In hopes of aiding the embattled Israeli leaders seeking peace with Palestinians, Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, withdrew a proposal Thursday urging Israel to reopen schools on the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian schools there have been closed for two years to help control unrest. Nielson said 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds there have had no formal schooling, and parents are jailed if they try to teach their own children.As the House debated the foreign-aid authorization bill Thursday, Nielson proposed an amendment to call for an end to the school closure. But after pleas from both Republicans and Democrats, he withdrew it.
"The Likud Party in Israel is having a meeting on July 5 that is sensitive," Nielson said. The prime minister who has favored some concessions with Palestinians - such as free elections on the West Bank - to help achieve peace is coming under fire from hardliners who want no such concessions.
"We felt that to debate this now would just add to the problems and not help achieve peace," Nielson said. But he received assurances that the amendment will be discussed later when the House debates actual foreign-aid appropriations.
Nielson said if schools are not opened soon, he will introduce the amendment again - and possibly make it tougher.
Nielson admitted he probably doesn't have the votes to pass the resolution, because hundreds of congressmen receive heavy campaign contributions from the Israeli lobby. "But if we keep bringing this up and drawing attention, maybe it will have an effect."