Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) today released a letter just delivered to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas imploring him to return to direct negotiations with Israel and urging him to avoid actions that would be counterproductive to a permanent and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Senators were explicit in their letter: “We strongly urge you not to pursue a unilateral declaration of statehood or recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations later this month. We believe this action does not further the peace process,” they wrote.
“A permanent and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” said Senator Cardin. “It is in the best interest of all parties for there to be two states – the Jewish State of Israel and independent Palestinian state – living side-by-side with secure borders in peace. President Abbas must understand that unilateral action by the Palestinians at the United Nations would be a distraction from the real issues and the real negotiations that must take place to achieve this goal. Mutual respect and security are the foundation for such a lasting peace.” Throughout the summer, Senator Cardin, in his position as a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee and Co-Chairman of the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has actively engaged representatives at foreign embassies, foreign ministries and talked with heads of state in an effort to educate the Palestinians about the potential consequences of any unilateral actions.
“We call on President Abbas to have the courage to change his rhetoric, move his people forward, and sit down at the table with Israel to make the hard choices that will lead to a real Palestine,” said Senator Collins. “As former Maine Senator George Mitchell recently said, the current circumstances are unsustainable. Israel needs a partner for peace, and we urge President Abbas to be that partner at the negotiating table.”
Earlier this summer, Senators Cardin and Collins led the Senate in unanimous passage of a resolution (S. Res. 185) that reiterated U.S. opposition to any unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. It also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and opposed the inclusion of Hamas in any Palestinian unity government unless it is willing to accept peace with Israel and renounce violence. The resolution was cosponsored by 87 other senators.
The text of the letter to President Abbas follows:
September 13, 2011
His Excellency Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian National Authority
Al Muqata’a, Ramallah West Bank
Dear Mr. President:
We strongly urge you not to pursue a unilateral declaration of statehood or recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations later this month. We believe this action does not further the peace process. A permanent and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Since 2002, it has been the policy of the United States to support a two-state solution. However, the United States government, including both the Obama Administration and the Congress, opposes this proposed action at the U.N. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Senate unanimously declared in a resolution (S. Res. 185) its opposition to your potential effort at the U.N. and affirmed our belief that it would be in direct conflict to a meaningful and sustainable peace process for the region. Efforts to circumvent the legitimate negotiation process are likely to fail and may well cause consequences in regards to U.S. policy and foreign aid.
A negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, resulting in two states, a democratic Jewish state of Israel and a democratic Palestinian state living in peace and mutual recognition, which we strongly support, is the only true means of finding peace in the region. We have grave concerns that this vote would disrupt that process.
Benjamin L. Cardin
Susan M. Collins