Leach Calls on President to Seek Immediate Ceasefire
Congressman Jim Leach and three House colleagues called on President George W. Bush to seek "an immediate ceasefire" between Israel and Hezbollah, to be followed by "intensive diplomacy to establish an international military force in southern Lebanon, dismantle Hezbollah's military capabilities, facilitate the return of kidnapped Israeli soldiers, and support the ongoing development of an autonomous, democratic government in Lebanon."
In a letter to the President, Leach said, "achieving a ceasefire agreement must be the first step in our diplomatic effort to achieve a just and lasting resolution to the conflict, not the end result." The conflict, he noted, is intensifying "anti-Israeli sentiment in Lebanon and in the region," a development that "works against Israel's long-term interests and our own national security interests."
The three other congressmen who signed the letter were David Price (D-NC), Lois Capps (D-CA) and Bob Filner (D-CA).
They also urged the President to appoint a special Middle East peace envoy, as proposed in H.Res. 954, which Leach introduced last week.
Text of the letter follows.
July 28, 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President;
We write to urge you to join our allies in seeking an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, with the understanding that such a ceasefire must be followed by intensive diplomacy to establish an international military force in southern Lebanon, dismantle Hezbollah's military capabilities, facilitate the return of kidnapped Israeli soldiers, and support the ongoing development of an autonomous, democratic government in Lebanon.
This crisis was precipitated by neither Israel nor Lebanon. Hezbollah's unprovoked raid across the internationally recognized border between the two nations, and its subsequent rocket attacks - explicitly aimed at civilian targets - left Israel no choice but to defend itself. But the continuing conflict is costing the lives of innocent civilians on both sides of the border, is destroying Lebanon's infrastructure nationwide, and has the potential to escalate beyond the immediate theater. For these reasons, we cannot allow the current violence to continue.
Press reports have indicated that your Administration would not support a ceasefire agreement until Hezbollah is entirely disabled. We believe this to be strategically naive. All indications suggest that Israel's campaign to root out Hezbollah from southern Lebanon faces far greater challenges than anticipated, and that even several additional weeks of fighting may make little difference in the terms of a ceasefire arrangement. As the New York Times recently reported, "Israeli Army officers are saying that it is probably unrealistic to expect that the military can wipe out Hezbollah's well-hidden and widespread arsenal," even with a prolonged campaign. Moreover, as the conflict drags on, anti-Israel sentiment in Lebanon and in the region is drastically escalating, a development that clearly works against Israel's long-term interests and our own national security interests.
Achieving a ceasefire agreement must be the first step in our diplomatic effort to achieve a just and lasting resolution to the conflict, not the end result. Once a ceasefire is achieved, it is essential that your Administration work with our allies to achieve a settlement that protects the people of both Israel and Lebanon from threats posed by Hezbollah and external forces. At a minimum, such a settlement should include the return of kidnapped Israeli soldiers and a process for fully dismantling Hezbollah's military capabilities in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559. Our diplomatic efforts must also include a significant U.S. support for the pro-democracy forces that captured the majority in the Lebanese government in the wake of the Cedar Revolution.
It is also clear that a long-term, multi-national security force will be required in Southern Lebanon to monitor a ceasefire and prevent a re-emergence of Hezbollah. Such a force must have significantly greater capabilities and stronger international backing than the current UNIFIL mission. The establishment of a security force, which will be needed in the region until a lasting peace is secured, cannot be accomplished without the assertive leadership, and the strong financial backing, of the United States. Israel has made clear it would welcome a strong multi-national force in southern Lebanon, and we should begin the hard work of assembling it now.
We are acutely aware that the lives of many thousands of Israeli and Lebanese civilians are under constant threat as a result of this conflict, and we mourn the lives that have already been lost. We urge you to act now to prevent the unnecessary loss of additional lives by committing to a long-term U.S. diplomatic engagement in the region, beginning with a call for an immediate ceasefire. We also urge you to give favorable consideration to Rep. Leach's proposal for appointment of a special Middle East peace envoy.
David Price Lois Capps
Bob Filner James Leach