Posted by Lilly from ? (188.8.131.52) on Monday, May 27, 2002 at 2:24PM :
In Reply to: Clarifying the real obstacles to peace posted by Lilly from ? (184.108.40.206) on Monday, May 27, 2002 at 1:49PM :
Issue: On April 18, 2002, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) introduced a new resolution, S. 2194, entitled, "Arafat Accountability Act." S. 2194 blames Yasser Arafat and the PLO for reneging on commitments to renounce terror, for failure to maintain law and order, and for abetting and funding terrorism. The resolution calls for the following sanctions: 1. It prohibits the US Secretary of State and the Attorney General from issuing a visa or admitting to the United States any member of the PLO or any official of the Palestinian Authority.
2. It downgrades the PLO representation in the US by restricting the PLO office in Washington to the functions it conducted prior to the Oslo Accords, and imposes the same travel restrictions on the senior PLO Observer at the UN as those imposed on Iran.
3. It calls on the Secretary of State and the Attorney General to identify and seize the assets of the PLO, the PA and Yasser Arafat in the United States.
4. S. 2194 would also require the Administration to report to Congress every 90 days on any acts of terrorism committed by the PLO or any of its constituent elements. Based on that report, the Administration would have to designate the PLO or its constituent elements as terrorist organizations.
Response: The escalating conflict in occupied Palestine has caused an already tense situation to destabilize the entire Middle East and potentially threaten the vital national security interests of the United States in the region. By introducing one-sided measures, like S. 2194, Congress simply exacerbates an already explosive situation. Moreover, American diplomatic efforts in the Middle East are at a critical juncture. Now is not the time to render serious foreign policy matters into constituency service issues. Congress will better serve the US national interest by supporting diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the current fighting and seeking to effect a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region. The twelve cosponsors of S. 2194 are currently attempting to garner additional support in the US Senate. By gaining as many sponsors as possible, the strategy appears to be to demonstrate to the Bush Administration and to the American public that responsibility for the escalating Middle East conflict rests solely with the Palestinians. By taking action now, ADC members have an opportunity to influence the positions of their Senators.
*S. 2194 is totally one-sided. It does not recognize the devastation dealt to the Palestinian civilian infrastructure under Israeli occupation. It fails to recognize the existence of an Israeli occupation in Palestine. It does not address Israeli illegal settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza. It makes no reference to Israeli government policies or military actions against the Palestinian civilian populations, including collective punishment.
*The Bush Administration opposes S. 2194. Congress has a responsibility to promote the cause of genuine peace and American national security interests at this critical time in the Middle East conflict. The resolution is apt to limit and undermine the Administration's ability to play a constructive role in the region, if and when it chooses to do so.
*Before proceeding with such one-sided legislation, the Senate should hold a serious hearing to discuss the situation in Palestine. Agree with Senator Dianne Feinstein that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should hold a hearing on the legislation, but insist that such a hearing must present balanced perspectives on the situation in the region by inviting testimony from the US Administration, credible and independent area specialists, human rights organizations, Arab-American and American-Jewish representatives.
*S. 2194 does not provide President Bush with political leverage in applying sanctions against Palestinian officials, as claimed by the supporters of the resolution. The situation in the Middle East involves two sides. Blaming only one side is counter-productive and will not lead to the resumption of a thoughtful political dialogue.
*Contrary to the findings of S 2194, Yasser Arafat has repeatedly condemned, in both Arabic and English, acts of terrorism against innocent civilians, including the attack of December 16, 2001. He reiterated his condemnation on February 3, 2002, in his New York Times op-ed piece that was reprinted in its entirety in Arabic in the two leading Palestinian newspapers. A similar statement was issued on April 13, 2002, following a suicide bombing in Jerusalem.
*The visa sanctions proposed in S. 2194 appear to be leveled against the Palestinian people and their representatives, many of whom have fought for years to achieve genuine peace. Palestinian officials participating in peace talks or undergoing US-funded training programs in the US will be directly affected. This provision is self-defeating since it would clearly punish the wrong parties.
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