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Friday, May 08, 2009

Were AIPAC delegates instructed to lobby for a 'two-state solution'?

Earlier this week, I linked an article from JPost whose headline was that AIPAC was sending its delegates to lobby members of the US Congress to sign a petition endorsing the 'two-state solution.' The article included the following in its text:
In this year's lobbying effort, to take place on Tuesday, the AIPAC thousands will be asking their congressmen to sign on to a letter addressed to Obama that explicitly posits the need for a "viable Palestinian state."

It is expected that the overwhelming majority of the congressmen will sign it.
It goes on to describe three different versions of the letter, all of which include language that is somewhat similar to the language contained in the AIPAC talking points I will show you below:
Several versions of the letter are included in the kits being given out to participants in this week's AIPAC conference.

One version, bearing a "United States Senate" letterhead, addressed to Obama, and left open for signature, states: "We must also continue to insist on the absolute Palestinian commitment to ending terrorist violence and to building the institutions necessary for a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side, in peace with the Jewish state of Israel."

This version also gives explicit support for programs such as the US-supervised training of Palestinian Authority security forces.

"The more capable and responsible Palestinian forces become, the more they demonstrate the ability to govern and to maintain security, the easier it will be for [the Palestinians] to reach an accord with Israel," it states.

"We encourage you to continue programs similar to the promising security assistance and training programs led by Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton, and hope that you will look for other ways to improve Palestinian security and civilian infrastructure."

A second, similar version, also addressed to Obama and signed by staunchly pro-Israel Majority Leader Stony Hoyer and Republican Whip Eric Cantor, sets out a series of "basic principles" that, if adhered to, offer "the best way to achieve future success between Israelis and Palestinians."

Among the principles cited is the requirement for the two parties to directly negotiate the details of any agreement, the imperative for the US government to serve as "both a trusted mediator and a devoted friend to Israel," and the need for Arab states to move toward normal ties with Israel and to support "moderate Palestinians."

The clause that discusses statehood demands "an absolute Palestinian commitment to end violence, terror, and incitement and to build the institutions necessary for a viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace with the Jewish state of Israel inside secure borders."

It continues: "Once terrorists are no longer in control of Gaza and as responsible Palestinian forces become more capable of demonstrating the ability to govern and to maintain security, an accord with Israel will be easier to attain."

A third version of the letter, addressed to their colleagues, is signed by Senators Christopher Dodd, Arlen Specter, Johnny Isakson and John Thune.

It states that "we must redouble our efforts to eliminate support for terrorist violence and strengthen the Palestinian institutions necessary for the creation of a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side, in peace with Israel."
On Thursday, I received an email from Melanie Phillips, who had linked to my post, which included a cut-and-pasted email from an AIPAC delegate that denied that they were instructed to lobby for a 'two-state solution.'
I just returned from the AIPAC Policy Conference, where I led a delegation of lobbyists to Capital Hill. We absolutely did not advocate for a 2-state solution. The 3 items on the agenda were:
1. Boosting military aid to Israel. (Not an easy sell in this economy, but I think we succeeded.)
2. Co-sponsoring The Iran Refined Petroleum Act, to force all international corporations to make a decision: Do business with the U.S. or Iran. The object is to create crippling economic sanctions by cutting 40% of Iran's refined petroleum. In addition, any direct negotiations with Iran must have a strict and very short-term time limit.
3. Signing onto a letter insisting that the President uphold the key principles of the peace process. Specifically, (a) the U.S. and Israel should work together and any difference of opinion handled privately. "Efforts to go around or pressure Israel on issues relating to its security and survival are destined to backfire." (b) an enduring solution to peace cannot be imposed by outside parties. (c) America's approach must be as a mediator AND a loyal friend to Israel (c) a unity government with Hamas will present huge obstacles to any negotiations and undermine any attempts at implementation should there be an agreement. (d) the Arab states must play a supporting role by normalizing their relations with Israel.
I emailed three other people who attended the AIPAC conference, one of whom sent me the 'talking points' that were handed out to the delegates, and put me in touch with a senior AIPAC member, who was willing to speak off the record regarding the 'peace process' talking point.
AIPAC officially has not taken a position on the two state solution however that being said it is the official policy of both the US and Israel Govt. and was repeated by many of the US administration and congressional leaders at the AIPAC policy conference who spoke. From Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remarks to AIPAC and statements I have heard him say since taking his office, it appears that he is trying to find a diplomatic way to “refine” the official Israeli govt policy.
Two of the three people I originally emailed felt the email that Melanie received was accurate; the third one was not sure. Here is what the 'peace process' section of the talking points actually says (click on it to enlarge):

The point that's blocked by the watermark says:
As has been the case in every successful peace agreement negotiated thus far, the regional parties themselves must engage in direct, bilateral negotiations. Attempts to impose solutions have never worked.
But what I really wanted you to see was the fourth item under the second bullet point - the list of "key U.S. diplomatic principles for successful Israeli-Arab negotiations."
The United States must insist on an absolute Palestinian commitment to end violence and terror, and to help build the institutions necessary for a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with the Jewish state of Israel.
Obviously, the section I highlighted wasn't in the email that Melanie Phillips got. It's kind of nuanced (and as these things are done, I can almost guarantee you that it took the longest to draft of any paragraph in the entire 10-page document I received). Note that it technically does not advocate a two-state solution, but rather it says that one of the "key diplomatic principles" for "successful Israeli-Arab negotiations" is an "absolute Palestinian commitment" to "help build the institutions necessary for a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with the Jewish state of Israel."


