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Israeli Right, U.S. Allies Wary Of Renewed Talks With PA

Dani Dayan

Dani Dayan

WASHINGTON – Israeli settler leader Dani Dayan has made it his mission over the years to warn members of Congress, particularly Republicans, of the dangers to Israel should it negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.

Dayan has been a regular visitor to Washington, his trips often coinciding with developments in the peace process. During the Annapolis talks in 2007-08, Dayan would stand by as Israeli officials met with the media in the lobby of the venerable Mayflower Hotel, just blocks from the White House, and then move in to offer his own spin.

In June, Dayan met with GOP House leaders in a meeting organized with help from the Zionist Organization of America. The meeting was followed by a Washington Jewish Week report that another settler leader, Gershon Mesika, met with 20 Congress members just days before the relaunch of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

The intensive cultivation of relationships on Capitol Hill appears to be bearing fruit. Within days of talks kicking off in Washington last week, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a freshman who attended the June meeting with Dayan, drafted a letter asking the U.S. attorney general to hinder the release of Palestinian prisoners – a move approved by Israel to help kick-start negotiations.

Dayan didn’t ask Salmon to write the letter. That request was made by the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a conservative lobby.

But the congressional measures now being undertaken to impact the trajectory of peace talks have their roots in the warm relations that settlers and their American friends have forged in Congress over the past two decades.

“It was important to meet with the Yesha people,” a GOP official said of the June meeting, using the Hebrew acronym for the settlers’ council, “to find out who the settlers are, what they feel obstacles to peace are, what Judea and Samaria means from a historical perspective.”

In addition to Salmon’s letter, a perennial effort to tighten a 1995 law requiring the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem reappeared just as talks resumed. The strengthened law would remove a presidential waiver that has enabled successive presidents to delay the move on the grounds of national security.

Members of Congress behind both initiatives deny that the measures are intended to scuttle the peace talks. On the contrary, the lawmakers say they are intended to improve the chances of success for the talks by strengthening Israel’s bargaining position and making American parameters clear to the Palestinians.

“There will never be clear sailing as long as there are people who do not recognize Israel as a Jewish nation,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), one of the sponsors of the new Jerusalem bill.

But the settler leaders and the right-wing pro-Israel groups that support them are more blunt about their objectives.

“I told the congresspersons that the strategic choice that John Kerry made to go on with the conventional peace process to try to renew negotiations…will have catastrophic consequences for the American national interests,” Dayan said. “Because when he fails – and he will fail – the fact that the secretary of state of the United States failed will be noticed very clearly in Tehran and in Damascus and in Moscow and in Pyongyang.”

Daniel Mandel, the director of ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy, said his group was gearing up to push back against talks it believes are doomed because the Palestinians remain unwilling to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.

“Our strategy now that negotiations have resumed is to unblinkingly focus on the unregenerative nature of Abbas’s Palestinian Authority,” he said.

Efforts to exert congressional pressure to affect the outcome of peace talks are not new.

Following the launch of the Oslo peace process in the early 1990s, right-wing Israelis and their allies helped pass a congressional bill that would move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem . A separate bill sought to prevent U.S. troops from patrolling the Golan Heights to help cement a peace deal with Syria. Yitzhak Rabin, then the Israeli prime minister, expressed his frustration at both moves.

Back then, the right had mainstream allies; the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbied for the Jerusalem law. AIPAC did not respond to requests for comment on the new Jerusalem bill, which is backed by the ZOA.

Republican House officials say their members are deeply skeptical about the renewed talks, which were launched after an intensive round of shuttle diplomacy by Kerry. Sensitive to Republican mistrust of President Obama’s foreign policy agenda, Dayan said he attempted to persuade House leaders that the peace process would harm U.S. interests. “I would like Congress to explain to the State Department that this is a morally improper way to conduct diplomacy,” Dayan in an interview this week.

Sarah Stern, the director of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, said her primary concern was for the families of those killed by released prisoners, but she acknowledged there was a dividend in alerting Americans to the dangers of the peace process.

“I can’t petition the Israeli government as an American citizen, I can only petition our officials,” Stern said. “But as a sidebar, it’s painful to see Israel has to go through so much just to get the Palestinians to sit down, and it’s a very sad thing that Israel has been subject to so much pressure by Kerry.”

(JTA)

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3 Responses to “Israeli Right, U.S. Allies Wary Of Renewed Talks With PA”

  1. Ch Hoffman says:

    Running to the right of Bibi is never a wise idea; and trying to play American politics to further an Israeli agenda – whatever that agenda might be – is a fool's mission. Does Mr Dayan really think that the Republican party is still in the neo-con mood? or does he think that their hatred for Obama will color their judgement to oppose a peace deal between Israel & the Pals.

    It's a dangerous mission that Mr Dayan is on; and it's one that could be disastrous to all of Israel Jewry, not just for his constituents in the radicalized part of the settler movement.

  2. Peace talks with Abbas will not produce anything, if delays are engineered then Israel can delay releasing 104 terrorists from life sentences. Any way you look at it Abbas is blackmailing Israel to release terrorists for peace. Would the US do the same?

  3. Ltc Howard says:

    Unfortunately,Ron Kampeas provides a left-wing distorted view of what is happening and therefore provide a very poor basis for a sincere person like Charles Hoffman to formulate an opinion and/or a comment.

    Concerning intervention and American political affairs. It has long been the practice of most American Jewish groups to cultivate contacts on all sides of the political spectrum. It is the left wing Democrats who most recently have tried to tie the pro-Israel groups to their Republican opposition.

    In fact it is the United States that has intervened and treated Israel as a vassal state. President Clinton threw his top advisors into defeating Prime Minister Netanyahu. He dispatched his top pollster and his top political strategy advisor to actively work in the opposition campaign. This was done in broad daylight. I heard no objection from the Liberal Democrats about this unwarranted intervention.

    The Obama administration carried public insults to a new high. I would expect that the Israeli public and American Jews demand that the Israeli prime minister received as much respect as the Turkish Prime Minister.

    IT IS NOT A MATTER OF TRUSTING THE US. ISRAEL'S SURVIVAL IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF ISRAEL AND ISRAEL ALONE.

    What is true of the Obama administration is true of EVERY US ADMINISTRATION. Israeli and American Jews would be well advised to review history and realize that US assurances such as that “we will not permit Hezbollah to re-arm” are well meant at the time but will be freqently reneged upon. Another example is Pres. Johnson's reassurance to Israel about preserving Israel's free-navigation rights. There, Johnson lied directly to the Israelis telling them that he was actively organizing an international maritime force to prevent the blockade of the Strait of Tiran , when in fact no such force was ever actually planned or even contemplated.

    It is not only the “Israeli Right, U.S. Allies Wary Of Renewed Talks With PA " but also everyone who has had experience with the Palestinians (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, etc.) We all recognize that : As long as the Palestinians maintain the Arab League position: no negotiations; no recognition; no peace; demand that any area they takeover should be Jew-free. ; maintain that even if they get a State, the residents of the camps on the West Bank, in Jordan, Syria, etc. would not be citizens of this new state but would have the right of unlimited return to the state of Israel; and that all of Israel is unredeemed Islamic territory, THERE WILL NEVER BE PEACE.

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