End Gaza violence, letter urges Bush

Nearly 50 U.S. congressmen signed a letter urging President Bush to end violence on the Israel-Gaza border.

The letter, drafted by Reps. David Price (D-N.C.) and Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), was sent Wednesday and timed to Bush’s visit to Israel to mark its 60th anniversary.

It calls for a mediated cease-fire on the border but stops short of endorsing direct negotiations with Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip and has enabled rocket attacks on southern Israel. The attacks have prompted an Israeli blockade, in place since January

“Any solution to the crisis in southern Israel and Gaza must include unequivocal international condemnation of the rocket attacks, including from Arab states,” the letter says. “We support and encourage your efforts to reach such an international consensus through the appropriate forums.

“Furthermore, any solution must end the Gaza blockade in a secure and timely manner, including the possible reopening of the Egypt-Gaza border crossing under Palestinian Authority control. Any solution will need to address the smuggling of weapons and materials from Egypt into Gaza.”

Of the 47 signatories, 39 are Democrats and eight are Republicans. Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) is the sole Jewish signatory.

Among dovish pro-Israel groups, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom and the recently established J Street lobby group strongly back the letter. So do the Arab American Institute and Churches for Middle East Peace, an alliance of mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

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