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Twelve Jewish Democrats are among 135 U.S. Congress members urging increased assistance to the Palestinians. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), the Jewish chairman of the House of Representatives’ Middle East subcommittee, and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), an Arab American, initiated a letter sent Monday to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that argued for more funding.

The letter said the increased aid would be critical to bolstering Palestinian moderates now that Rice is convening renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“We need robust diplomacy,” Boustany told JTA after sending the letter. “The U.S. needs to take a lead in this.” The vast majority of signatories were Democrats, and included top Jewish members such as Reps. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Fewer than 20 Republicans signed.

The Jewish groups that led the lobbying effort for the letter were dovish: the Reform movement, Americans for Peace Now, the Israel Policy Forum and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also backed the letter, albeit without proactive lobbying. That stance was controversial and earned criticism from top AIPAC donors who back right-wing causes in Israel.

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