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Israel

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. BERKLEY. I thank the gentleman from Florida very much for putting this Special Order together in order to discuss an issue that is very important and that is certainly front and center on the international scene today as it has been for the last several weeks. I also thank you, Mr. Deutch, for your extraordinarily steadfast support for the State of Israel and for the strong American-Israeli relationship that we work on and attempt to foster every day.

Madam Speaker, I rise to support our closest friend and ally, the State of Israel, and to support the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. We must oppose Abu Mazen's misguided and dangerous effort to bypass negotiations with Israel and go to the U.N. with a unilateral resolution in order to create a Palestinian state. The ramifications of that are extraordinary. They could destabilize the entire Middle East, put Israel on the defensive at the International Criminal Court, and create a failed terrorist state right next-door to the State of Israel--controlled by the Iranians, I might add.

The Palestinians have claimed that they're going to the U.N. because they have no partner to negotiate with, but it is the Palestinians, not the Israelis, who refuse to negotiate. They demand--and they demand it time and again--that Israel cease all settlement growth in the West Bank before they would be willing to sit down and negotiate for peace and a Palestinian state with the Israelis.

I think it's time that we talk and remember the exact history--and it's not such ancient history either. Even a full settlement freeze is not enough for Abu Mazen. In the summer of 2009--if we can remember back to that time--the Netanyahu government, at great political risk, agreed to freeze all settlement growth for 10 months. Did Abu Mazen and the Palestinians sit down at the negotiating table with the Israelis? There were 10 months of a moratorium--certainly enough time to negotiate a peace agreement that would bring lasting peace to the Palestinian people and a Jewish State of Israel. Did he do that? No, he did not. He waited over 9 months to begin negotiating with Israel and only sat down at the table with weeks left on the Israeli moratorium. Then what did they do? The Palestinians demanded that the Israelis extend the moratorium. They did nothing for nine of the 10 months. Then they wanted to expand the moratorium.

This is not the behavior of a true negotiating partner. What type of negotiating partner invites Hamas, a terrorist organization, to join them and become part of the Palestinian Authority? Certainly not a peace partner that wishes to bring peace and a Palestinian state to the Middle East.

The Israelis, by contrast, have shown their commitment to negotiations and have repeatedly called on the Palestinians to join them at the negotiating table. When Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu addressed the United States Congress in a joint session on May 24, he reiterated his willingness to make painful compromises in order to reach peace with the Palestinians, but the Palestinians have turned their backs on the negotiations or on any form of compromise and have gone to the notoriously anti-Israel body, the United Nations, where they believe they will receive more sympathy and, ultimately, success.

I appreciate the Obama administration's strong statements that they will veto any Palestinian statehood effort at the Security Council, but I am deeply concerned that the Palestinians will receive overwhelming approval at the General Assembly.

Today, the Palestinian Authority has tentatively agreed to merely introduce their resolution for a unilateral declaration of statehood in the Security Council and then ask that no action be taken until they negotiate with the Israelis. This concerns me greatly. What type of way is this to negotiate? Put a gun to Israel's head, and every time the Palestinians don't like the way the negotiations are going, the Palestinians can threaten that they're going back to the United Nations? I don't think this demonstrates a true interest in sitting down and negotiating for a Palestinian state.

Let me tell you, as I conclude, what I think we can do; and we should do it immediately.

Congress must act. We must send a clear signal to the Palestinians that we will not continue to support them with our foreign aid dollars if they choose to act unilaterally and avoid negotiations.

I will not continue to throw taxpayer money away at the Palestinians when they are refusing to negotiate in good faith for a Palestinian state.

I have introduced H.R. 1592, which would cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority if they unilaterally declare a state outside of negotiations. I hope my colleagues will join me in cosponsoring this timely legislation. We must send a clear message to the Palestinians that their efforts to circumvent negotiations are unacceptable and the only way to statehood, the only way, is at the negotiating table.


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