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APN Congratulates 135 House Members for Signing Letter Urging Secretary Rice to Invest More in Mideast Peace Process

The Ackerman-Boustany letter warmly endorses the Annapolis process and urges additional measures to enhance the chances of success of this current push for peace.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - November 19, 2007
CONTACT: Ori Nir - (202) 728-1893

Washington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today congratulated Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Charles Boustany (R-LA), along with 133 of their House colleagues, on sending a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Ackerman-Boustany letter warmly endorses the Annapolis process and urges additional measures the Bush administration should take to enhance the chances of success of this current push for peace.

APN has strongly supported this letter from the moment it began circulating and worked hard for members to sign on. Commending Reps. Ackerman and Boustany for initiating what she called "one of the most constructive, pro-peace statements in recent memory to come out of Congress," APN President and CEO, Debra DeLee, said: "the many House members who signed this letter clearly understand how crucial a successful Mideast peace initiative is for the national security interests of our nation and for the security and well-being of Israel and its neighbors. They also recognize the central role that U.S. leadership and engagement must play in this process. It is gratifying that so many legislators are not only urging the Bush administrations to just 'do it' but to 'do it right.'"

DeLee added: "APN has worked tirelessly, along with other pro-Israel and pro-Middle East peace groups - including the Israel Policy Forum, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Arab American Institute, Churches for Middle East Peace, and the American Task Force on Palestine - to mobilize support for this initiative among our grassroots supporters nationwide and in Congress. The success of this letter is in no small part a testament to the success of these efforts. It demonstrates what we have always known: that there is a large constituency across the United States, including among American Jews, that wants Congress to support peace efforts."

The letter garnered support from both Democrats and Republicans, as well as support from 12 Jewish members of Congress, including Rep. Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Henry Waxman (D-CA), dean of the Jewish House members.

Following is the full text of the letter, sent today to Secretary Rice:

Dear Madam Secretary:

We are writing to both commend you for your efforts to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by convening an international meeting this fall and to respectfully suggest that additional measures by the United States in the near term will be necessary to preserve the possibility of success.

As do you, we believe the coming months represent a critical opportunity to stabilize the region by advancing a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians -- and perhaps a comprehensive opening of Israeli relations with the Arab world. However, it is equally clear that a still-born initiative could set back prospects for peace, destabilize regional allies, and exacerbate an already volatile situation in the Middle East

Clearly, robust, hands-on U.S. leadership and diplomacy is necessary to frame not only on what transpires at the meeting, but on what takes place before and after it. But dialogue and encouragement of the parties will not, by themselves, be sufficient. As you have made clear, the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, has emerged as a viable partner for U.S. peace efforts. The situation confronting them, however, is desperate.

Accordingly, we urge you to consider a reorientation of U.S. project-focused assistance programs. The immediate needs of the Palestinian people are for clean government, public order, economic opportunity, and salaried employment. U.S. assistance should be used-and should be designed to leverage international support-for financial and personnel reforms in the Palestinian Authority, for housing or other labor intensive projects, for the effective operation of a Palestinian police force and an independent Palestinian judiciary, and for long-term economic development and job creation programs. Addressing corruption and public safety in the P.A. while continuing to engage with Israel to coordinate a remittance schedule for Palestinian tax monies and to improve access and movement will ensure that assistance will be effective in reviving the Palestinian economy and creating the atmosphere of hope required for the success of diplomatic efforts.

In this regard, we recognize that in this critical moment, and with the current Palestinian leadership, current levels of U.S. assistance are insufficient to leverage either real change and improvement by the Palestinian Authority, or more robust support by the international community. The United States should take the lead in organizing international assistance to the Palestinian Authority which is not only consistent with the principles described above, but would suffice to cover the legitimate budgetary needs of the Palestinian Authority until it is able to muster its own resources.

U.S. assistance, though of vital importance, must be supported by a regional consensus. The current oil boom, aggressive Iranian efforts to establish hegemony and the extra-legal takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas, all lend salience to your efforts to positively engage the Arab states in efforts to make peace. In concert with others, we can not allow the financial asphyxiation of the Palestinian Authority, particularly while some continue to provide or allow funding of Hamas. The extraordinary efforts being made by the President and yourself are more likely to succeed if our regional partners are working together with us.

Madam Secretary, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through the establishment of two states for two peoples, is too important not to seize the opportunities that have emerged over the past weeks. With aggressive multilateral diplomacy led by the United States, we believe the meeting in November could mark an important turning point. We look forward to working with you to ensure that it is a success.