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Rep Ackerman Clarifies Position: Supports Peace, Supports Obama, Supports Settlement Freeze

Americans for Peace Now has an important story clarifying the views of Rep Gary Ackerman (D-NY) on the Obama administration’s push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians:

On the heels of this morning’s historic Obama speech in Cairo, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) — the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia — issued a statement this afternoon entitled “ACKERMAN URGES FREEZE ON SETTLEMENT CONSTRUCTION, NOT GROWING FAMILIES.” (the text is not yet available online, so the document is copied at the end of this post).

The genesis of this statement is reports in the Jewish press last week that seemed to imply that Chairman Ackerman was endorsing so-called “natural growth” of settlements, and was thus breaking publicly with President Obama’s demand for a settlement freeze that includes “natural growth.” Earlier this week, an article in the Capitol Hill newspaper “Politico” used apparent Ackerman quotes to bolster its highly questionable thesis that even Democrats in Congress are urging Obama to “back off” on the settlement issue.

Well, whatever the Jewish press and Politico thought (or hoped) Ackerman’s views might be, today’s statement is clear: Chairman Ackerman is not saying families shouldn’t grow, or that people should not have babies, but he is saying that settlement construction must stop, period. This is the view that the Chairman, clearly and unequivocally, has articulated today. It is a welcome and important clarification from Chairman Ackerman.

I did an item critical of Ackerman based on that Politico report, so I feel a special obligation to correct the record. Ackerman, as a Jewish representative from a district with many Jewish constituents, has — like Rep Robert Wexler (D-FL) — an especially important role to play as an advocate for a progressive approach to the region. He should be the kind of member who signals to other members that it’s kosher to be against settlement expansion.

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Meanwhile, it’s too bad that The Washington Post thinks its readers need to get commentary on this issue from the slipshod and dishonest Charles Krauthammer. Much better information is available at TAP Online where Gershom Gorenberg has a piece on the truth about settlement expansion, including the fact that “natural growth” apparently includes the ability of current residents of Israel proper to buy heavily subsidized housing in West Bank settlements.