Administration’s Misplaced Priorities to Push for a Deal May Jeopardize U.S.-Israel Relations and a Future Peace Deal, Says Ros-Lehtinen

May 8, 2014

Administration’s Misplaced Priorities to Push for a Deal May Jeopardize U.S.-Israel Relations and a Future Peace Deal, Says Ros-Lehtinen

 

“I don’t doubt Secretary Kerry’s earnestness in wanting to find a mutually beneficial deal between the parties – I share that earnestness, I doubt that anyone on this subcommittee would disagree – but from the beginning I questioned the prioritization of this endeavor in light of so many other pressing matters in the Middle East and North Africa region.”

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement at a Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee hearing titled “The Palestinian Authority, Israel and the Peace Process: What’s Next?” Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“Last July, Secretary Kerry, together with negotiators from Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), announced that the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations had restarted. Here we are now: nine months later and what do we have?

We have a peace process that fell apart, yielding no positive results, leaving both parties with an even greater distrust of one another. In fact, the legacy of this failed round of talks could be that it ended up causing more harm than good, as it seems to have moved Fatah and Hamas closer to reconciliation, while Abu Mazen continues his push for de facto recognition at the UN – both of which will have serious implications for U.S. policy toward the Palestinians.

There are laws on the books that prohibit U.S. assistance to any UN agency that accepts a non-existent State of Palestine amongst its ranks, and though the Administration continues to seek a waiver in order to gain the funding to this, I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure it does not get this authority.

And then there is Palestinian Anti-Terror Act – a bill that I authored that eventually became law – that prohibits U.S. assistance to a Palestinian government that would have any members of Hamas amongst its ranks. Should reconciliation happen and Hamas becomes a part of the Palestinian government, I fully expect Secretary Kerry and the Administration to enforce the letter of the law.

I don’t doubt Secretary Kerry’s earnestness in wanting to find a mutually beneficial deal between the parties – I share that earnestness, I doubt that anyone on this subcommittee would disagree – but from the beginning I questioned the prioritization of this endeavor in light of so many other pressing matters in the Middle East and North Africa region.

To say that this task was one better suited for Sisyphus would be an understatement. Secretary Kerry’s faith that Abu Mazen and the PLO could sit down with Israel this time and somehow come to the table with a newfound desire to actually achieve peace with Israel was misplaced.

The PA and Abu Mazen have shown time and time again that it is a corrupt entity incapable of governing the territories, unwilling to see a two-state solution in which two nations could exist side by side in peace. And so, one has to question the amount of time, effort and resources spent chasing the unattainable – at least under the present conditions – when there is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent history occurring in Syria, transition to democracy impediments in Egypt, and Iran continues its support for terrorism worldwide and its nuclear ambitions have not waned.

Over 150,000 people in Syria have been killed while millions have fled to neighboring countries or have been internally displaced, and the Administration’s policies – undefined and indecisive – have failed to adequately address this issue.

According to the State Department’s recently released global terrorism report, al-Qaeda and its affiliates are on the rise and becoming more aggressive in places like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and North Africa; Iran continues to be the world’s foremost State Sponsor of Terrorism, actively targeting Israeli and U.S. interests, increasing its presence in our own hemisphere and Africa, and of course, is still propping up the Assad regime in Syria.

All of this while the Administration continues to negotiate with the regime in Tehran over its nuclear ambitions, even though State’s own assessment is that Iran continues to refuse to prove its nuclear program is instead for peaceful purposes. And these are just a few of the fires that need to be put out in just the Middle East and North Africa region, yet the failed peace talks have managed to fan the flames.

The signed reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas signifies that Abu Mazen is more interested in making peace with terrorists than with Israel, but it reveals who Abu Mazen really is; he’s a man who has never been a true partner for peace, but rather an obstacle toward peace;

Abu Mazen is a man more interested in taking U.S. taxpayer money and using it to pay salaries of convicted Palestinian terrorists with Israeli and American blood on their hands than he is in running an effective government that could lay the foundations for an independent state; Abu Mazen is a man who is corrupt and uses cronyism to maintain his position as the head of the PLO and the PA, and fears losing that control and thus will never make the hard decisions for the benefit of the Palestinian people at his expense.

This hearing is important to understand how and why this latest attempt at peace between Israelis and Palestinians failed, and allows us to take a closer look at the real obstacles to peace in order to better formulate U.S. policies as it relates to the PA.”