Sunday, July 18, 2010

Working for peace in the Middle East

By Rep. Bob Goodlatte
R - 6th Congressional District

Earlier this month I had the invaluable opportunity to travel to Israel as part of a Congressional delegation. The delegation met with a variety of Israeli and Palestinian government leaders to discuss issues related to the ongoing violence in the region and efforts to further the peace process.

Arab-Israeli conflict has marked practically every decade since the founding of Israel and numerous attempts at the peace process have failed. During my visit, which was organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, I saw firsthand the challenges that face Israel, challenges that are often shared by the United States. Protecting Israel, much like the United States, against global terrorism, is a vigilant effort. With every attack in the Middle East, it only emphasizes the fact that we need to remain vigilant in our war against global terrorism.

The delegation traveled to Jerusalem where we met with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel. At the meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, we discussed the future of the peace process and negotiations with the Palestinian National Authority.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has been calling for direct negotiations with the Palestinians for the past fifteen months. For peace talks to be successful all issues, including the economic and security arrangements for an independent Palestinian nation and recognition of the right of Israel to exist in peace without threat of terrorist or other attacks emanating from a new Palestine, must be decided as part of these negotiations. The delegation also met with Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, with whom we specifically raised this issue, reminding the Prime Minister that direct negotiations are key to a real and lasting peace in the region and the future economic prosperity of the Palestinian people.

Additionally, during our meeting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his concerns regarding Iran and their stated goal of destroying the state of Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed the importance of expanded sanctions against Iran. An Iranian government in possession of nuclear weapons would be intolerable for most of its Middle East neighbors and the rest of the world as they are already the sponsor of most of the terrorist attacks out of Gaza and Lebanon and thus the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East. For this reason the Congress recently passed, with my support, and President Obama signed into law the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act. This legislation significantly strengthens the sanctions against Iran in an effort to restrict their illegal nuclear activities. Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his strong support for this legislation and spoke of the vital role it will play in promoting peace in the Middle East.

The Middle East is an area rich in a history marked by long-standing hatreds and disputed land claims. While the quest for peace is daunting, we must remain steadfast in our pursuit, for we have a vested interest in trying to stop the terrorist violence that occurs daily in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

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