(photo credit: Courtesy)
America has not done enough to prepare the Middle East for an upcoming regional peace parley scheduled to take place in Annapolis, Maryland, two visiting US Congressmen told The Jerusalem Post Monday.
"It has been planned poorly and there should have been more legwork done," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York), who met with senior Palestinian and Israeli leadership over the weekend to discuss the summit. "They should have checked the guest list before sending the invitations."
He made his comments following a series of comments criticizing the summit made by senior Palestinian officials Monday.
"The likely outcome is that they will agree to continue to discuss things," Ackerman said. "The language of both sides will be loose and leave them a lot of room for interpretation."
He took part in the Saban Forum along with several other congressional representatives. While the lawmakers remained positive about the peace process, Ackerman said, they were realistic about the problems surrounding the summit.
"How do you make peace with half of a wanna-be country?" he asked, referring to the exclusion of Hamas, which currently controls the Gaza Strip, from the summit.
Ackerman also raised the issue of other Middle Eastern countries that were involved in the peace talks. He said Syria was a "meddlesome country," adding that they had "designs on the region which are not healthy... They are a conduit for terror."
Ackerman, who met with King Abdullah in Jordan on Sunday, said Jordan was a serious partner in the peace process.
"There are many people here who are more optimistic than I thought... and there are fewer people here who have a realistic plan than I had hoped," he said.
Ackerman said one message that remained clear throughout his visit was the growing threat posed by a nuclear Iran.
"Iran should be a concern for all thinking people," he said. "It is a threat to the whole region and the United States. We need to get an international campaign to agree on a diplomatic path. Our European friends need to cooperate more on this."
While the military option should never be "taken off the table," Ackerman said, he hoped a military campaign would not be required to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Congressman Howard Berman (D-California), who also took part in the Saban Forum, said: "No one should be able to take the military option off the table, but more should be done to put economic pressure on Iran. There need to be banking sanctions, multilateral sanctions and sanctions to limit their ability to export."
During their meetings in Jordan, Berman said, Abdullah had placed great importance on the issue of Iran and had stressed that a nuclear Iran would endanger peace throughout the Middle East.