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
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
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
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.