Tuesday, August 11, 2009

71 senators ask Obama to pressure Arab states

From Ynet News, 4/8/09, by Yitzhak Benhorin:

Democratic and Republican senators send letter to US president, saying Arab countries should consider 'dramatic gestures' toward Israel in order to show their commitment to peace, similar to steps taken by Prime Minister Netanyahu

WASHINGTON – Seventy-one senators sent a letter to US President Barack Obama on Monday, asking him to encourage and pressure Arab states to consider "dramatic gestures" toward Israel in order to show their commitment to peace with the Jewish state, similar to the steps taken by late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in his historic visit to Jerusalem in 1977.

Click here to read senators' letter

In their letter, the senators – Democrats and Republicans – detail steps taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to signal Israel's commitment for peace with the Palestinians and the entire Arab world.

Israel these days is almost the only issue Democratic and Republican senators agree on. The senators who signed the letter include Harry Reid, leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, and Mitchell "Mitch" McConnell, leader of the Republican minority.

"We write in support of your efforts to encourage Arab states to normalize relations with the State of Israel," the senators wrote Obama. "We agree with you and Secretary Clinton that Arab states must do more to end their isolation of Israel."

The senators added, "Over the past few months Israel has taken concrete measures to reaffirm its commitment to advancing the peace process." They mentioned Prime Minister Netanyahu's Bar Ilan speech, in which he publicly expressed support for the two-state solution and called for the immediate resumption of peace negotiations.

"We have also been encouraged by Israeli efforts to improve the daily lives of Palestinians, through measures such as removing roadblocks, assisting with economic development in the West Bank, and supporting the training of professional Palestinian Authority security personnel," the 71 senators wrote.

"These actions have demonstrated that Israel is willing to back up its words with concrete actions, even in the face of continuing threats to its security."

The senators also told the president that they expect Arab countries to take similar tangible steps to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process.

"Such steps," they said, "could include ending the Arab League boycott of Israel, meeting openly with Israeli officials, establishing open trade relations with Israel, issuing visas to Israeli citizens, and inviting Israelis to participate in academic and professional conferences and sporting events.

"We also believe that Arab states must immediately and permanently end official propaganda campaigns which demonize Israel and Jews."

The senators' letter was sent to the White House a week after a letter signed by 226 Congress members was sent to Saudi King Abdullah, urging him to take significant steps to demonstrate his desire for peace with Israel.

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