Archive for September 2006

News Flash: Secretary Rice Heads to the Middle East Sunday

September 29, 2006

The State Department announced yesterday that Secretary Rice will act on the President’s direction at the United Nations General Assembly to lead a new “diplomatic effort” in the region by visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Territories Sunday through Thursday.

According to the announcement, Secretary Rice will work to:

  • Consult with the leaders of those nations who have a vision for a more moderate, peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Middle East
     
  • Speak with them about Israeli-Palestinian issues; the general situation in the region; moving forward on the democracy agenda; and the threats to peace, stability, and moderation that range from Iran and terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
     

The State Department says the trip will focus more on initial consultations with the neighboring leaders than a clear plan of action toward peace.  In terms of whether she will directly address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the State Department spokesperson said, “I’d say it is an important component… Again, this, I would characterize more as a trip centered around consultations and really to follow up on some of her conversations that she had at the United Nations over the past couple of weeks and to go to the region and further explore some of the ideas that are out there and to see what the possibilities are; and have her focus with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian issues, really center on the security-related issues to see how we can move that forward; and then also as that relates to existing agreements like the Gaza movement and access agreement, how we might be able to move that forward. But I suspect that this is going to be a trip more about consultations in those areas.”

This trip will hopefully be just one of several Secretary Rice will make to the region.  To make your voice heard – along with thousands of other Americans – that you want Secretary Rice to be engaged in active and sustained diplomacy in working toward a two-state solution, please go to CALME’s main page here.
 

A Worldwide Effort to Bring About Two States Takes Root

September 28, 2006

By Joel Tauber and George Salem, CALME Co-Chairs

Adding to the returned focus last week of the need for two states surrounding the United Nations General Assembly and meeting of the Quartet, the International Crisis Group announced last Friday the launch of a new campaign to promote the world’s involvement in reaching a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. This initiative, which was announced in conjunction with former President Clinton’s Global Initiative meeting, seeks to build political momentum toward the conclusion of a “comprehensive, just and sustainable peace.”

We applaud this new initiative and are pleased to see more efforts that encourage key players on the world stage to become actively involved in reaching the only solution we believe tenable for the Israeli and Palestinian people: two states. CALME continues to work actively to drive up support from thousands of Americans and American leaders for our initiative to tell the President that we believe he has to commit his Administration to active and sustained involvement until the job is done. CALME’s list of signatories already includes a remarkable list of American leaders who continue to contribute their insights and influence to our effort, as well as thousands of Americans from all 50 states. CALME recognizes that no initiative alone can be a substitute for the direct involvement of U.S. political leadership in the pursuit of a lasting two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet we hope to watch as this effort works to lay a foundation for the community of world nations who would like to see peace in the region comes together to work toward a solution. We look forward to all groups who share this common goal working to translate the words we heard last week at the UNGA, the Quartet’s meeting, and from some of the Arab League countries into an active coalition that will bring about the just and comprehensive peace we all desire.

The Excuses For Delaying Action in the Middle East Wear Thin

September 27, 2006

The reasoning for why the U.S. should not actively pursue peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and dialogue with the Syrians, and consistent support for the broad-based Lebanese government is far easier to come by than the voices advocating for engagement on all fronts.  Yet the courage to proceed is required if there can be any hope for progress on these outstanding challenges.  In an International Herald Tribune op-ed today, CALME luminary Robert Malley and his former colleague Aaron David Miller argue that the U.S. should broaden its diplomatic scope to give these issues the attention they require in order for progress to be made toward any measure of resolution. 

Of these issues, they say, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires the most and freshest attention.   In serving as the voice for engagement, they say “For years, a debate has raged in Washington over the desirability of such a move [a U.S.-advanced “inspiring, detailed vision of a comprehensive settlement”], with powerful arguments marshaled against it: the time is not ripe; Israel will object; failure to implement the vision will discredit it. All true, but at this point superseded by an overriding concern – the dizzying collapse of America’s reputation and standing in the region at a time when Washington is more heavily invested in it than ever.”  Whether or not the U.S. secures an imminent peace, in many ways the issue is about showing up and demonstrating that our leadership is engaged in finding a solution. 

