Since 2000, many Oregonians have watched with concern as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has claimed innocent victims and the hope of both peoples for a better future. As a member of the House International Relations Committee, I have fully shared in that concern. I have been an advocate of stronger United States engagement to advance the vision of a secure Israel and an independent Palestinian state living side by side in peace by working to rebuild a Palestinian Authority that can prevent terrorism and promoting negotiations for a two-state solution. I also opposed the war in Iraq from the very beginning and take no pleasure in being correct that our presence there has made efforts to address the broad range of challenges across the Middle East more difficult.
In the current crisis between Israel and Hezbollah, I believe that the attacks on Israel by Hezbollah are both unjustified and unprovoked, particularly given Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon six years ago. Hezbollah, with the backing of Iran and Syria, seeks only to terrorize innocent civilians and lay waste to the hard-wrought peace between Israel and Lebanon. Since their initial raid across the Israeli-Lebanese border, Hezbollah has continued indiscriminately targeting Israeli civilians with increasingly sophisticated weaponry. It is in this context that Israel has exercised the right of all countries to self-defense, which I support.
I am, however, deeply distressed by the impact of Israeli military actions on Lebanese civilians. Israel must take stronger steps to minimize the harm to innocent Lebanese and to the civilian infrastructure on which they depend. The unnecessary killing of civilians, such as those in Qana, is not only a human tragedy but a tactical victory for the terrorists.
I have been dismayed that the United States has not been quicker to react or more assertive diplomatically to bring about the conditions for peace, missing the opportunity to influence events in a positive direction. We expect more from our country. Because of the risk to Lebanon's democratic future and to the well-being of both Israelis and Lebanese, it is critical that the United States take an active diplomatic role to create the conditions for a sustainable peace and thus make Israeli military action unnecessary. Hezbollah must be disarmed, either by the Lebanese government or by a multinational force, and the Lebanese government should receive the help it needs to extend its control across all of Lebanon and rebuild for the benefit of its people. We must work for a cease fire with a change in the dynamics on the ground, so that we do not sow the seeds of future rounds of attacks, retaliations, death, and destruction. We should seek not only an end to the current war, but to use this crisis as an opportunity to prevent future wars along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
We must also address the broad context of the Middle East in which crises like the current one occur. I support the appointment of a high-level special envoy for Middle East peace that can assist Israeli and responsible Palestinian leaders back on the path towards peace. We should begin the redeployment of our troops from Iraq immediately and develop a political and diplomatic strategy that allows the Iraqis the greatest chance to stabilize their country. Most difficult, yet perhaps most important for the United States, is the need to engage directly, honestly, and forcefully with Iran and Syria. Despite their too often destructive and destabilizing roles, we must seek a new dynamic that brings them into the fold of a regional security framework. Only then will the people of Israel, Lebanon, and the rest of the region experience the lasting peace and security they so richly deserve.