A majority of the US House of Congress has signed a letter urging President Bush not to press Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on concessions to the Palestinians and to limit the role of the other members of the quartet - the EU, UN and Russia - in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. 'The US has developed a level of credibility and trust with all parties in the region which no other country shares,' says the letter, endorsed by 278 congressmen and 82 senators. 'We are concerned that certain nations or groups, if given a meaningful role in monitoring progress made on the ground, might only lessen the chances of moving forward on a realistic path towards peace.' While Bush is under strong international pressure to use his influence over the Israelis to force substantive progress, particularly from UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, senior Republicans are highly critical of the quartet's roadmap for peace. 'A confluence of deluded thinking between European elites, elements within the State Department and a significant segment of the American intellectual community' is how House Republican leader Tom DeLay has described it. Adviser to the Pentagon and former House speaker Newt Gingrich on 22 April described the quartet as 'a deliberate and systematic effort to undermine the president's policies procedurally by ensuring that they will consistently be watered down and distorted by the other three members'.
The Bush administration has been attempting to present a united front to the Israelis on the issue of amendments to the roadmap. When Dov Weisglass, an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, visited the White House on 14 April, the meeting was attended by Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condolezza Rice, National Security Council adviser Elliott Abrams, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff I Lewis Libby and undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith. Weisglas was informed that none of Israel's proposed amendments would be made to the roadmap prior to publication.