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Letter from Shelley Berkley (Washington, D.C.) to Condoleeza Rice (Washington, D.C.), October 25, 2007, regarding Palestinian state (2 pages); Response from State Department, Jeffrey T. Bergner (Washington, D.C.), November 14, 2007, regarding two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (2 pages)



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SHELLEY BERKLEY 1ST DISTRICT, NEVADA W A Y S A N D M E A N S SUBCOMMITTEE ON INCOME SECURITY AND FAMILY SUPPORT COMMITTEES: 4 0 5 CANNON HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON, D C 2 0 5 1 5 ( 2 0 2 ) 2 2 5 - 5 9 6 5 FAX: ( 2 0 2 ) 2 2 5 - 3 1 1 9 C o n g r e s s of the United States V E T E R A N S ' A F F A I R S SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE ON DISABILITY AND MEMORIAL AFFAIRS SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRADE 2 3 4 0 PASEO DEL PRADO SUITE D 1 0 6 LAS VEGAS, NEVADA 8 9 1 0 2 ( 7 0 2 ) 2 2 0 - 9 8 2 3 FAX: ( 7 0 2 ) 2 2 0 - 9 8 4 1 October 25, 2007 CAUCUSES: CO-CHAIR, GAMING CAUCUS CO-CHAIR, STOP DUI CAUCUS CO-CHAIR, TAIWAN CAUCUS The Honorable Condoleezza Rice Secretary U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520 Dear Secretary Rice: I was deeply concerned to read reports that you have recently declared it is "time" to establish a Palestinian State. I could not disagree more. The Gaza Strip - long home and breeding ground for terrorists and extremists - is now controlled by Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. After Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Hamas set up an armed camp there, overthrew the elected Fatah government and now rains Qassam rocket attacks relentlessly on innocent Israelis living inside Israel. Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist, whether in its pre- or post-1967 borders. Meanwhile, Hamas has increased its strength in the West Bank, where you have recommended a Palestinian State be established. Though Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party currently hold power in that area, Hamas is growing ever more powerful in the West Bank and could someday overthrow the Fatah government there, just as they did in Gaza. When he had the opportunity, Abbas showed neither the strength of character nor the will to disarm and defang Hamas. I have zero confidence that Abbas will suddenly develop the strength, will or skills necessary to disarm Hamas or to lead the Palestinian people in the future. Since Oslo, the Palestinian Authority has done nothing to demonstrate that it can govern its people, let alone govern a state. Its leaders have refused to disarm terrorists and have allowed groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad to flourish within its borders. They have continued to inculcate their children with extremist ideology. Fatah's own constitution still calls for its "armed struggle" to continue until "the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated" with a Palestinian State established "on all Palestinian lands." It still opposes "any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine." There is no reason to believe that statehood would somehow change Fatah's own bloody history. Establishing a state in the West Bank would create another new failed state. At best, Fatah would rule with an iron fist, while secretly allowing terrorists to use its territory as PRINTED ON RECYCLED PAPER a base for attacks against Israel. At worst, it could become a state sponsor of terror, breeding a whole new generation of terrorists, ready to attack Israeli and U.S. interests in the region. Iran and Syria have clearly sought to interfere in the region for their own purposes. A Palestinian State in the West Bank would only strengthen that axis' foothold there, providing them another base of operations to spread their ideology and influence. Indeed, Hezbollah is already re-armed in Lebanon and ready for another round in its fight with Israel. They have dug trenches and tunnels even more complex than those they had built prior to the war in 2006, and are continuing to smuggle arms from Syria while they receive training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. They appear to be ready to do battle with Israel at a moment's notice and are doing everything they can to destabilize the government of Lebanon. A Palestinian State in the West Bank would allow Iran and Syria to expand their influence in the region and destabilize moderate Middle Eastern nations. I do not believe that the road to stability in the Middle East must go through the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This myth is a cynical ploy by Middle East autocrats to distract the world from the biggest problem in the Middle East: themselves. If the world's attention is on Israel and its alleged misdeeds, no one will focus on the real issues that plague the region. As the global leader, we must not fall prey to this myth placing the burden of Middle East peace on Israel's shoulders. It is not Israel's fault that millions of people in the Muslim world live in poverty; it is not Israel's fault that no Arab countries have free and fair elections; it is not Israel's fault that Sunnis and Shi'ites continue to kill each other in Iraq. Solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will do nothing to solve these problems. In fact, an unstable Palestinian regime might serve to exacerbate the problems that plague the Arab world. Far from being "time" to establish a Palestinian State, this is the worst possible time. If the Bush Administration is looking for a diplomatic victory, it should look for one that does not endanger a fellow democracy and a critical ally in the fight against Islamist extremism. Sincerely, SHELLEY BERKLI Member of Contress United States Department of State Washington, D.C. 20520 NOV 14 2007 Dear Ms. Berkley: Thank you for your letter of October 25 sharing your views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Bush has made it clear that helping Israel and the Palestinians reach a two-state solution is a priority of his Administration. We are committed to this vision, not because we are persuaded of a linkage between this conflict and other regional issues as you mentioned in your letter, but because we view the two-state solution to this longstanding conflict as a key national interest. The President and the Secretary believe the present circumstances, particularly the existence of a legitimate Palestinian Government that accepts Israel's right to exist, rejects the use of violence, and accepts agreements previously negotiated with Israel, currently offers an unprecedented opportunity to advance the goal of a Palestinian state that will be a democratic, peaceful neighbor of Israel. Israel's leadership shares this assessment. We would quote Prime Minister Olmert, who recently stated, "For many years we made do with declaring that there is no partner, but now all signs indicate that there is. We aren't deluding ourselves. We all saw what happened and is still happening in Gaza. However, we can't and don't want to ignore the moderate voices in Ramallah. We can't be blind to the fact that the elected leader of the Palestinian people, President Mahmoud Abbas, believes as we do that the solution to the conflict is only through negotiation." Like Prime Minister Olmert, we believe that the Palestinian Authority, under President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, is committed to peace. On July 22, 2007, Prime Minister Fayyad submitted to the Palestinian Legislative Committee his Government's political platform which reflects the Quartet principles: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, and acceptance of all previous Palestinian commitments and obligations. The Honorable Shelley Berkley, - 2 - This Administration is unalterably committed to Israel's unique identity as a Jewish and democratic state and we will defend against any action that would compromise Israel's security. Indeed, we are investing a great deal of diplomatic effort in order to ensure that an eventual Palestinian state is democratic, sees its own and Israel's security as inter-linked, and has the institutional capacity to implement its agreements. We hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to contact us further about this or any other matter of concern to you. Sincerely, Jeffrey T. Bergner Assistant Secretary Legislative Affairs