On March 26 Arab-American leaders handed Secretary of State Madeleine Albright petitions with 6,000 signatures demanding the U.S. exert pressure on Israel to halt the Har Homa settlement in East Jerusalem that has brought the peace process to the brink of collapse.
Hala Maksoud, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), handed the petitions to Albright during a meeting at the State Department attended by a number of Arab-American leaders. They urged the U.S. to send a clear message that the settlement must be canceled by slashing the $5 billion in U.S. foreign and military aid to Israel.
Maksoud assailed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a policy of "ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem which aims at reducing to a minimum the Palestinian population of Jerusalem through laws and policies aimed at asserting exclusive Israeli sovereignty over the Holy City."
The Har Homa settlement is in flagrant defiance of U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338 which require Israel to withdraw from all the territories occupied in the 1967 War, including the Arab parts of Jerusalem. The settlement is also in defiance of the Oslo Peace Agreement signed in September 1993 which stipulates that the status of Jerusalem is to be settled by the "final status negotiations" with the Palestinians.
The Clinton administration has played a duplicitous role. On the one hand, the White House expressed "dismay" that Israel forged ahead with the Har Homa settlement.
On the other hand, the U.S. vetoed a U.N. resolution condemning it. Both actions are consistent with Washington's long-standing policy of pitting Middle East nations against each other to insure control of the region and its fabulous oil resources.
At an emergency meeting in Cairo last week, Arab leaders weighed a resolution calling for a freeze in diplomatic and trade relations. King Hussein of Jordan wrote an angry letter March 10 to Netanyahu blaming him for "the accumulating tragic actions which you have initiated at the head of the government of Israel, making peace - the worthiest objective of my life - appear more and more like a distant, elusive mirage. I cannot believe that the people of Israel seek bloodshed and disaster and oppose peace."
This moment calls for an outpouring of messages from the people of the United States demanding that President Clinton exert maximum influence on the Israeli government to cancel the Har Homa project and comply fully with the Oslo Agreement and U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338.
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