Burns criticizes Israel supporters in US

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In a meeting with Israeli left-wing political activists and Palestinian

 

Authority cabinet ministers last week, US Assistant Secretary of State for

 

Near Eastern Affairs William Burns made disparaging statements regarding US

 

President George W. Bush's political supporters in the US, intimating that

 

conservatives, Christians, as well as representatives of AIPAC, the

 

pro-Israel lobby in Washington, lack common sense.

This was revealed in minutes of the meeting distributed by the left-wing NGO

 

Peace Now that were received by The Jerusalem Post.

In a meeting on May 4 with the 'Peace Coalition' at the US Consulate in west

 

Jerusalem, Burns spoke for just under an hour with members of the left-wing

 

lobby group about the Quartet's road map plan for Palestinian-Israeli

 

negotiations and its chances for success.

The Israeli delegation to the meeting was comprised of Labor MK Colette

 

Avital, Meretz MKs Yossi Sarid and Ran Cohen, Peace Now chiefs Janet Aviad,

 

Mossi Raz, and Moni Mordechai, as well as Yossi Beilin.

PA ministers Yasser Abed Rabbo and Ghassan al-Khatib, as well as PA

 

officials Nabil Kasis, Samih al-Abed, Nazmi al-J'ubi, Saman Khoury, and

 

Fadel Taboun represented the Palestinian side.

Burns, who held the meeting at the request of the Peace Coalition, was

 

joined by US Acting-Consul General in west Jerusalem Jeff Feldman. It should

 

be noted that in the past Burns turned down requests for a meeting with the

 

right-wing lobby group, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria

 

and Gaza. Repeated requests by the council for meetings with US Ambassador

 

Dan Kurtzer have not even received a response from the US Embassy, according

 

to Council Spokesman Yehoshua Mor-Yosef.

Although the meeting was closed to the media, according to Peace Now

 

spokesman Yariv Oppenheimer who distributed the minutes of the meeting, 'Its

 

contents were not meant to be a secret.'

This view was disputed by Consulate spokesman Chuck Hunter, who expressed

 

the opinion that the contents of the meeting were in fact meant to be kept

 

between the participants.

According to the minutes of the meeting, Burns explained that among other

 

factors that stand to contribute to the success of the road map is the fact

 

that the US primary elections are set to begin only in October.

It has been widely reported that Bush stands to lose support among his core

 

voters if he is perceived as pressuring Israel to make concessions to the

 

Palestinians before the elections.

According to the minutes of the meeting, MK Avital 'expressed reservations

 

about the US Conservatives, Christians and AIPAC.'

Avital alleged that these constituencies, that are strong supporters of

 

Bush, 'are lobbying to torpedo the road map and suggested that the Americans

 

should help us [the Peace Coalition] to express our views to the American

 

public.'

Following this statement, Avital pressed Burns to discover whether Bush is

 

determined to move ahead with the road map.

In response to Avital's remarks, Burns is reported by the minutes as

 

assuring the meeting's participants of the president's commitment to the

 

plan. Burns then stated his view that 'the common sense of all peoples will

 

override the Conservative and Christian viewpoints once they see the road

 

map's potential.'

Although the participants in the meeting represent but a small fraction of

 

the members of Knesset, according to the meeting, Burns urged the

 

participants to continue with their political activities 'as new peace

 

attempts reflects the peoples will and will result in fundamental changes.'

Oppenheimer explained to The Jerusalem Post: 'It is important to us to show

 

the Americans that there are people here who want peace and that there are

 

Israelis and Palestinians outside of the government ministries and

 

decision-making circles.'

At the same time, Oppenheimer admitted that the Palestinian representatives

 

were in fact official PA personnel.

Hunter, who was preoccupied with Secretary of State Colin Powell's meetings

 

with PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday when reached for a response

 

to the meeting, said that aside from noting his view that the remarks were

 

not meant to be reported 'there is no further comment at this time.'

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

 

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