Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rep. Berman Encourages the Palestinians to Negotiate. Will He Lean on the Israelis to do so in Good Faith?

Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to accept Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's offer of negotiations. While Netanyahu did offer to negotiate with any Arab leader in his June speech, he stipulated that any such Arab leader recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and said any future Palestinian state must have severely curtailed sovereignty and Jerusalem would remain entirely in Israeli hands.

It is encouraging to see an influential congressional committee wading into the Middle East peace process. However, let us hope congressional leaders also pressure Israel to take more realistic and less inflammatory positions. Obama and the Congress should not allow Netanyahu to deflect pressure onto the Palestinians while holding to such outlandish preconditions that effectively scuttle talks before they begin.