At the end of May, Congresswoman Edwards traveled to Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip along with Democratic Congressmen Brian Baird (WA-03) and Peter Welch (VT-AL). While there, she met with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, Adviser to Prime Minister Ron Dermer, Sderot Mayor David Buskila, Chair of the Settler Movement's Yesha Council Danny Dayan, and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni. She also met with Palestinian Authority government ministers in Ramallah, and Palestinian political leaders Hanan Ashrawi and Mustafa Barghouti.
According to an interview in the Washington Jewish Week following her trip:
* America, would be making a big mistake if it allows Israel to substitute "outpost closures" for full "settlement closures" throughout the country.
"It was so clear to me, when you drive through the countryside" in the West Bank "and look at the hills where you have" large Jewish settlements amid smaller Palestinian ones, "you could actually see how that would impede any lasting peace agreement with borders that actually leave room for a Palestinian state."
* Following a meeting with Danny Dayan, chair of the Yesha Council, which advocates on behalf of Israeli settlers, Edwards concluded that "natural growth," or the view that settlement expansion is a natural and necessary process, is an obstacle to a functional two-state solution.
"It will be impossible to" form a separate Palestinian state "if settlements are allowed to continue to develop."
* Of the Israeli government's apparent refusal to halt the expansion of settlement communities, Edwards said that President Barack Obama could provide a much-needed diplomatic boost. "Obama's leadership right now in this process is really critical to where we end up," she said.
* Playing political observer as the Knesset members debated a controversial bill that would make it a criminal offense to, in any form, define Israel as anything but a Jewish and democratic state, Edwards says she was appalled when that measure passed a preliminary vote.
"It was really shocking," she said. "We watched the vote happen and we watched the debate, which was really fascinating because I didn't think it would win."
The bill -- which eventually died, but would have effectively silenced those who defame the state -- epitomized for Edwards "what it means to be in the Arab minority."
"As an African American woman, I really didn't have a perception of a significant minority population in Israel, and there is," Edwards explained. "It struck me that there are issues that are raised in any country when you have to balance the interests of the majority with the minority" so that "people feel like they enjoy the full breadth of their citizenship. In Israel, this is a work in progress."
In addition to her trip, Edwards' support for a more active approach to diplomacy in the Middle East led her to sign a recent letter, supported by J Street, urging President Obama to be a key player in the push for a final peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. She did not sign a competing "Dear Colleague" letter supported by AIPAC. Of that letter, the Congresswoman said, "I wasn't comfortable with the language" and "(the letter) really didn't speak to my concerns about what needed to happen in the (peace) process."
Here is the fundraising letter from Jeremy Ben-Ami, Executive Director of J Street:
Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D, MD-04), one of JStreetPAC's first endorsed candidates, is under attack from the right-wing for her views on Israel - and she needs our help right now.
Last week, Politico ran a story entitled "Should Edwards be shvitzing?," quoting three separate Jewish community officials in her district signaling "concern" about her "reservations about support for Israel that others" don't share. Now, some are "preparing to back a primary challenge to Edwards." All because she doesn't buy their hawkish views of what it means to be pro-Israel.
This is exactly how -- for decades -- established pro-Israel groups have enforced right-wing message discipline on Israel in Congress. They intimidate Members of Congress, particularly junior ones, and threaten to fund a challenge.
But not this time -- and not to our friend Donna Edwards.
Let's show that there's real support for pro-Israel, pro-peace members of Congress by helping Congresswoman Donna Edwards scare off any possible challengers.
Make sure to put a note in the comment on the contribution form that your contribution is for Donna Edwards. Your entire contribution will go directly to her campaign.
Even early in her Congressional career, she has fast become a real leader on our issues. She's supported every Congressional resolution and letter backing strong U.S. leadership to achieve a two-state solution. She's spoken out on the need for an end to violence, an end to settlement expansion and for greater humanitarian aid for Gaza.
She's proudly refused to toe a hawkish line on Israel, while reaffirming her belief that Israel will only be secure when the US engages strongly to bring about a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
"As Americans, we have a strong interest in ensuring peace, stability, and security for Israel and the entire Middle East, and that is why I urge American diplomacy to be active and fully engaged in the region with our international partners to find a lasting solution," Congresswoman Edwards stated this January.
She's already visited Israel and the West Bank, and is one of a handful of Members of Congress to have visited Gaza this year to get a first-hand view of the situation.
The status quo may want to scare Congresswoman Edwards away from taking a leadership position on these issues within her party and in Congress. We need to send a message that this kind of intimidation doesn't fly any longer. Thanks to you - and to JStreetPAC - Congresswoman Edwards will have the funds she needs to fight off any challengers.
Don't forget to put a comment in the contribution form that your gift is for Donna Edwards' campaign.
Thanks so much.
June 9, 2009
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