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APN Statement to Capitol Hill: Support Israel by Supporting U.S. Leadership and a Ceasefire

What Israel needs now is not just expressions of support and solidarity, but active diplomacy, led by the United States, to end the fighting.
Go HERE for the APN Action Alert urging activists to contact members of Congress.

Support Israel by Supporting U.S. Leadership and a Ceasefire

Dear :

In recent days, AIPAC has been calling on Members of Congress to issue
statements supporting "Israel's right to defend its citizens from terrorism." Unfortunately, their call fails to mention any need to work to end the crisis.  This approach is regrettable.  What Israel needs now is not just expressions of support and solidarity, but active diplomacy, led by the United States, to end the fighting.

The firing of rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza into Israel is absolutely unacceptable, as is the use of tunnels to import more and heavier weapons into Gaza. Israel has the right to protect its citizens from such attacks and threats.  But Israel has learned through painful experience that military force alone cannot eliminate these 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 Gilad Shalit.  Indeed, the ongoing military escalation risks playing into the hands of extremists.  It increases dangers to soldiers and civilians -- Israeli and Palestinian -- and risks getting Israel bogged down in an open-ended mission in Gaza.  It also raises the specter of a two-front war, should Hizballah decide to renew conflict on Israel's northern border, with all the challenges to the IDF and danger to Israeli civilians that this would entail.

Both Israel and Hamas have an interest in stopping the escalation and
re-establishing the ceasefire, but neither side wants to be seen as being the first to blink.   The international community, led by the United States, must provide the diplomatic and political cover necessary for both sides to step back from the brink.

Americans for Peace Now -- an organization devoted to achieving real security and peace for Israel -- urges members of Congress to issue statements supporting Israel.  But real statements of support should do
more than merely endorse Israel's right to self-defense.  Rather, they must also reflect Israel's right to long-term stability and security, which only diplomacy can provide.  Statements supportive of Israel must therefore include:

- a clear recognition that a ceasefire is in the vital interests of both Israel and America;

- an urgent call for the Bush Administration to show real leadership and spare no effort to work with Israel, regional parties, and other members of the international community to establish a new ceasefire; and

- a demand that any new ceasefire be accompanied by efforts to lay the groundwork for the kind of changes on the ground and the establishment of a political process that can avoid a return to military action in the future.

We are not naive.  We recognize the extraordinary difficulty Israel faces in achieving any sustainable ceasefire agreement, formal or informal, with an extremist, ideologically-motivated organization like Hamas.  But the painful lessons of the 2006 Israel-Hizballah War must not be forgotten.  Any resolution to this crisis will require Israel and Hamas to engage eventually, directly or indirectly, to establish a ceasefire.  The real questions are:

* How many more Israelis and Palestinians will die or be wounded in the interim?
* How much less international sympathy Israel will have when the ceasefire is being negotiated?
* How much bigger will the disaster on the ground be, both in Israel and Gaza, once a ceasefire is achieved?
* How much damage will have been done to the credibility and viability of the peace process and the Israeli and Palestinian peace camps?
* And perhaps most importantly, will a ceasefire this time be accompanied by both the kind of changes on the ground and the establishment of some sort of political process necessary for it to succeed?

For the sake of Israelis in southern Israel, who are again suffering as renewed rocket fire sows fear and disrupts their lives, and for the sake of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, whose extraordinarily difficult lives are worsening daily, a new ceasefire must be established.  And this time, a ceasefire must be accompanied by tangible improvements in the humanitarian situation and the establishment of a political process that can prevent the re-emergence of violence in the longer term.  Absent these elements -- as has been the case thus far -- a ceasefire will once again be little more than a temporary pause in the violence, during which militants have the opportunity and incentive to re-arm, re-trench, and prepare for the next round.

I hope this is helpful to you.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or need more information about Israel and the effort to achieve peace and security in the Middle East.

Best regards,

Lara Friedman
Director of Policy and Government Relations
Americans for Peace Now