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Campaign Offers Support for Diplomacy

WASHINGTON — The chairman and the vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission are among the 100 prominent Americans who have helped launch a campaign to build public support for American efforts to achieve a two-state solution in Israel.

The chairman, former Republican governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean, and the vice chairman, former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, have both signed an online petition unveiled last week aimed at galvanizing support for American peacemaking efforts. The effort is being organized by the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East, a non-partisan group that operates the newly create Web site Mideastcalm.org.

The petition’s objective is not to create another organization, but to show President Bush he has the vast majority of Americans standing behind him as he begins what the group hopes is a sustained effort to bring forth a diplomatic solution, several leaders of the group said.

“President Bush has committed himself to a Palestinian state in four years,” said Hamilton, the former chairman of the House International Relations Committee, during the group’s opening press conference last week. “No issue polarizes relations between the U.S. and the Arab-Islamic world than this one. Stabilizing Iraq, reducing Iranian and Syrian influence, spreading democracy — are all tied to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Another of the group’s leaders, former New Hampshire governor Jeanne Shaheen, said: “I believe that’s because people here understand — whether they’re from Nashua, N.H., or Cedar Rapids, Iowa — that what happens between the Palestinians and Israelis will affect us. In this post-September 11 world, we have come to understand that violence and terrorism in one part of the world can lead to violence and terrorism here at home.”

Joel Tauber, a longtime Jewish communal leader from Detroit, said at the press conference, “It’s my firm conviction that we have the best opportunity for peace since the founding of the State of Israel.” The drive, he said, “is to ask the president to remain focused and active.”

Other supporters of the petition drive include: former secretary of state Madeleine Albright; former senators George Mitchell, a Democrat from Maine, Warren Rudman, a Republican from New Hampshire and Alan Simpson, a Republican from Wyoming; former Michigan governor James Blanchard, a Democrat, and Seymour Reich, president of the Israel Policy Forum and past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

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