Netanyahu told Congressional Dems he backs two states

WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for a two state solution in an August meeting with Congressional Democrats, Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) told Jewish Insider. The Trump administration has thus far declined to publicly support a two-state solution. During a press conference with Netanyahu earlier this year at the White House, President Trump expressed openness to a one-state outcome. Last week, State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert reinforced this position, and emphasized that backing two states would make the U.S. “biased.” Pallone, who was one of the participants at the meeting, noted that Netanyahu “clearly said that the goal is a two state solution.”

Pallone met with Netanyahu along with a group of Congressional Democrats on a trip organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, an affiliate of AIPAC. A similar meeting was also held with Republican House Members visiting Israel.  

Netanyahu’s private backing of two states contrasts with his more hawkish line expressed in public. “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel,” Netanyahu said on Monday during a speech celebrating 50 years of Israeli presence in the West Bank in Barkan, an Israeli settlement in the northern West Bank. In his address, Netanyahu warned of the dangers to the country’s security if Israel evacuated additional settlements.

In March, 191 House Members — almost entirely Democrats — signed a letter urging the President to endorse the two state solution as the best path to ensuring long-lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians

Reflecting on his trip, Pallone criticized Trump for his strong confidence in being able to secure the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians. In April, Trump told Reuters, “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever.” The New Jersey lawmaker, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called Trump “naive.” Pallone added, “It’s a very difficult problem. We are nowhere near (a peace agreement) because we don’t have someone on the Palestinian side who could strike a deal. Trump exaggerates his role and doesn’t know what he’s talking about half of the time.”

The Congressional Democratic delegation also met with Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara in Ramallah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was unable to meet the group since he was hospitalized at the time, noted Pallone. When discussing the dormant peace process, Pallone said that the Palestinian official showed inflexibility. Bishara “was very unreasonable. Essentially, he said you have to give everything back. ‘We want Jerusalem back. We want the Old City back,’” Pallone added. The New Jersey lawmaker further questioned how Abbas could reach a peace deal given that he does not maintain any security control in the Gaza Strip.

Pallone expressed support for the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which AIPAC has strongly backed. The ACLU, however, opposes H.R. 1697 due to concerns that the legislation would restrict free speech. “The ACLU is wrong. This doesn’t have anything to do with freedom of speech. These organizations want to boycott Israel. We are within our rights to say this is the wrong thing to do and we are not going to support this [BDS] effort,” Pallone concluded.

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