A top Jewish congressman blasted Israel for settlement expansion and Palestinian leaders for losing moral credibility.
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) opened a hearing of his U.S. House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee on Wednesday by taking aim at both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, recently reconvened under U.S. auspices.
Israeli leaders “welcome and celebrate moderate Palestinian leaders who are committed to a two-state solution, who are responsible and reasonable, and have rejected violence and accept Israel’s right to exist,” said Ackerman.
But at the same time, “there’s been an increase in the number of checkpoints and roadblocks; there have been several announcements about settlement expansions and new housing in Jerusalem; there have been no illegal outposts dismantled; and from time to time, necessary Israeli security operations have – as an unintended consequence – made a mockery of nascent Palestinian efforts to put just a little authority back in the Palestinian Authority.”
P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas “seems ready to squander all the credibility he’s struggled for so long to acquire” as a leader who rejects terrorism on a moral basism, Ackerman said. “Speaking to the editorial staff of al-Dustour, a Jordanian paper, Abbas is alleged to have said, ‘At this time, I object to the armed struggle, since we are unable to conduct it; however, in future stages things may change.’”
The Bush administration, meanwhile, is busy sending officials to the region but is offering little in the way of concrete encouragement, Ackerman said.
Bush, he said, tends to retreat into that “other private world of his where everything seems to be going well.” Testifying at the hearing was David Welch, the State Department’s top envoy to the region.