WASHINGTON - Fifty-four congressmen sent a letter to US President Barack Obama last week urging him to pressure Israel into alleviating the blockade on the Gaza Strip. The letter's signatories are from the left of the political spectrum.
The initiators are Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the only Muslim representative in Congress, and Jim McDermott of Washington, who are both democrats.
The letter reads: "We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups. This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip."
They implored Obama to demand Israel relieve the residents of the Strip as part of his efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.
"We ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts," the letter said.
The initiative is not slated to develop into legislation in Congress, nor is it expected to make waves beyond receiving a headline in the Minnesota Independent newspaper and support of the Peace Now and J-Street organizations in the US.
The US administration's current public stance is that the US is committed to the welfare of the residents of the Gaza Strip and that Israel must enable the transfer of humanitarian goods into Gaza.
However, in recent months the US has been satisfied with Israeli mitigations in the area. The Obama administration would like to see more easements, but is understanding towards the Israeli position that until the matter of captive soldier Gilad Shalit Israel resolved, there will be no more easements.
The US opposes the Fatah-Hamas Palestinian unity government and is assisting Egypt in the construction of the underground barrier between Egypt and Gaza, which will block the entrance of vital goods into the Strip.