March 12, 2008 - Early this morning Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testified before the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs on her State Department budget request for the fiscal year 2009. For the most part, the hearing was a simple meeting; representatives asked Secretary Rice specific questions regarding the State Department's budget and goals, and in turn she provided general talking points that could have been pulled straight from the State Department's website. As the saying goes, business as usual. Overall, representatives asked about Secretary Rice's role in the Israel-Palestine negotiations and her hopes for the peace process, but no one dared to question the budget's planned increase in military aid to Israel.
However, one Congresswoman from Minnesota would not let Secretary Rice off the hook easily. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN-4) avoided the politically correct etiquette usually afforded to such high-ranking officials, her question was direct and to the point. "Settlements built by Israel in the West Bank" Rep. McCollum stated, "violate the 'Road Map' to peace." Without saying so, McCollum implied that the State Department has failed and insinuated that Secretary Rice has been powerless to stop Israel from continuing policies that are obviously counteractive to the goal. Then, Rep. McCollum asked Secretary Rice the 3.2 billion dollar question "Can you ensure that U.S. dollars will NOT go to settlement expansion?"
Secretary Rice was caught off-guard with the question, perhaps because very few parties with any interest in this problem pay much attention to such details. All parties have been plagued by an insurmountable problem: vagueness. Secretary Rice replied that the State Department has a council to make sure that U.S. aid is used only to help meet "Road Map" obligations and to move negotiations forward. Though obviously unsatisfied with the answer, Rep. McCollum had run out of time and had to yield further questions.
Join the Council for the National Interest in thanking Rep. Betty McCollum. Her direct and demanding leadership is essential to finding a just and lasting peace.
Representative Betty McCollum
1714 Longworth House Office Building
The Council for the National Interest is a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots organization advocating a new direction for U.S. Middle East policy. Our membership consists of well-informed supporters from all ethnic, religious, social, and political backgrounds who strongly believe the American national interest is directly linked to upholding American principles and values, and strictly adhering to international law. Our operations are entirely funded by donations from individual American citizens. We receive a small amount of foundation support and no government support, foreign or domestic.