Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
February 12, 2009 - 1:00am

Washington, DC, Feb.12 – While urgent humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is immediately required, the long-term consequences of the recent Gaza war depend on advancements in the peace process and a settlement freeze, Dr. Ziad J. Asali, President of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) told a congressional hearing today.

Dr. Asali spoke at a Feb. 12 hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia, on the aftermath of the Gaza war, along with fellow panelists David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute. The hearing was attended by the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Howard Berman (D-CA). Dr. Asali summarized a 51-page ATFP written testimony, submitted to the Subcommittee and entered into the record.

Dr. Asali told the committee that, “although Hamas launched reckless and provocative rocket attacks against Israel, Gazans are not Hamas, they are not combatants, and should not be punished.” “As a human being, and as a physician,” he said, “I was horrified by the tragedy that has befallen the people of Gaza by Israel’s disproportionate use of force.” “Their suffering must immediately stop,” he declared.

Dr. Asali called for the creation of a new international mechanism to oversee long-term reconstruction, and emphasized that, “any party blocking the reconstruction process must publicly bear the blame.” He added that, “private reconstruction should be managed through direct bank transfers from the PA to beneficiaries, as proposed by Prime Minister Fayyad,” and that “the Palestinian partner for reconstruction can only be the PA under President Abbas.”

Dr. Asali noted that unless an agreement is reached, violence would continue, but that negotiations “cannot be sustained without expanding the space of freedom in Palestinian cities, and delivering tangible improvements in access, mobility and economic opportunities.” He emphasized that, “settlements entrench the occupation and are the most pressing political and logistical impediment to peace.” “All hopes for progress depend on an immediate settlement freeze, and this is where US leadership must be asserted to preserve the credibility of the two-state solution,” he said.

Subcommittee Chairman Gary Ackerman (D-NY), said in his opening remarks, that in addressing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, “there hasn’t been a deficit of attention, merely a deficit of performance.” “It only looks like we’re going in circles. In fact, we’re spiraling downward,” he said. “I don’t know where the bottom is, but… it will hit with shattering force when, through malice and terror, through shallow calculation and venal self-interest, through short-sightedness and through political cowardice, the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is finally rendered impossible,” Chairman Ackerman warned. He continued, “the downward pressure comes from terrorism and the march of settlements and outposts, from the firing of rockets and the perpetration of settler pogroms.” Chairman Ackerman added that, “a lot will depend on whether Israel – in a break from years of habit – can recognize its own self-interest in the success of this Palestinian enterprise.”

The full text of Dr. Asali’s oral testimony is online at:

The full text of ATFP’s written testimony is online at:

The full text of Chairman Ackerman's opening statement is online at:

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