To read the full article, please click here.

We Can’t Separate the Iran Challenge from the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

September 26, 2006

By Ambassador Marc Grossman, CALME Luminary, Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

I was intrigued by the September 13 column by David Ignatius in the Washington Post, “Bush’s Message to Iran,” which described Ignatius’s conversation with President Bush about Iran.  The President was persuasive explaining his decision to issue a visa to former Iranian President Khatami and clear that he seeks a diplomatic solution to the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

I confess, however, to have hoped for one more element in the conversation between President Bush and Mr. Ignatius: a reaffirmation by the President of his commitment to an Israeli and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace in the Middle East, a position he courageously took in June of 2002.  This should be part of a conversation on the future of US-Iranian relations because the issues are connected.  (more…)

The Administration’s New Year’s Shift

September 22, 2006

CALME Luminary MJ Rosenberg’s Weekly Opinion Column
IPF Friday
22 September 2006

The Jewish New Year begins tomorrow which is coincidentally also the first day of Ramadan.

That is a favorable omen for the New Year (the Jewish and Islamic holy days rarely coincide) but it is also one of the very few for those of us who care deeply about Israel and who have been horrified by events of the past year.

The most troubling development over the last 12 months is that the question of Israel’s long-term survival is again on the table as a result of both the Lebanon war and the likelihood that Iran will soon be in possession of nuclear weapons.

In a column last week, former New York Times correspondent, Richard Reeves, quotes Peter Osnos, former Random House chief, who is Jewish, as saying that Israel does not have many choices left. (more…)

Did the UNGA Bring a Shift in the Administration’s Policy?

September 22, 2006

As we all know by now, President Bush took center stage at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.  After speaking directly to the people of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Darfur, he turned to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and started out by reaffirming his commitment to the Roadmap.  He said, “The world must also stand up for peace in the Holy Land. I’m committed to two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.”  As his remarks regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict wound down, he announced, “I directed Secretary of State Rice to lead a diplomatic effort to engage moderate leaders across the region to help the Palestinians reform their security services and support Israeli and Palestinian leaders in their efforts to come together to resolve their differences.”

While the President’s statement recommitting his Administration to the Roadmap and his announcement that he is encouraging Secretary Rice to work toward a new coalition in the region may not have made headlines, the Los Angeles Times said in an editorial yesterday that the President’s speech does reflect a subtle shift in policy.  The Times says, “While this might sound like diplomatic boilerplate, it amounts to a subtle change in direction. In May, Bush seemed receptive to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s proposals for unilateral Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank, a plan predicated on the idea that the road map had become irrelevant. Now the president has unfolded the map again and invited Palestinians to take advantage of it. Hamas should ‘serve the interests of the Palestinian people,’ Bush said. ‘Abandon terror, recognize Israel’s right to exist, honor agreements and work for peace.’ That may sound like a stern injunction, but it also offers Hamas a route to respectability.”

To read the full editorial, click here.

The Palestinians’ “Worst Case Scenario”

September 19, 2006

By CALME Luminary Amjad Attalah
President, Strategic Assessments Initiative, Former Legal Advisor to the Palestinian Negotiating Team

As tensions continue to escalate in Gaza between civil servants and the Hamas-led parliament, the real losers are those who hold no stake in the strike – Palestinian students.  The closing of public schools in the territories has driven students either to Islamic schools, or for those who cannot afford the private tuition or are shut out due to overcrowding, to the street.  Unfortunately, by depriving them of an affordable and available education, we provide them with the seeds of discontent.

This is what then-Middle East Envoy James Wolfensohn called the “the worst-case scenario” when the U.S. cut off direct aid in March, and warned that it “could fuel a new cycle of violence.” The breakdown of basic services is dangerous, and must be resolved immediately.  Resolution is dependent on a number of moving factors, but contingent on the U.S. actively pursuing targeted funding options that reach those most in need – not Hamas’s political leadership.  (more…)