On February 12, 2009, the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia held a hearing, "Gaza After The War: What Can Be Built On The Wreckage?". The following diaries describe what Congressmembers are publically hearing and saying regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
The previous entries have included the opening statements and testimony:
Part 1:Subcommittee members
Part 2:David Makovsky, Washington Institute For Near East Policy
Part 3:Dr. Ziad Asali, American Task Force On Palestine
Part 4:Dr. Michele Dunne, Carnegie Endowment For International Peace
Part 5:Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute
Part 6:Dr. Safa Rifka, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Today's diary describes the initial portions of the Subcommittee member secondary statements, as well as the questions & answers with the panelists. The webcast can be found at the Subcommittee's hearing page. I am summarizing the statements and using the participant's words as much as possible. The times next to the names correspond to the time of the webcast.
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D,NY-05,Chair) (1:00:00-1:03:00)
~A peaceful, two-state solution seems difficult, if not impossible with Hamas as an active player and controlling Gaza.
~It seems that a lot of energies have gone into theories of how do you get them (Hamas), basically, unelected.
~It would seem that a lot of hope is being placed on elections that might take place, in which they become delegitimized, as far as a part of the government. If Hamas is unelected, do they really go away?
~Is there a different way to deal with this? Is the problem really Iranian generated? Does that have to be solved before the Israeli-Palestinian problem is resolved? Historically, everybody says all the problems in the Middle East, the world, and the universe will be solved if the Israeli-Palestinian problem went away. Do we have it backwards?
Dr. Asali (ATFP) (1:03:00-1:05:00)
~The two-state solution is the best of all possible solutions.
~The two-state solution has not been given enough support to improve the situation well enough in the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority (PA), knowing full well that Hamas has not supported the two-state solution and is not inclined to go along with it.
~I am advocating dealing Hamas out, until they accept the Quartet's conditions.
~What was lacking, unfortunately, was real progress by the Palestinian people on the ground. (Real progress) could not happen under occupation without the cooperation of the occupying powers and without an improvement in the governing system of the PA.
Mr. Makovsky (WINEP) (1:05:00-1:05:40)
~They (Hamas) need to accept the conditions (of the Quartet). If your premise is that the only thing Hamas cares about is power than accomodations could be found. I just believe there are a lot of Islamist Movements in the Middle East, and they have a very heartfelt religious ideology.
Ms. Pletka (AEI) (1:05:40-1:06:15)
~This is not just a political fight (with Hamas). This is an ideological fight.
~Should we put Iran first? The answer is "no", we cannot just walk on one path. We need to work towards an Israeli-Palestinian solution, but we must prioritize the support for terrorism along with Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Dr. Dunne (CEIP) (1:06:15-1:07:00)
~Regarding Hamas, our problem in the US is that we want Hamas to walk the road the PLO walked 20 years ago. Hamas sees the PLO walked that road and it failed.
~It failed for 2 reasons. They (the Palestinians) have no state, and because of their disasterously bad governance and corruption.
Rep. Burton (R,IN-05,Ranking Member)
~You (Dr. Asali) indicated (in your opening statement) that there was a disproportionate amount of pressure put on by the Israeli military, when they went in. I thought they showed a great deal of restraint, because Hamas militants were using women and children in hospitals and Mosques, as shields against Israeli attacks. And the Israelis did stop, so they could minimize the civilian casualties.
~(To Mr. Makovsky):The Washington Times reports that Bibi Netanyahu is the likely winner (of the recent Israeli elections). What is your opinion of that?
~(To Ms. Pelka):There's several high profile Congressional delegations going to Syria in the next couple of weeks. Is this a wise thing to do?
~(To Ms. Pletka):What do you think about discussions with Iran, from the State Department? Do you think Congressional delegations out to be involved in any way, discussing the situation in the Middle East, with any Iranian officials.
Mr. Makovsky (1:08:30-1:09:35)
~I think that by firing rockets from civilian areas Hamas has shown its regard for human life. One of the lessons Israel has to take from this is to set up an urban corps where you designate safe zones that will be manned by soldiers, so it could not be exploited by terrorists.
~With regards to Mr. Netanyahu's policy, he's going to have a broad-based government with Ms. Livni of the Kadima party.
Ms. Pletka (1:09:50-1:10:30,1:11:00-1:11:50)
~I never think it is wrong for Congressional delegations to find out what others are thinking. The only caution that I would have is not to be fooled by talk.
~The US government, foreign service department officers, and political appointees have been talking to the Iranians for years. We should not underestimate the impremateur that the US gives in having meetings with countries and the seal of approval that it conveys. If it is, in fact, a change in position on our part, then it should be accompanied by an expected change in position on the part of the Iranians.
