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Ex-Pentagon Chief Calls for Peace Plan

WASHINGTON — In a press conference last Monday, former secretary of defense William Cohen called for stepped up American efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The event was organized by the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East. The group has lined up 275 former administration officials, members of Congress, business leaders, Arab American activists and Jewish communal leaders to support a statement calling on President Bush to launch a new peace initiative.

“We urge you to mobilize international support for that goal and to pursue progress with determination, fairness and creativity until success is achieved,” the letter to Bush reads. “We fully understand the potential obstacles ahead. We also understand the consequences of failure. Failure must not be an option. You have our strong support to stay the course.”

Several Clinton-era officials signed the document, including former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher, former secretary of defense William Perry and peace negotiators Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and Rob Malley.

Republicans also signed on, including Cohen, who was a GOP senator from Maine before serving as Clinton’s defense secretary; Lawrence Eagleburger, who served as secretary of state under the first President Bush, and John Danforth, a former senator from Missouri who later served as the second President Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, also signed, as did Hillel’s president, Wayne Firestone.

For the full list, visit www.mideastcalm.org:80.

The co-chairmen of the group that organized the letter are Joel Tauber, former leader of the North American network of Jewish charitable federations, and George Salem, chairman of the Arab American Institute.

Leaders of the campaign stressed that their call for deeper American involvement in the Middle East conflict is not meant to pressure Israel, asserting that the outlines for any future agreements are already known and enjoy widespread support in Israel, as well as among the Palestinians.

During the Monday press conference, held in Washington, Cohen said that his group did not see a direct linkage between solving the Israeli-Arab conflict and winning the war in Iraq. That said, he added that “it would have a positive impact on the entire region.”

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