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March 17, 2010
Because of the interest you have expressed to me about Mideast peace issues, I wanted to update you on an exciting and insightful trip I recently took to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories.
As you know, I have long been active in promoting peace among the many parties in the region because I believe it is the best way to ensure the security of Israel and recognize the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. Most importantly, I believe that bringing about a resolution to the longstanding difficulties in the region is critical to American national security interests.
The trip I took in late February, my fourth to the region, was put together by two respected organizations - J Street Education Fund and Churches for Middle East Peace. Both organizations are deeply committed to achieving peace between Israel and her neighbors and have spent years in this effort. I was joined on the trip by four of my colleagues in the House, including two subcommittee chairmen of the House Foreign Relations Committee and the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
During our week in the Middle East, we met with people representing a broad spectrum of views and ideologies. Our itinerary included meetings with high ranking Israeli officials such as Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni. We also met with King Abdullah II of Jordan and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian National Authority. Outside of government officials, we met with prominent Israeli and Palestinian business leaders and human rights activists, residents of Sderot, the father of Gilad Shalit, and patients at Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem.
During these meetings, I was struck again by the near universal support for achieving a two-state solution from government officials and private citizens alike, be they Israelis, Palestinians or Jordanians. There are, to be sure, many serious differences about how to achieve this extremely difficult goal. And there are, unfortunately, many people working to thwart this effort. But the overwhelming sentiment I encountered is a yearning to end the strife and violence that has tormented the many peoples of the region for far too long. During this trip, I was particularly touched by the impact of the conflict on children. In meetings with the mayor of Sderot and the Director of UNRWA Operations Gaza, we learned of the the alarming rates of post-traumatic stress disorder in children from both Sderot and Gaza. Each child’s well-being is as precious as another and, if for no other reason, we must continue in the pursuit of peace with these children in mind.
I believe the U.S. can – and must – play a key role in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, so much of the progress toward peace over the past several decades was accomplished with robust U.S. leadership. In recent years, however, the U.S. has not made the pursuit of Middle East peace a priority. But I am confident that President Obama fully understands that without an engaged President, these efforts cannot succeed.
I am proud of my record of support for Israel and a resolution to the conflict that will ultimately result in two states, living side by side in peace and security. When this dream is realized, not only will the Israeli and Palestinian peoples live out the futures they deserve, but our own national interests will be greatly enhanced.
I look forward to hearing what you may think of these important issues.