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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

Portland activists advocate for peace on Capitol Hill

The Jewish Review

July 21, 2008

Five members of the Portland chapter of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom visited Capitol Hill on June 24 to advocate for vigorous U.S. engagement in facilitating a negotiated, two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They also met Israeli Knesset Member Yossi Beilin of the Meretz Party.

In a series of meetings with key aides to Senators Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), David Wu (D-Ore.), Darlene Hooley (D-Ore.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the Portland delegation urged greater U.S. involvement in peace negotiations, just days after a tenuous Israel-Hamas ceasefire went into effect.

The Congressional meetings were a part of Brit Tzedek’s fourth annual National Advocacy Days, which brought 140 American Jewish activists from across the country to Washington this year.

“The latest polls show that an overwhelming majority of American Jews support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Hilda Welch, a member of the Portland delegation. “It’s critical that we impress this fact upon our representatives in Congress.”

Emily Polanshek, another Portland delegation member, said “It’s not enough to want peace. Progress toward a negotiated agreement requires action, such as stopping violence and ending settlement activity.”

In addition to visiting congressional offices, Brit Tzedek members heard from Beilin and Daniel Levy, a fellow at the New America Foundation. Beilin and Levy were two of the architects of the Geneva Accords, the draft peace plan hammered out privately by Palestinian and Israeli negotiators frustrated by the lack of progress in official meetings.

In his address to Brit Tzedek members, Beilin emphasized the need for the current administration to continue to play an active role in the peace process, despite the fact that President Bush’s term is coming to an end.

“I think the most important message for President Bush is that a two-state peace is still doable, but time is short,” Beilin said. “Indeed, more and more people are talking about a ‘one-state solution,’ although that would not be a solution for either us or the Palestinians.”

“If the Annapolis process fails,” Beilin continued, “this might discourage the next president from engaging on this issue promptly, and to put it off like Bush. We simply can’t afford to let this happen. The United States must realize that a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is key to resolving many other problems. The opportunity is there. Today, Olmert, (the PA’s Mahmaoud) Abbas and (Syrian President) Bashar Assad are ready to make deals. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity, rather than waiting for new, unknown leaders to emerge.”

“The time to act is now, and I believe we can do it. If Bush fails, the next president should address the problem immediately. Giving up on the Middle East, and thinking that it is something that cannot be resolved, must not be an option. It would be a huge strategic mistake.”

Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, is the largest grassroots Jewish peace organization in the United States, with 38,000 members and supporters nationwide. More than 530 rabbis and cantors are members of its rabbinic network, including nine rabbis and one cantor in Oregon.

 

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