Saturday, May 21, 2011

Obama's speech criticized by a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committe

From the web site of US Congressman Eliot Engel, 19 May 2011:

Washington, DC -- Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s speech on Middle East and North Africa policy.

“The President today sent strong and positive signals that the United States would stand on the side of freedom in the Arab world.  He also was clear with the worst abusers, including Syria, that the United States would impose increasing pressure until they respect the rights of their people.  On both points, President Obama has my full support.

“I was very pleased with one clear point of the President’s speech.  He unambiguously stated that Israel is a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people.   

“However, the speech also omitted or glossed over several themes. 

“First, I am unclear as to why the President did not recount the three conditions of the Quartet, comprised of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia, for dealing with Hamas.  (1) Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist, (2) Hamas must renounce terrorism, and (3) Hamas must commit to all of the agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians.  Those conditions, laid down in 2006, establish the foundation of our policy toward Hamas and must not be disregarded or glossed over.   Further, we cannot expect Israel to negotiate with a Palestinian Authority which has Hamas, a terrorist organization, as a working partner until Hamas accepts these conditions.

“Second, the 1967 armistice lines were simply not defensible, and Israel must not be made to return to them.  Moreover, United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which forms the basis of any future peace between Israelis and Palestinians, does not require Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines in exchange for peace.  The President is correct that land swaps built into a peace agreement could make Israel’s borders safe and secure, but make no mistake about it – such territorial adjustments would be very significant so that Israel would no longer be 9 miles wide at its narrowest point. 

“The reason that there has been no progress toward a peace agreement is that the Palestinians have refused to sit down with Israel and have used every excuse under the sun to refuse to negotiate.  President Abbas, with all his talk of moderation, has been anything but.  It is time to tell the Palestinians that the only way to statehood is through negotiations at the bargaining table, not through unilateral actions.

“The President still has the opportunity to elaborate on these points when he speaks on Sunday about the Israeli – Palestinian dispute, and I, for one, will listen carefully to what he has to say.”

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