There’s a letter circulating through Congress by Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN) and James Risch (R-ID) that has gotten the National Council of Churches affiliate Churches for Middle East Peace all hot and bothered. Complaining that the letter isn’t “balanced,” they are urging mainliners to write their congresscritters asking them to not sign it. The reason why it isn’t “balanced,” of course, is that it doesn’t ask the president to pressure Israel for concessions, probably because the president is already doing that. According to CMEP:
Senators Bayh (D-IN) and Risch (R-ID) are asking their colleagues to join them in signing a letter to President Obama that urges Arab states to make “dramatic gestures toward Israel” without mentioning any obligation of Israel to stop the expansion of settlements in Palestinian territories. This old and unbalanced approach compromises a key element in negotiations and undercuts the President’s efforts to get comprehensive talks started. Only policies of holding both sides accountable, as now pursued by the President, hold out hope for a lasting peace.
The reason for the letter, if I were guessing, is that the senators have seen that Obama’s policy is basically to demand various concessions from Israel (for instance, a halt to all “settlement expansion,” even simply adding new units to existing developments, in any territory the Palestinians claim, including the heart of Jerusalem itself, or lifting of the restrictions on movement in and out of Gaza, despite the continuing flow of weapons into the Strip) without asking anything in return from the Palestinians except that they stop terrorist activities (i.e., behave like civilized people and not barbarians). Bayh and Risch are asking Obama to balance his demands on Israel with some substantive concessions from the Arab states:
We write in support of your efforts to encourage Arab states to normalize relations with the State of Israel.In your June 4th address to the Muslim world, you highlighted the key role that Arab states can play in furthering the peace process and called on them to openly recognize Israel’s legitimacy. Secretary Clinton underscored these remarks when she stated that Arab countries “have a responsibility to support the Palestinian Authority with words and deeds, to take steps to improve relations with Israel and to prepare their publics to embrace peace and accept Israel’s place in the region.” We applaud these comments and agree with you and Secretary Clinton that Arab states must do more to end their isolation of Israel.
Over the past few months Israel has taken concrete measures to reaffirm its commitment to advancing the peace process. Notably, Prime Minister Netanyahu has publically [sic] expressed support for the two-state solution and called for the immediate resumption of peace negotiations. We have also been encouraged by Israeli efforts to improve the daily lives of Palestinians, through measures such as removing roadbloacks, assisting with economic development in the West Bank, and supporting the training of professional Palestinian Authority security personnel. These actions have demonstrated that Israel is willing to back up its word with concrete actions, even in the face of continuing threats to its security.
We encourage Arab leaders to take similar tangible steps to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process. Such steps could include ending the Arab League boycott of Israel, meeting openly with Israeli officials, establishing open trade relations with Israel, issuing visas to Israeli citizens, and inviting Israelis to participate in academic and professional conferences and sporting events. We also believe Arab states must immediately and permanently end official propaganda campaigns which demonize Israel and Jews.
Given these facts, we would like to understand what steps you are urging Arab states to take and what your expectations are from Arab states in the coming weeks and months. We also hope you will continue to press Arab leaders to consider dramatic gestures toward Israel similar to those taken previously by brave leaders like King Hussein of Jordan and Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt. Such gestures would send a powerful signal that Arab nations are committed to the peace process and could help usher in a new a new era of peace and security in the Middle East.
Truth be told, what Bayh and Risch are asking for are actions that are either 1) in the interest of the Arab states themselves, such as normalizing trade relations; 2) symbolic gestures that can easily be ignored down the road, such as meeting with Israeli officials; 3) what nations that acknowledge they are dealing with fellow nations do; or 4) simply civilized, such as stopping the daily outpouring of anti-Semitism in the Arab press. They wouldn’t even need to do all of these things, but could hold some in reserve as future bargaining chips. All in all, it’s a pretty moderate letter, simply asking the president to do to the Arabs what he has already done to the Israelis.
And yet CMEP (and many of the usual suspects on the anti-Israel left and its Muslim allies) have with concerted hysteria gone ballistic over a letter that asks for balance by claiming that it is unbalanced! Apparently it is OK for the United States to make demands for unilateral concessions from its one democratic ally in the Middle East, but it cannot even be suggested by members of Congress that the Administration ask for any balancing concessions from the various authoritarian and anti-Semitic regimes unless they reiterate, ad infinitum, the demands on Israel.