MEMPHIS-- While participating Wednesday in observances of the 54th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, 5th District U.S. Rep. Bob Clement (here with Rabbi Yehuda Silver and Pace Cooper at Margolin Hebrew Academy) said in an interview that President Bush had remained too long on the sidelines as tension between Israelis and Palestinians mounted to the present dangerous pitch.
Clement, the only Tennessee congressman on the House International Affairs Committee and currently a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said the two sides had come close to an agreement during talks at Camp David during the last year of the Clinton administration and that currently beleaguered Palestinian Authority leader Yasafar Arafat had missed a golden opportunity for a peace settlement at the time.
Clement said that all sides had allowed the situation to deteriorate since then, and that it didnt help when Bush came into office with a pledge to distance himself from Clinton-style personal diplomacy.
The president has some qualified people on hand, but he was not as engaged as he should have been. Im pleased that hes more engaged now, but hes got to apply more pressure and apply it on both sides, said Clement, who maintained that no settlement was possible without the direct involvement of the United States.
The Nashville congressman, who is running as the consensus candidate of the state Democratic Party, spoke at the Margolin facility Wednesday afternoon and was scheduled to appear the Jewish Community Center for further observes Wednesday night.