Media Mention of Ziad Asali in Arab News - May 5, 2009 - 12:00am§ion=0&article=122202&d=5&m=5&y=2009

WASHINGTON: To thunderous applause, former Republican House leader Newt Gingrich attacked President Barack Obama’s policies in the Middle East, promoted military action against Iran, and assailed diplomatic engagement as weakness at the American Israel Political Action Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington.

Just before he went on stage late yesterday, Gingrich told The Jerusalem Post that the president’s policy with Israel and Iran was a “fantasy” and that Obama was “endangering Israel” by trying to work toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But Gingrich may be out of step with the times, as participants at the AIPAC conference are being told to urge their elected representatives to press the Obama administration for that goal.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the house, is considering a 2012 presidential run and wants to re-establish himself as a top leader in the Republican party as the GOP struggles to redefine its identity after losing the presidency last year.

He berated the Obama administration for what he said was setting itself on a collision course with Israel and endangering the Jewish state, and called Obama’s Middle East policies “very dangerous for Israel.”

“They are systematically setting up the most decisive confrontation that we’ve ever seen,” he told lobbyists and policy-makers attending AIPAC, referring to news reports about the administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“AIPAC is not just about Israel,” he said. “AIPAC is about the American-Israel relationship, because the future of America and Israel are inextricably intertwined. A world which destroys Israel will certainly destroy the United States.”

He added that creating prosperity among Palestinians was important, and that the US should be helping their leaders grow their society and crowd out Hamas.

Gingrich also blasted his own party, accusing the Bush administration of also being too soft on Iran, which he said should be in the crosshairs of the American Armed Forces.

J. Street, a Washington-based “pro-Israel. Pro-peace” lobby, issued a statement yesterday condemning Gingrich’s words, noting that 78 percent of American Jews voted for Obama and over 70 percent of American Jews support Obama’s policies toward Israel and the Middle East. Gingrich’s views, it said, “represent a small, though politically outspoken, minority of the Jewish community.”

Gingrich’s speech also appeared to be behind the times with AIPAC’s strategy, as AIPAC members are calling for a two-state solution even though Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has refused to endorse a two-state solution to resolve the Palestinian conflict.

AIPAC’s annual conference culminates each year with a mass lobbying effort, in which the thousands of participants from across the United States spread out across Capitol Hill for meetings with their respective members of Congress and encourage them to endorse policies and positions that AIPAC believes will advance the American-Israeli interest.

In this year’s lobbying effort, to take place today, thousands of AIPAC members will be asking their congressmen to sign on to a letter addressed to Obama that explicitly posits the need for a “viable Palestinian state.”

It is expected that the overwhelming majority of the congressmen will sign it. It is not known whether Netanyahu will publicly endorse a two-state solution when he meets here on May 18 with Obama, but the Israeli press is reporting that it is widely assumed that, privately at least, he will make plain to Obama his government’s commitment to previous accords.

Several versions of the letter are included in the kits being given out to participants in this week’s AIPAC conference.

One version, bearing a “United States Senate” letterhead, addressed to Obama, and left open for signature, states: “We must also continue to insist on the absolute Palestinian commitment to ending terrorist violence and to building the institutions necessary for a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side, in peace with the Jewish state of Israel.”

It also gives explicit support for programs such as the US-supervised training of Palestinian Authority security forces.

“Palestinian-Israeli peace based on two-states – Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace and security — is an Arab, Israeli and, most importantly, American interest,” Dr. Ziad Asali, President of the Washington-based American Task Force on Palestine told Arab News in response to these developments.

“Anything else would condemn Israel and the whole region to perpetual conflict. Rather than approaching this as a matter of partisan politics, our national interest would be better served by supporting the administration’s serious drive for peace and stability in the Middle East. We are gratified by recent signals from the Congress that indicate a solid base of support for President Obama’s policy on this issue,” said Asali.

Also Sunday, beleaguered Rep. Jane Harman used her platform at AIPAC to insist she’ll clear her name after Congressional Quarterly released NSA wiretaps caught her vowing to help two AIPAC employees accused of espionage in exchange for political help. Charges against the two AIPAC employees were quietly dropped last week.

Barbara Ferguson


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017