By Mike Lillis
Following in the footsteps of other leading foreign policy lawmakers, Rep. Howard Berman on Saturday welcomed the news that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have agreed to meet next month to try to hash out the peace deal that's eluded them for decades.
The California Democrat, who chairs of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the development "an important step forward to achieving a lasting solution" to a conflict that's raged since Israel's creation more than 60 years ago.
On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had committed to meeting with President Obama in Washington early next month. The goal is to solidify, within a year, a strategy for creating a Palestinian state under terms all sides can accept.
"While I am under no illusions as to the difficult nature these negotiations will pose," Berman said, "I am pleased that President Abbas has finally accepted Prime Minister Netanyahu’s longstanding offer to move ahead with direct talks."
Berman also praised the efforts of former Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine), the White House envoy to the Middle East.
"Were it not for his tireless efforts — and those Secretary of State Clinton and the Obama administration as a whole — it is unlikely peace efforts would have progressed this far," Berman said.
The comments echo those of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said Friday that a peace deal would "serve as a transformative event in the Middle East."
"Everyone understands the stakes involved and the magnitude of the challenges ahead," he said in a statement. "Overcoming these challenges will require courage, vision, and tenacity from leaders on all sides."