Now I understand where the Post reporter got the idea.

People who were at the AIPAC convention are especially invited to comment. (Yes, I have considered the possibility that the delegates were told orally to omit the part about the 'viable Palestinian state,' and I am trying to check on that now).


Melanie Phillips points to this article from the JTA news wire that explains why AIPAC felt it necessary to try to walk between the raindrops.
Pro-Israel groups on the right and left have assailed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee because of elements of its agenda that emerged from its annual policy conference this week.

The Zionist Organization of America registered a protest about AIPAC’s backing for Palestinian statehood. Meanwhile, three groups that backed the U.S.-sponsored peace process -- Americans for Peace Now, J Street and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom -- rallied supporters to help roll back Tuesday afternoon's Capitol Hill blitz by 7,000 AIPAC delegates, suggesting the organization had failed to fully endorse Obama's peace moves.
None of the positions being taken by any of these organizations is novel compared with what they've done in the past except for this one from American Friends for Peace Now:
Americans for Peace Now encouraged activists to call lawmakers and make the following four points: ... “I am pro-Israel, and I want you to reject efforts to promote new Iran sanctions legislation, or efforts to impose any artificial deadlines for ending diplomacy with Iran.”
The rejection of sanctions against Iran is so far outside the Israeli mainstream that I would be shocked if the Israeli 'mother' organization were to take that position.

Meanwhile, if AIPAC is taking this position, they're headed down a slippery slope:
On the third issue, JTA has learned that AIPAC has signed off quietly on a policy that would involve the United States engaging with a Palestinian national unity government that included individuals approved by Hamas, as long as those individuals explicitly committed to the three principles Hamas abjures: an end to terrorism, recognition of Israel and an agreement to abide by earlier peace agreements. That more or less aligns with the policies outlined in recent week by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
We've been down this road before. It's why we're currently in a situation where the 'Palestinian Authority' accepts Israel's ;right to exist,' while Abu Mazen and Mohamed Dahlan go on television to tell everyone that Fatah still rejects that right and doesn't expect Hamas to recognize Israel either. If (God forbid) there's going to be a 'Palestinian' state at all, Israel would be foolish to allow one of the most fundamental issues - the recognition of Israel's legitimacy - to be covered with smoke and mirrors. I believe that the government that is currently in power understands why recognizing Israel's legitimacy must be explicit and not what we Israelis would call a 'foilershtick.'


At 8:26 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

AIPAC is the Israeli government's de-facto lobbying arm in Washington and has followed whatever policy line Israeli governments wanted to promote in their dealings with the US. Its hard to imagine them supporting a policy line the Israeli government of the day didn't promote.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Laser said...

Is it just a coincidence that the U.S. government decided to drop its case against the two AIPAC employees, and then AIPAC immediately came out for a "two-state" solution?

I think not.

At 12:45 PM, Blogger HolyCityPrayer said...


Sorry to insert an unrelated admin comment.

I have started using Google Reader, and your posts only show up as snippets (the first paragraph more or less, as opposed to the entire post).

Others, such as MyRightWord and What WarZone, are viewable in their entirety in Google Reader.

Unless you are doing this on purpose for traffic purposes, could you consider changing the setting? I imagine it would raise the chances of me and many others like me to read more of your posts..

thanks and drishat shalom. tell Adina that All is well with CZ

At 8:16 PM, Blogger LB said...

Norman, they have done just that in the past. In 2005, well before it was govt policy (because Sharon fired ministers in order to create an artificial majority) - AIPAC was promoting the "disengagement plan." Needless to say, this was before the Knesset had approved it, either.

AIPAC has its own agenda, and by and large is not a positive force (not least because it keeps promoting American "aid" to Israel).

At 9:00 PM, Blogger J. Lichty said...

From a friend who attended the conference:

Two state solution is not a part of the legislation so no lobbying should have taken place regarding that topic. A two state solution was discussed at the conference (mainly explaining (from Perez himself) that Israel will abide by its commitments to prior negotiations (obviously to have a two state solution, you need a partner who doesn't try to blow you up!))

The AIPAC legislative agenda was three-fold:
1) Additional Sanctions on Iran (sanctioning foreign companies - either do business with Iran or with America)
2) There is a letter from Congress sponsored by Eric Cantor & Steny Hoyer reaffirming the peace principles (Members of the House and Senate are circulating letters to President Obama supporting America's efforts to help Israel achieve peace with all her neighbors while upholding the principles that have successfully lead to peace treaties between Israel and both Egypt and Jordan. These key principles include supporting direct, bilateral negotiations between the parties, remaining both a trusted mediator between the parties and a devoted friend to Israel, and insisting on an absolute Palestinian commitment to end incitement and violence against Israel. - From AIPAC website)
3) Foreign Aid to Israel.

At 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As has been the case in every successful peace agreement negotiated thus far..."as in ZERO? Oh, wait, they mean "successful" from the Arab perspective of weakening Israel. Now I get it.

At 9:24 PM, Blogger LB said...

The AIPAC legislative agenda was... 3) Foreign Aid to Israel."Oy.


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