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Solarz signs letter urging Hamas inclusion

A former Jewish congressman and major Washington lobbyist signed a letter urging the Bush administration to involve Hamas in peace talks.

Stephen Solarz, a New York Democrat who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1993, is the latest former politician to sign the International Crisis Group letter to President Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The letter says a Israeli-Palestinian peace conference to be convened next week by Rice in Annapolis, Md. “presents a genuine opportunity for progress toward a two-state solution.” It urges a two-state solution, taking into account a shared Jerusalem and a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem that does not involve resettlement in Israel.

It also says Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip, should be involved.

“We believe that a genuine dialogue with the organization is far preferable to its isolation,” the letter says.

The United States or Israel do not have to participate in such a dialogue, the letter suggests, leaving it instead to U.N. or European negotiators.

Solarz appeared Tuesday at an ICG-New America Foundation event to announce his support for the letter.

“How can this possibly succeed unless the Palestinians and the Israelis and the Americans try a different approach to bring Hamas in?” said Solarz, a member of the liberal ICG’s executive committee and of the conservative Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs’ advisory board.

Solarz now lobbies for Turkey and India, major nations that have grown closer to Israel in recent years.

Other signatories to the ICG letter include Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security adviser; Brent Scowcroft, the first President Bush’s national security adviser; Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister; and current and former leaders from Australia, Malaysia, Lebanon and Jordan.

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