WASHINGTON – Amidst the showers of praise for Israel at this week’s AIPAC Policy Conference, one speaker departed slightly from the party line. Speaking before thousands of pro-Israel supporters, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) read aloud from a letter signed by 191 Members of Congress urging President Donald Trump to “reaffirm” the two state solution as the “only” solution that would end violence while warning against a one state outcome.
Jewish Insider first reported the content of the letter on March 10, which was signed by 187 out of 193 Democrats including strong pro-Israel advocates such as Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel (D-NY) Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Lois Frankel (D-FL). The letter does not mention West Bank settlements or the ongoing economic crisis in Gaza, which was designed to gain maximum support.
While he personally backs a two state solution, Freshman Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) told Jewish Insider that he did not back the initiative because there were so few Republicans — only Representatives Walter Jones (R-NC) and Jimmy Duncan (R-TN) — who co-signed on the measure. “Israel must be a bipartisan issue. There is nothing partisan about America’s support for Israel,” he asserted. “I will not sign a partisan letter.”
Veteran Congressman Juan Vargas (D-CA) offered an alternative reason for declining to back the measure. “The premise of the letter is to put pressure on Israel so why would we want to put pressure on Israel?” he explained. The California lawmaker emphasized that after Jerusalem engaged in earlier negotiations, Israel received rockets. “This was not a letter written, in my view, to support Israel. Where is the corresponding letter to put pressure on the other side?” Vargas asked.
In addition to Gottheimer and Vargas, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) declined to sign as she refuses to write a letter addressed to President Trump or meet with the real estate mogul turned Commander in Chief.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) — one of the Congressman who introduced the letter along with David Price (D-NC) — told Jewish Insider, “There are 191 of us who chose to make a statement reaffirming the two state solution as the only path to peace in the Middle East. In today’s era, that is a pretty profound statement. Our leader (Pelosi) said that is our position.”
When asked about Gottheimer’s statement that the initiative could be interpreted as a partisan letter, Connolly responded. “I’m sorry does he belong to a caucus? Ah, so he’s partisan. Oh, please.” The White House has not yet responded to the 191 lawmakers who signed the measure, Connolly said.