April 4, 2003

TO: Churches for Middle East Peace Email Network
FROM: Corinne Whitlatch, Director
RE: News from Washington

This week, as the war in Iraq dominates the news and our worries about the Middle East, American supporters of Israel's government came to Capitol Hill to try to block the Bush Administration from moving forward on the "Road Map" peace plan.

About 5,000 members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) came to the annual convention to voice concern about the plan, while attempting to avoid the appearance of a direct confrontation with President Bush. Both Secretary of State Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice spoke in support of the plan, stating that the "road map" is to be implemented, not negotiated, and that Israel must play its part to pave the way. Half the Senate and close to half the House came to AIPAC's Monday night gala.

Then on Wednesday came the Stand for Israel crowd.  The fervent Christian supporters of Israel were addressed by Attorney General John Ashcroft and House Majority Leader Tom Delay who warned against negotiating with the Palestinians as a folly that would "amount to a covenant with death." Delay is reported to view Israel as the biblical promised land.

A number of Republican and Democratic Congressional leaders plan to send a letter to Bush, with the signatures of dozens of members, that urges him to take a position that clearly backs the Sharon government. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-IL) are among those cited as preparing the letter.

Americans for Peace Now and the Israel Policy Forum, two American Jewish organizations that are supporters of Israeli-Palestinian peace quickly responded with messages and action calls of support for the "Road Map" peace plan.

The plan itself has not been released to the public or officially provided to Israel and the Palestinian leadership although reports of its contents have been published.  CMEP will be studying the document and sending you more information and guidance for advocacy.

The following is an update on the advocacy effort by CMEP and others to stop Israel's settlement activity in the occupied territories by placing conditions on new aid to Israel. The Iraq War Supplemental will soon be finalized -- (HR1559 & S 762).  Differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill will be ironed out in a House-Senate conference expected to take place early next week, with the bill headed back to the floors of both chambers for passage before Congress breaks for its Spring recess on April 11th.  It looks like any conditioning on Israel's aid will be limited to the ban on the use of U.S.-backed loan guarantees for activities in the West Bank and Gaza. However, this will probably be inconsequential since it has long been a requirement of all U.S. aid to Israel that it cannot be used in the occupied territories. It is hoped that the recent advocacy focus given the settlement policy will make it feasible for the Administration to press the Sharon government to change its settlement policy.

Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Mission Service, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church.  For further information, see www.cmep.org.