Lawmaker calls for peace talks between deceased Arafat, comatose Sharon

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) is seeing his foreign policy credentials come under fire after calling for Middle East peace negotiations between deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma since 2006.

Pitts's remarks were included in a form letter his office sent to a constituent last month. His office blames a bureaucratic snafu, but Pitts's Democratic opponent in the November election sees an opening.

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“Being this completely out of touch with such a major foreign-policy matter is inexcusable,” Aryanna Strader wrote in an email to supporters, according to the web site PoliticsPA. “If we are ever going to change Congress, we must change who we send there. And that is why I am asking you to please make a $16 contribution to our campaign today.”

The form letter was sent in response to a constituent who objected to a pro-Israel House resolution last year. The constituent's son posted the year-late response on the Mondoweiss news site over the weekend. By Tuesday, Pitts was being lampooned by The Times of Israel.

“With the global war against terrorism,” Pitts's response reads, “it is now incumbent on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasir Arafat to clamp down on Palestinian extremists that have perpetuated violence and to restart a peace process that has collapsed.”

Pitts's office issued a statement Tuesday explaining the snafu:

“Congressman Pitts responds to tens of thousands of constituent inquiries a year. Because it is impossible to draft a unique reply to each inquiry, language is often reused for similar responses. In this case, a double mistake was made. Language that should have been archived was included in a draft response. The response was then pulled from the queue because of the error, and then mistakenly sent almost a year later. Responding to tens of thousands of letters a year is a complicated process. Mistakes are both few and rare, but do sometimes occur. This one was particularly embarrassing. We have apologized to the constituent and are reviewing our internal process to make sure this sort of thing can’t happen again.”