A leading Jewish congressman said President Bush’s April 2004 letter repudiating a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees was unwise.”Even though I agree with the president’s assessment of what is and what is not possible, I have deep concerns about the wisdom of the United States handicapping one party to a negotiation before the dealmaking begins,” Rep. Gary Ackerman, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Middle East Subcommittee, said Tuesday in opening a session on refugee issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “If you’re going to run a high-stakes card game, you have to let the players handle their own cards. In the end, no one appreciates a rigged game.””Attempting to force Palestinians to give up their dreams in a vacuum would not only be ineffectual but counterproductive,” said Ackerman, who has close ties to the pro-Israel lobby. “You can’t coerce someone in love out of it, but they can be tempted by another offer, especially one that is more attractive and available.”He said such a solution would include “finding the means in the international community to address the outstanding material claims” of both Palestinian refugees and of Jews who were driven from Arab lands in the wake of Israel’s independence.Much of the hearing focused on the Jewish refugees, whose plight is less known than that of the Palestinians. Jews lost “entire businesses, not just their personal assets, but the property of entire communities. And most painful of all, not only did they lose their personal dignity and security, but their entire national identity,” Ackerman said in remarks that were praised by Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.
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