If Congress was in charge of negotiating Middle East peace

WASHINGTON – In a September 28 interview with Walla News, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman promised that the Trump administration would unveil within months a peace proposal to Israelis and Palestinians. With few details emerging from the White House, Jewish Insider asked several Members of Congress what they think should be included in a U.S. plan.

Representative Francis Rooney (R-FL) who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee noted, “Nobody is going to go for dividing Jerusalem… I think it will be a nonstarter for Israel. It ought to be a nonstarter for any Judeo-Christian country.” The Florida lawmaker emphasized that he supports a two state solution but contends that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Regarding the Palestinian demand for a right of return to be included in any proposal, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican during the George W. Bush administration, added, “What kind of refugees? Are they literate, are they going to be criminals or radicalized? That’s a whole other can of worms.”

“If the Palestinians believe that they need a capital in Jerusalem, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable position to take at the negotiating table,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) explained. The Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee pointed to the Geneva Accords as a model, a 2003 initiative between Israelis and Palestinians that would have established a Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders with land swaps on a 1:1 basis. “What the final peace agreement will likely look like is not the problem. The problem is engaging in a process that gets everybody to yes and then lets the hecklers on each side not attack the negotiators,” Ellison said.

Wearing a lapel pin featuring both Israeli and American flags, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) emphasized the importance of having Israel’s back in any diplomatic proposal. “The Palestinian peace plan begins with the strength of our Israeli brethren. Any peace plans with the Palestinians must lean towards power and strength… Israel is the only place where Arabs live free in the Middle East.” When asked if the Trump administration initiative should include a reference to the two state solution, Higgins replied without clarifying, “The Bible answered that question long ago.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) called for a more evenhanded US role. “I don’t think we can be passive about the things the Israeli government might be doing with regards to unilaterally continuing to build settlements,” he said. The Arizona lawmaker asserted that the Palestinians “absolutely” have a right of return, despite opposition by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The Palestinians as they perceive their homeland to be should have some level of being able to return to their place,” he concluded.

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