Kucinich, Hinchey: Secretary Rice Should Press Israel for Real Settlement Freeze

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET

Many U.S. policies should change to help bring about peace in the Middle East.

But in some cases, existing U.S. policy just needs to be implemented.

Such is the case with respect to U.S. policy towards the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated:

"Settlement activity should stop -- expansion should stop."

Unfortunately, the Israeli government does not appear to believe that Secretary of State Rice is serious. The Israeli government is moving forward with plans to build hundreds of new homes for Israeli settlers in the West Bank, in violation of international law and in violation of pledges that the Israeli government made at the peace conference in Annapolis.

Many Americans would like to change the perception that the U.S. is not serious about opposing Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. Thousands of Americans have written to Congress urging action. In response, Representatives Kucinich and Hinchey are circulating a Congressional letter to Secretary Rice, praising her for stating U.S. opposition but asking her to press that opposition more firmly. The letter will be sent on May 15; you can ask your Representative to sign it here.

The stated policy of the U.S. and its allies is to support Palestinian President Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad, and to try to improve conditions for Palestinians to support prospects of a peace agreement. It's surely worth considering, then, what Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad said recently about settlement expansion:

Salam Fayyad, the western-backed Palestinian prime minister, warned separately yesterday that Israel must freeze all settlement activity and ease restrictions on movement in the West Bank if peace talks are to have any chance of succeeding. Fayyad also called on Israel to alleviate the "catastrophic" crisis in Gaza.

"Unfortunately, in the five months since Annapolis, Israel has done little, most significantly with its continued noncompliance with the obligation to freeze all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories," Fayyad said. "The language is very clear: it says 'not one more brick,' and we have witnessed expanded settlement activity."

If that did not change quickly the peace process would be "devoid of any meaningful content," Fayyad added.

Here is the text of the Kucinich-Hinchey letter:

We wish to applaud your recent statement, following your meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that "[s]ettlement activity should stop -- expansion should stop." We commend this sensible approach and urge the Administration to stand firm on this policy.

As you know, construction of more settlements will undermine a two-state solution. A peaceful resolution to conflict can only be achieved with the support and trust of both Israelis and Palestinians.

For that reason, the Administration's peace initiative should include an effective diplomatic response to the Israeli government's March 31, 2008 announcement regarding plans to build hundreds of new settlements on occupied land in the West Bank. We urge you to use your influence to ensure that the commitment to a "settlement freeze" made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Annapolis peace conference is fulfilled.

In addition to undermining the peace process, settlement expansion contravenes international law.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states, that "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." Your continued emphasis on halting settlement activity is critical to ongoing peace negotiations.

We look forward to your continued commitment to this important issue.

You can ask your Representative to sign the Kucinich-Hinchey letter here.