Rep. Smith: ‘Israel Needs To Do More’ To Facilitate West Bank Progress

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"Rep. Smith: ‘Israel Needs To Do More’ To Facilitate West Bank Progress"

Soon after taking office, President Obama began following through on his promise to make resolving the Israeli-Arab dispute a priority for his administration. A central element of his approach was bringing U.S. policy back into balance in regard to previous Israeli and Palestinian commitments, which in Israel’s case meant a halt on construction of settlements in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem.

Earlier this week, ThinkProgress sat down with Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) to discuss, among other foreign policy issues, President Obama’s policy toward creating a lasting and secure peace in the Middle East.

Smith said that the president “is starting to push along on both sides what needs to be done,” to get to a two-state solution, and that “Congress by and large is very supportive of that.”

Affirming his strong support for Israel, and recognizing “the difficult balance they have had to strike between trying to reach some sort of peaceful settlement while at the same time protecting their citizens,” Smith also said that Israel has “to take further steps. And the settlements are part of it”:

But also in the West Bank you know you have the check points, you have the fact that Palestinians have a hard time just going through the daily life that most of us take for granted, and that does not put them in a particularly positive frame of mind towards working a peace agreement — I’m talking about the moderate Palestinians who really do simply want to find some sort of resolution. So I think recognizing that Israel needs to do more in the West Bank to help the Palestinians develop a real state so that the people will support it has got to be part of the process. Settlements are part of that issue, checkpoints are part of the issue, the economy in Palestine is part of that issue.

Watch it:

CAP Senior Fellow Brian Katulis recently returned from a trip to the region, during which he conducted a number of interviews with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and analysts. A report he co-authored with Marc Lynch and Robert Adler — “Window of Opportunity for a Two-State Solution” — can be read here.

Full transcript below.

REP. ADAM SMITH: Well it really comes down to, you know, supporting the two-state solution, [and] are you committed to that. And I think we need to be. I think the president has laid that out, and he is starting to push along on both sides what needs to be done to get there. And Congress by and large is very supportive of that. And I’m, you know, a strong supporter of Israel. Certainly, you know, respect the pressure they have been under for a long time, the violence that they have had to face, and the difficult balance they have had to strike between trying to reach some sort of peaceful settlement while at the same time protecting their citizens. But they’ve got to take further steps. And the settlements are part of it, but also in the West Bank you know you have the check points, you have the fact that Palestinians have a hard time just going through the daily life that most of us take for granted, and that does not put them in a particularly positive frame of mind towards working a peace agreement — I’m talking about the moderate Palestinians who really do simply want to find some sort of resolution. So I think recognizing that Israel needs to do more in the West Bank to help the Palestinians develop a real state so that the people will support it has got to be part of the process. Settlements are part of that issue, checkpoints are part of the issue, the economy in Palestine is part of that issue. And actually I give a little credit to the Bush Administration, under General Jim Jones, he was over there working on actually doing economic development in the West Bank, recognizing that the plan of just every few years, Palestinian uprising, try to push it down, you know, that’s not helping anyone. Certainly not helping Israel. You have to create a decent economy in the West Bank, you have to, well, do basic development policy–that’s part of counter-insurgency policy. Want to stop an insurgency? Provide for the people. And they actually started to do that. Jenin is a town where they first implemented this policy, and apparently there has been a fair amount of success in terms of helping get some economic growth in there so that Palestinians see a future and have some opportunity. I think there is pretty strong support for that, in the country and in the Congress in general, its going to be a very, very difficult process. But I think he’s moving it forward in the right direction.

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