:

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Even as American troops are now engaging in seizures of Iranian agents in Iraq, and an additional carrier battle group is being dispatched to the Persian Gulf, the Bush Administration remains stuck behind the idea that diplomacy is equivalent to appeasement, and that negotiation is akin to surrender. Consequently, with regard to Iran, we seem determined to achieve the worst of all policy outcomes.

While the White House intones "all options are on the table," the military facts of life argue otherwise. Our armed forces, especially our Army and Marine Corps, are operating on the edge of their capacity. While the Air Force and Navy remain capable of conducting a robust conventional bombing campaign, I remain skeptical that they would be able to strike all the key components of Iran's nuclear program. Many facilities are extremely well-protected, some are buried, others are hardened, and some have all of these features.

More troubling, based on recent history, I think prudence demands that we assume there are both facilities we have not yet identified and facilities we have misidentified. Moreover, we have scarcely considered the full nature and extent of Iran's presence in Iraq, and what capabilities it has to make mischief in other parts of the Middle East, or the rest of the globe

Although our military options are dismal, the Bush Administration seems intent on charging full-speed ahead towards confrontation. If we had a credible diplomatic alternative we were pushing the Iranians toward, such gambling might make sense. Without a diplomatic backstop, however, it is merely reckless.

Without question, face-to-face dialogue with the Iranians would be difficult, unpleasant, and likely to fail. However, if there are no talks, a negotiated resolution of either the Iranian nuclear problem, or the instability and violence in Iraq is essentially impossible. I would add here that this administration's incessant practice of subcontracting to other countries the most vital questions of our national security represents one of the most egregious and shameful failures in the history of American foreign policy.

Achieving success in negotiations with Iran may not be possible. But, without making the attempt, without demonstrating that America is doing its utmost to resolve these regional crises-apart from applying more and more force-our ability to attract and hold allies will be greatly diminished. Other nations expect us to lead, not lecture. Painful as may be for some to acknowledge, the United States has a credibility problem.

There once was a Republican president who warned us to "speak softly, but carry a big stick." Instead of blustering about Iran while hollowing out our military in Iraq, we need to get serious about achieving some very simple but very difficult goals: first, bringing our catastrophic adventure in Iraq to a conclusion that will not turn Iraq's civil war into a regional war; second, restoring the strength and credibility of our already overextended armed forces; and third, engaging our European and Arab allies in a strategic plan to convince Iran that its best interests require a satisfactory resolution of the nuclear issue. Anyone who believes we can achieve any of this agenda without engaging the Iranians ourselves on the fundamental questions of regional security is fooling themselves.

I hope today's panel well help illustrate for us how Iran sees the world, where its vulnerabilities lie, and how we can best achieve security in the Persian Gulf region for ourselves and our allies in and around the region.


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V. APN ON THE JERUSALEM/MUGHRABI GATE CRISIS ==============================================

On 2/8/07 APN sent the following letter to Secretary of State Rice regarding ongoing excavations near Jerusalem Temple Mount. For further information on this issue, see: http://www.peacenow.org/hot.asp?rid=&cid=3415

Dear Secretary Rice:

On behalf of Americans for Peace Now (APN), we are writing to urge you to intervene urgently to stop the destabilizing activities currently being undertaken in Jerusalem adjacent to the Temple Mount/al Aqsa Mosque compound (known to Muslims as the Haram al Sharif). APN is a Jewish, Zionist organization whose mission is to enhance Israel's security through peace and to support the Israeli Peace Now movement.

Jerusalem's Old City, and in particular the Temple Mount, is holy to Jews, Muslims, and Christians worldwide. Past Israeli actions that were perceived as efforts to change the status quo in the Old City - such as the opening of the Hasmonean Tunnel in 1996 or the visit to the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon in 2000 - triggered violence and protest not only in Israel and the West Bank/Gaza, but throughout the region.

As you are no doubt aware, Israel is currently carrying out excavations adjacent to the Temple Mount compound. This work is reportedly in preparation for construction of a new access bridge to the compound, intended to replace the centuries-old Mughrabi Gate access ramp, which has fallen into disrepair. Unfortunately, rather than preserving and respecting the delicate and longstanding status quo in this extremely sensitive area, the current Israeli plan envisions greatly expanding this access route onto the Temple Mount compound. This project, if implemented, would mark the first time since 1967 that Israel has directly altered the status quo on the Temple Mount compound.

The project has been criticized by many prominent Israelis and denounced by leaders across the region and the world. It also appears to be illegal even under Israel law, lacking the proper permits to proceed. Moreover, it has been criticized by top Israeli archeologists who view it as compromising archeology in order to cater to Jewish extremists - extremists who harbor dangerous aspirations with respect to the Temple Mount and who have a long history of attempting provocative actions in this area.

What happens in Jerusalem does not stay in Jerusalem. Rather, it can have an enormous impact on attitudes and events elsewhere - not only in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, but throughout the region and the world. For the sake of U.S. vital interests, including concern for Israel and for security and stability in the region, we urge you to intervene with effective diplomacy to stop this reckless and irresponsible enterprise. Clearly, Israel has the right, and even the obligation, to ensure safe access onto the Temple Mount compound via the Mughrabi Gate. However, consistent with both with longstanding practice and political common sense, any new construction project in the area should be undertaken only with full transparency, in consultation and with the agreement of all interested parties.


For more information, contact Lara Friedman, APN Director of Policy and Government Relations, at 202/728-1893, or at lfriedman@peacenow.org.