Posted on June 28, 1999 in Washington Watch

U.S. allies of Israel’s outgoing Likud Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu have been working overtime to damage what remains of the Middle East peace process.

Several pieces of legislation currently being considered in the U.S. Congress are designed to tie the hands of the U.S. Administration with regard to the movement of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to damage U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority.

Much of the legislation is supported by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) a group which frequently acts as a U.S. front for pro-Likud, anti-peace policies. The legislation has been introduced by a number of Senators and Congress people known for their anti-Arab and anti-peace process positions.

It was only one week ago that President Clinton announced his decision to delay any action in moving the U.S Embassy in Israel. The Administration made it clear that while it was open to consideration of some form of compromise with Congress, it would not formally move the embassy because to do so would: damage the peace process and damage the U.S. role in the on-going negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

In response, some members of Congress are considering actions that would force the Administration to do their bidding.

This is but one of the damaging efforts underway in the Congress. A few of the other proposed bills are:

    ·a resolution condemning the use by the Palestinians of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (the “partition resolution”);

    ·a resolution opposing the convening of a special session of the Fourth Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilians in Times of War, on the grounds that such a session would “single out Israel” for blame;

    ·a bill requiring the Clinton Administration to link U.S. aid to the Palestinians to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) fulfillment of specific requirements, among them: opening their books to an international audit and verification of their collection of weapons;

    ·a bill calling on the Administration to tie U.S. aid to the Palestinians to the PA’s “full cooperation in combating terrorist violence”; and

    ·a bill requiring the State Department to issue a report every six months detailing progress made by the Palestinian Authority in “investigating and prosecuting terrorist suspects involved in the murder of U.S. citizens.”

And this is not all. Pro-Likud U.S. organizations have been waging an intense public relations battle against the Palestinian Authority focusing on U.S. citizens who have been killed in terror attacks in Israel and the occupied territories. The Clinton Administration maintains that the Palestinian Authority is cooperating with them in investigating these attacks. But some members of Congress are still seeking to exploit this issue to embarrass the Palestinian Authority. They have organized letters to the President protesting what they call the “cover-up” of Palestinian Authority non-cooperation, proposing the convening of a congressional hearing to investigate the matter and introducing a number of bills calling for a variety of sanctions against the Palestinian Authority.

The pro-Likud groups responsible for these congressional actions have, since the beginning of the peace process, made clear their contempt for the process and for any efforts that would result in Israel relinquishing land to the Palestinians.

In the aftermath of the signing of the Oslo agreement, these groups were spurred into action by then Likud-leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. They initiated a number of efforts designed to thwart the peace process. As early as 1994 they were successful in creating congressional monitoring committees to scrutinize and criticize the Palestinian Authority.

These efforts were so biased and disruptive that the late Israeli Prime Minister Rabin publicly denounced them. Noting that Netanyahu had sent three Israeli Likud officials to the United States to organize these anti-peace initiatives, Rabin condemned them as the work of the “gang of three” and stated that it was “unprecedented and unacceptable” that an Israeli opposition party open such a lobbying office in Washington.

With the election of a hard-line Republican majority in November 1994 the Likud campaign found an ally in Congress. Both groups were anti-Arab and shared an antagonistic view of the Clinton Administration. By focusing on emotional issues that resonate among some in the Jewish community–Jerusalem, anti-Palestinianism and terrorism–these groups were able to silence most critics in the mainstream Jewish organizations and get “knee-jerk” support from many members of Congress conditioned to being anti-Arab and pro-Israel.

As a result of their work, U.S. aid to the Palestinians was encumbered by humiliating and burdensome conditions and U.S. policy has been severely constrained by congressional micro-management.

These pro-Likud front groups have outflanked the more mainstream pro-Israel lobby. Unable to muster the political will and courage to oppose these anti-peace efforts, the established lobby frequently ended up supporting them.

Now with the Likud once again going into opposition, their U.S. supporters have once again intensified their efforts to harm the peace process, to embarrass the Labor-led government in Israel and to bully the U.S. Administration and stymie its role in the peace process. The effort is so transparent and its various components are so biased that the situation would be laughable–if its impact were not so deadly serious.

What is most intriguing about all of this is all of these legislative actions are proceeding without the support or even the knowledge of the U.S. public (or the majority of the American Jewish community). It is a private and dirty war being waged by Likud and its U.S. supporters in the Congress against the Palestinians, the Administration, the newly elected government in Israel and peace.

A vigorous campaign to expose these destructive measures and to inform the U.S public about the biased anti-peace role played by Congress wold be an effective counter measure against this private dirty war.

For comments or information, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org

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