(image via Mondoweiss)
Dear Sen. Begich,
Both you and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, along with 74 0ther U.S. Senators, are signatories of a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, dated Tuesday. In that letter, originated by Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Johnny Isakson, you make a series of statements that beg definition or clarification. I would appreciate your response on these specific statements:
1. You state, "We write to urge you to do everything possible to ensure that the recent tensions between the U.S. and Israeli administrations over the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem do not derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S.-Israel relations."
What evidence do you have that this is actually the case? President Obama stated the same day as your letter that, regarding this same process you reference, "The truth is in some of these conflicts the United States can't impose solutions unless the participants in these conflicts are willing to break out of old patterns of antagonism."
It appears to me that your open-ended criticism of the president on this makes it more difficult for him "to break out of old patterns" when it comes to negotiating.
2. You write "[I]n a reversal of 16 years of policy, Palestinian leaders are refusing to enter into direct negotiations with Israel. Instead, they have put forward a growing list of unprecedented preconditions."
Could it be that Palestinian leaders' concern about a range of issues help fuel their reluctance to regard the Netanyahu government as honest brokers? Just in the past few weeks:
Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank are becoming increasingly militant, even jailing without charges dozens of the most articulate Palestinian advocates for peace.
Word has come out that Israeli assassination squads have been targeting outspoken and articulate Palestinian "Ghandis," in direct violation of decisions by Israeli courts, all the way up to their highest judiciary. The reporters who have disclosed these violations of Israeli law and international law are faced with life sentences for their disclosure of these ongoing crimes.
Several settlements outside of the East Jerusalem area that your letter seems to consider important have also expanded over the past few weeks, illegally seizing or destroying Palestinian property. Surely this complicates what Palestinian negotiators feel they must face. By not addressing the brazen illegality of the East Jerusalem expansion that spurred "the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem," and the other West Bank illegal seizings, your letter seems hopelessly biased.
All of these activities are against international law and the stated policies of the U.S. government. Don't you think President Obama is obligated to base his decisions upon those laws and policies? You letter seems to purport he brush these continuing serious violations aside - for the sake of what?
3. You state "We also urge you to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds that tie the United States and Israel together."
Could you describe to me what those bonds are? Is President Obama merely supposed to take what looks to me like an oath to a foreign government, as you appear to be doing here, or is he supposed to go further?
And who wrote your letter, Senator? Was it vetted by any organizations partially staffed by people who are not U.S. citizens?
Senator Begich, could you please provide a list of other countries to which you think American presidents need to publicly affirm or reaffirm the unbreakable bonds that tie that foreign nation and the USA together?
Is Canada one? Mexico? The United Kingdom? South Korea? Please provide a full list of other countries you feel meet that bill, Senator.
During one of our talks during your 2008 senatorial campaign, you expressed your lack of knowledge about issues concerning Israel and Palestine, and hoped to learn more. I have some suggestions for a tutorial:
Would you like to visit the Gaza Strip or Hebron as part of a Senatorial delegation? Sen. Kerry, who is not a signator of your letter has visited Gaza.
Would you like to meet the parents of U.S. citizens Rachel Corrie or Tristan Anderson?
Would you like to meet the survivors of the U.S.S. Liberty, whose skipper won the Congressional Medal of Honor defending his ship and crew from a hostile attack that killed dozens of their shipmates?
If you would like to do any of the above, I can help, Senator.
Although your letter doesn't go nearly as far in its obsequiousness to a foreign government as did Sarah Palin's reference to the problem that spurred your unfortunate letter, as a "zoning dispute," your letter undermines what may be the best hope for peace in Palestine and Israel in more than a generation.
your constituent, former volunteer and donor,