Haaretz Israel News
WASHINGTON - Leading Democratic and Republican Congressmen told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference Monday that they plan to work toward formalizing in American law the contents of the letter U.S. President George W. Bush gave Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last month.
In the letter, Bush rejected the Palestinians' claim of a right of return of refugees to Israel and said it was unrealistic to expect a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.
Officials in the Jewish community elaborated on remarks made by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), saying they intend to begin gathering signatures in the coming days for a bill proposing legislation of Bush's promises elaborated upon in his letter to Sharon.
The bill is not expected to mention unilateral disengagement, one of the main issues Bush and Sharon discussed during the prime minister's mid-April trip to Washington, shortly before Sharon's Likud Party defeated his disengagement plan in a May 2 referendum.
Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is due to deliver the keynote speech at AIPAC's Washington conference on Monday night in place of Sharon, who canceled his planned visit at the last minute.
Bush is scheduled to appear at the conference Tuesday.
On Sunday, Justice Minister Yosef Lapid opened the conference with a speech in support of the disengagement plan, telling the 5,000 conference participants that Israel is currently mired in a state of "confusion" caused by Likud members' rejection of the plan.