Key Members of Congress Sign Rothman/Austria Anti-Incitement Letter

— Aaron Keyak

Incitement, especially by official [Palestinian] institutions, damages the prospects of reaching a peace agreement between the Palestinians and … Israel, and only encourages terrorism.

Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) and Congressman Steve Austria (R-OH), both members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, sent the following letter to President Barack Obama. It requests that his administration do all in its power to insist that President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, reenter peace talks, without preconditions, and demands that President Abbas eliminate all incitement against Israel and the Jewish people coming from his government, Palestinian entities, or officials.

A majority of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, 39 members, signed the Rothman/Austria letter. In addition, 7 Members of Congress signed onto their letter who did not sit on either of those committees, bringing the total number of signers to 46.

Full text follows the jump.
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We live in an increasingly complex world.  Recently, we have been bombarded by news and images from around the globe about the popular uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and throughout the Middle East.  We have seen the effects of yet another devastating earthquake, which struck Japan just weeks ago, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without homes and countless others dead.  And we continue to live with the constant threat posed by North Korea’s and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as well as the danger of nuclear proliferation at the hands of terrorists.  We write to request that, while all of these events are consuming the daily news coverage, we not take our eye off of working toward a goal that is close to all of our hearts: a peaceful and secure Jewish State of Israel.

We are sure that you share our disappointment in President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to withdraw from peace talks in October of last year and his stubborn refusal to reengage as a willing partner for peace with Israel.  The continued intransigence of the Palestinian leadership is both hurtful to the prospect for a two-state solution and to a final resolution of the conflict that still plagues the Israeli and Palestinian people.  Unfortunately, we live in a time when the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades will rush to take credit for the horrific, inhuman, and brutal attack in Itamar against the Fogel family, including three of their children, an 11-year-old, 4-year-old, and 3-month-old.  This must serve as a wakeup call that the current state of affairs is dangerous and unacceptable.  In that regard, we respectfully request that you do everything possible to urge President Abbas to root out terrorism, return to negotiations without preconditions, earnestly work toward peace with Israel, and slam the door on any effort to deal with final status issues at the United Nations.

As part of that, President Abbas must fully renounce any and all Palestinian incitement against Israel and the Jewish people.  On March 8, 2009, a number of us sent President Abbas a letter calling on him “to truly end anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement,” but clearly there needs to be further pressure.  Palestinian incitement continues and there is almost no effort by them to promote coexistence and peace.  We would like to bring to your attention a report recently released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office entitled “Culture of Peace and Incitement Index,” that unfortunately shows that Palestinian incitement continues.  Television programs run by the Palestinian Authority and textbooks in government schools continue to praise martyrdom and terrorists and call for an armed struggle against the Israelis.  Incitement, especially by official institutions, damages the prospects of reaching a peace agreement between the Palestinians and America’s strategic partner and indispensible ally, the Jewish State of Israel, and only encourages terrorism.

It is our hope that an independent Palestinian state can be realized, living in peace alongside the Jewish State of Israel.  While the United States must not and cannot impose a solution, our country has an important role to play in encouraging the two parties to restart direct negotiations.  We respectfully request that you and your administration do all in your power to insist that President Abbas reenters peace talks, without preconditions, and demand that President Abbas eliminate all vestiges of incitement coming from his government, Palestinian entities, or officials.

Sincerely,                          

STEVEN R. ROTHMAN                              
Member of Congress                                      

STEVE AUSTRIA
Member of Congress

List of signers:

House Appropriations Subcommittee on State of Foreign Operations

Frank Wolf, Virginia
Tom Cole, Oklahoma
Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida
Charles Dent, Pennsylvania
Steve Austria, Ohio
Nita Lowey, New York
Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Illinois
Adam Schiff, California
Steve R. Rothman, New Jersey

House Foreign Affairs Committee

Chris Smith, New Jersey
Dan Burton, Indiana
Dana Rohrabacher, California
Donald Manzullo, Illinois
Ed Royce, California
Steve Chabot, Ohio
Mike Pence, Indiana
Joe Wilson, South Carolina
Connie Mack, Florida
Michael McCaul, Texas
Ted Poe, Texas
Gus Bilirakis, Florida
Jean Schmidt, Ohio
Bill Johnson, Ohio
David Rivera, Florida
Tom Marino, Pennsylvania
Jeff Duncan, South Carolina
Renee Ellmers, North Carolina
Gary Ackerman, New York
Brad Sherman, California
Eliot Engel, New York
Russ Carnahan, Missouri
Albio Sires, New Jersey
Ted Deutch, Florida
Dennis Cardoza, California
Ben Chandler, Kentucky
Brian Higgins, New York
Chris Murphy, Connecticut
Frederica Wilson, Florida
William R. Keating, Massachusetts

Members on neither committee

Shelley Berkley, Nevada
Robert Dold, Illinois
Gary Peters, Michigan
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington
Jan Schakowsky, Illinois
Patrick Tiberi, Ohio
Henry Waxman, California

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