American congressman: US economic woes won’t affect Israel

Herb Keinon – Jpost.com August 23, 2011

The current economic crisis in the US will have no impact on US financial assistance to Israel, US Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said Wednesday.

Hoyer, the second-highest ranked Democrat in the House of Representatives, is leading a delegation of 26 US Democratic congressmen on a tour of Israel and the Palestinian Authority sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Hoyer said he wanted to “make it clear” that the financial challenges confronting the US will not “have any adverse effect on America’s determination to meet its promise to Israel in the form of aid for its qualitative [military] superiority, or for its economic security.”

Hoyer said he did not believe America’s financial challenges would have “any adverse effect on the economic relationship, or assistance, that we give to Israel.”

Hoyer said this assessment was bipartisan, and that a similar message will be brought to Israel next week when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (RVirginia) will head up two Republican delegations, numbering 55 congressmen, to the country.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a meeting he had with the delegation Wednesday, thanked Hoyer and the congressmen for US security assistance and for supporting earlier this year – in a tough economic climate in Washington – the allocation of $200 million for the Iron Dome anti missile system.

Netanyahu also said that if an agreement was reached with the Palestinians, it would entail a significant investment in Israel’s security infrastructure, something that will necessitate additional allocations from Congress.

Hoyer and the delegation are slated to meet PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Thursday in Ramallah.

At the press conference, Hoyer said he will urge Abbas “that consistent with the understandings between the parties historically, the only way to seek progress is through bilateral negotiations between the two sides.”

Asked whether Congress would cut off aid to the PA if it goes through with its bid for statehood recognition at the UN, despite strong US objections, Hoyer – saying he did not want to prejudge the issue – did say “it will not enhance the Congress’s view of going forward with financing.”

“I hope that the PA changes its mind, and decides not to pursue what I believe to be a not productive path,” he said.

Hoyer pointed out that in July the House of Representatives passed a resolution by a vote of 407-6 stating that “the only way to seek a viable long standing peace will be through mutual negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Hoyer said that resolution urged the PA “not to seek unilateral recognition from the UN.”

That congressional resolution, Hoyer added, made clear that the House “believes that seeking unilateral recognition will be contrary to the Camp David accords, it will be contrary to the understandings the Israelis and the Palestinians have had for a long time now: that peace was achievable, and stability, through negotiations between the two parties, not by either party seeking outside confirmation of its own position.

“Clearly both parties will have to agree to a resolution, it will not be imposed either by the United Nations, or by the United States, or by the Quartet.”

Hoyer said that Netanyahu brought up in their discussion President Barack Obama’s call for a return to negotiations to be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, and said that Netanyahu believed that consistent with discussions he had with the president on this matter, that “they were in agreement, essentially.”

“The fact of the matter is that I think it was the observation of the prime minister that President Obama has spoken a number of times about that issue, and that after discussions he thinks they are pretty much in agreement about what will be done in the future.

“I think it’s clear that the president did not mean the 1967 borders [will be the final borders], he made it clear that this was subject to additional modifications, and I think the prime minister believed that to be the case as well.”

A government source, meanwhile, said that during Netanyahu’s meeting with the congressmen, the prime minister said he was opposed to returning to the 1967 lines, and that any agreement would have to take into account both Israel’s security needs and the changes on the ground that have taken place since then.

Netanyahu also said that it needed to be clear to the Palestinians that when a final line was agreed upon, that would end all claims, and there would be a need to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

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