Dr. Asali (1:11:50-1:12:30)
~In response to the remark about Israeli "Disproportionate Force", two things. First, a kill ratio of 100:1 and an injury ration of 50:1 (possibly meant 500:1) is statistical evidence of something disproportionate. (Second)There is a humanitarian aspect that is way too disproportionate.
~Also, the first reaction to the attack on Gaza was blame by several Arab countries (against Hamas), including the head of the PA, President Abbas. It was afterwards, that this relentless attack that resulted in so much destruction, that they (the Israelis) lost support.
Rep. McMahon (D,NY-13)(1:12:30-1:13:;15)
~Is there a humanitarian crisis (in Gaza) or is the situation stable and just awful? Does the US have a bigger role to play in helping the humanitarian side of what is going on the ground there? Do we have to, then, look at the reconstruction and stabilize the situation?
Dr. Asali (1:13:15-1:15:30)
~First off, we need to take lessons from what happened in Lebanon in 2006, where a promise of aid was never delivered after the invasion. Hizbullah took charge of that process for an incredible political benefit.
~Secondly, the present humanitarian situation in Gaza is just beyond terrible. There are problems with water, electricity, roads, housing. There are over 50,000 people without shelter. There is not enough food.
~The convoys, which are supposed to carry aid are still restricted access in every direction.
~The quality of life of the people at every level is probably the worst anywhere in the world.
~This (humanitarian crisis) needs to be addressed, in and of itself as a seperate issue from all the other reconstruction and development that needs to be worked(out) politically. This cannot be politicized.
~I heard criticism of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency in the Near East) from this panel (Ms. Pletka's testimony).
~UNRWA is what we have now, as the main provider of help to Gaza. Over 800,000 people depend on food and other items provided by UNRWA. This cannot be a subject of serious political conversation. Let us get the humanitarian condition controlled.
~Here we (ATFP) propose the Special US Envoy deal with this issue promptly with the Quartet. We recommend the establishment of an international community that adds to the Quartet, Egypt.
~Plus, it's the PA that needs to take political credit for this thing (humanitarian aid).
Mr. Makovsky (1:15:30-1:16:20)
~Key thing (with humanitarian aid) is that PA needs to get the credit. Public support is critical.
~There is going to be a donors conference in Cairo, which is going to be key on the issue of UNRWA. We're not calling on the abolition of UNRWA, we (WINEP) just think that it should focus much more on its humanitarian mission.
~I just think that they (the conditions in Gaza) are terrible. Hamas brought all this on them (the Palestinians) because it cared more about their ideology than their people. But I don't think that means we should stand by. There should be an international effort on assistance and reconstrucion. We should all care about that.
Ms. Pletka (1:17:05-1:17:55)
~There should be no disagreement about the humanitarian situation on the ground. Nor, about the urgency of getting assistance to the Palestinians.
~I do think there is an important role for Congress. This committee and its Senate counterpart can play a very strong role in assuring that American assistance does not go to terrorist organizations, directly or indirectly.
Rep. Inglis (R,SC-04)(1:18:00-1:18:30)
~Maybe assess what you think the approach would be of the new coalition that will be formed in Israel and what their approach to the peace process will be? How will they approach Gaza?
Mr. Makovsky (1:18:30-1:21:30)
~The most likely outcome, whether Mr. Netanyahu or Ms. Livni is the next Prime Minister (PM), is a broader-based government led by Likud and Kadima.
~Building a better alternative in the West Bank is part of the answer (for the peace process). Improving economic institutions that Tony Blair has been working on. Working on security institutions that General Dayton has been working on- training and equiping Palestinian Security Forces, so Israel can pull back to the 9/28/2000 line, the start of the intifada.
~There will be some discussions between the US and Israel over a letter signed by SOS Rice and Mr. (Dov) Weisglass, an aide of Mr. Sharon, about defining settlements to make sure there is no expansion of settlements.
Dr. Asali (1:21:30-1:23:00)
~There are 2 elections that just happened. One is in this country, where there is a clear commitment of the new President and the new Administration to energetically get involved with the Middle East and pursue a two-state solution.
~What happened in Israel is still uncertain, in many ways. But the leader of Israel would have to accomodate his policies to the policies of the US in order to continue the grand strategic relationship. It is hard for me to imagine that the leader of Israel would oppose the policy of the US and stay in charge for very long.
~There are many things that can be done, regradless of what happens (in the Israeli election). One is improving the political conversation that is taking place with the PA, and improving the security and economic situation in the West Bank.
~Empower the PA, by moving forward and forcefully, on the Gaza reconstruction. There is a proposal by PM Salam Fayyad (of the PA) to move 600-800 million dollars through the banking system, a private enterprise solution to the present crisis in Gaza.
~The Israelis can be cooperative by allowing the moneys to go in(to Gaza).
~There are many things that can be done on the margins, as long as the policy approach remains solid towards at two-state solution.
Next Diary: Continue Congressional Secondary Statements and Questions & Answers.