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Struggling To Be Heard

Rafael Medoff

Many diplomats and even members of Congress shun Yehuda and the Shomron when they visitIsrael, characterizing their 360,000 Jewish residents with the same old tired epithets as “radicals” and “obstacles to peace.” But after years of unilateral concessions, stalled negotiations, and subversive use of humanitarian aid, Congress is finally hearing another voice.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

ear by flagWashington, D.C.

With a new round of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy possibly in the offing, the settlement movement is positioning itself as a player in theMideastpeace process — and potentially a significant one.

After years of struggling to be heard in the United States, representatives of the estimated 360,000 Jewish residents who live in more than 120 cities and yishuvim in the territoriesIsrael captured during the Six Day War gained a recent audience with influential Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The House Republican Conference hosted the meeting, which featured Dani Dayan, a former high-tech entrepreneur and currently foreign affairs chief of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea-Samaria, better known as the Yesha [acronym for the Hebrew Yehudah and Shomron] Council. The meeting, held in the Cannon House Office building on Capitol Hill, also included representatives of American Jewish organizations.

The conference is the GOP’s party caucus in the House of Representatives and helps shape policy for the Republicans both inWashingtonand nationally. Its past chairs have included current house speaker John Boehner, Vice President Dick Cheney, and 1992 vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp.

The meeting was organized by Nick Muzin, director of coalitions for the House Republican Conference. Muzin told Mishpacha that giving the Yesha spokesman a hearing would “provide members of Congress with access to a point of view that is not often heard.” He said the Jewish residents of the territories are often unfairly characterized by the mainstream American news media as “radicals” or “obstacles to peace.” In Muzin’s view, “the true obstacles to peace are the Palestinian leaders who make heroes out of suicide bombers.”

The Republican congress members attending the meeting were Ed Royce of California, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, former chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Peter Roskam of Illinois, the GOP’s chief deputy whip in the House of Representatives; and freshman Tom Cotton, of Arkansas.

Dayan arrived inWashingtonagainst the backdrop of Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort to bring about a new round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to create a Palestinian state in the Judea-Samaria (West Bank) regions. The establishment of such a state would almost certainly involve the forced removal of many of the 360,000 Jewish residents of those territories.

The Yesha envoy sought to explain to the House Republican leaders why creation of a Palestinian state would harm US interests in theMiddle East. He pointed out that without the territories,Israelwould be confined to borders that would be just nine miles wide at its midsection, “meaning that Palestinian missiles could endanger the entire country the same way that rockets fromGazatoday keep Sderot in constant terror.”                    

While advocates of Palestinian statehood contend that a peace treaty with the Palestinian Authority, and the presence of international peacekeeping forces, would blunt the dangers Dayan cited, Dayan saidIsrael’s experience with UN peacekeepers in southernLebanon“proved that such forces are useless, or even hostile.”

Dayan added that if a Palestinian state is established in the territories, “the Iranians will have a major role in it, just as they control the Hizbullah terrorists inLebanonand are propping up the Syrian regime inDamascus.”

The House Republicans were receptive to Dayan’s message.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen in particular voiced doubts on the statehood issue, saying “I don’t know what kind of Palestinian state we can be talking about, when the aid we are giving the Palestinians now is used to incite hatred againstIsrael.”

 

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