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House Letter to Netanyahu Opposing Unilateral Measures

(June 25, 2020)

In response to Israeli plans to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, 191 Democratic members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi warning of negative consequences, expressing support for a two-state solution and urging the government to reconsider its plans. A similar number of Republican House members subsequently wrote a letter supporting the Israeli government’s right to make decision without outside pressure. A few weeks earlier, 19 Democratic Senators also sent a letter opposing any Israeli actions to change the status of the West Bank.

Prime Minister Netanyahu
Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gantz
Foreign Minister Ashkenazi

We write as American lawmakers who are long-time supporters, based on our shared democratic values and strategic interests, of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship. We firmly believe in, and advocate for, a strong and secure Jewish and democratic State of Israel, a state able to build upon current peace treaties and expand cooperation with regional players and the international community. We have consistently endorsed the pursuit of a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians resulting in two states for two peoples and a brighter future for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people. In that vein, we write today to express our deep concern that the push for unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank after July 1st will make these goals harder to achieve.

Longstanding, bipartisan U.S. foreign policy supports direct negotiations to achieve a viable two-state solution that addresses the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, and their desire for long-term security and a just, sustainable peace. This position was twice reconfirmed by the U.S. House of Representatives last year. Our fear is that unilateral actions, taken by either side, will push the parties further from negotiations and the possibility of a final, negotiated agreement.  

We remain steadfast in our belief that pursuing two states for two peoples is essential to ensuring a secure, Jewish, democratic Israel able to live side-by-side, in peace and mutual recognition, with an independent, viable, de-militarized Palestinian state.

Unilateral annexation would likely jeopardize Israel’s significant progress on normalization with Arab states at a time when closer cooperation can contribute to countering shared threats.  Unilateral annexation risks insecurity in Jordan, with serious ancillary risks to Israel. Finally, unilateral annexation could create serious problems for Israel with its European friends and other partners around the world. We do not see how any of these acute risks serve the long-term interest of a strong, secure Israel.

As committed partners in supporting and protecting the special U.S.-Israel relationship, we express our deep concern with the stated intention to move ahead with any unilateral annexation of West Bank territory, and we urge your government to reconsider plans to do so.

Source: Ron Kampeas, “House Democrats overwhelmingly sign letter to Israel warning about annexation,” JTA, (June 26, 2020).