The following is an abridged version of J. Zel Lurie’s column submitted for the June 6 issue of the Palm Beach Jewish Journal:
It was an unusually comfortable spring day in May and the two couples were able to enjoy an interlude on the White House porch. Did they discuss their children as strangers often do? Did they discuss George Bush’s concept of bringing democracy to the Mideast? Did they discuss the Palestine Anti-Terrorism Act which the House of Representatives had just passed by an eight to one margin? I doubt it because both knew that the Senate version, totally different, would prevail.
The rhetoric on the House bill, labeled H.R. 4681, was against Hamas but, by tying the terrorists to the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the act would hobble US assistance to the PA.
The House version recalled George Bush’s Roadmap of 2003 without mentioning it. The bill called on the Palestinians to end all violence unequivocally. But the Roadmap was two-sided.
The Roadmap, to which all sides still give lip service, calls on Israel to “immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001” and “freeze all settlement activity.”
Peace Now has counted 102 outposts erected in the West Bank since March 2001. And the large settlement blocs adjacent to Israel will be enlarged, not frozen, when Ehud Olmert’s plans go into effect in a year or two.
AIPAC revived the Palestinian provisions of the Roadmap with no quid pro quo from Israel and without the customary provision for presidential waiver in the national interest. Heavy lobbying was carried on by AIPAC. What AIPAC wants AIPAC gets… The final count was 295 cosponsors and the vote on the bill was an overwhelming 361 to 27….
Did the 361 Congressmen who voted for the bill know what they were voting for? Of course they did. The Israel Policy Forum had sent an analysis of the bill to every Congressman. The IPF said:
“We need to l) secure US influence in the region, 2) promote the security of Israel, 3) advance Prime Minister Olmert’s goal of “disengagement” from the Palestinian areas and 4) promote negotiations. This legislation works against each of these goals.”
This was clear enough. But the Congressmen had an out. They knew that the Senate version, S. 2370 met most of IPF’s objections and more. The House bill would never become law. So why antagonize AIPAC by voting against it and be labeled a “supporter of terrorists.”
The Senate bill, among other things, permits the administration to deal with Abbas. Most important to me — according to Americans for Peace Now, which opposed the House version and supports the Senate bill — it adds a 20 million dollar fund for the Secretary of State “to support through Palestinian and Israeli organizations the promotion of democracy, human rights, freedom of the press, and non-violence among Palestinians, and peaceful co-existence and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.”