House Dems: Israeli efforts to annex West Bank will kill two-state solution

Israeli efforts to annex the West Bank will kill the two-state solution and jeopardize chances of a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, leading House Democrats said in a statement Friday morning.

Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations Nita Lowey (D-NY), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism, and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) expressed great concern for the possibility of Israel taking unilateral steps towards exerting sovereignty over the West Bank.

“As strong, life-long supporters of Israel, a U.S.-Israel relationship rooted in our shared values, and the two-state solution, we are greatly concerned by the possibility of Israel taking unilateral steps to annex the West Bank,” the Democrats said in the letter. They reiterated long-standing U.S. policy of “two states for two peoples, negotiated directly by the two sides with mutually agreed upon land swaps…”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his bid for re-election this week, suggested the possibility of unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank.

It is unclear whether the U.S. proposed-peace plan led by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt is to include a pathway for a two-state solution. While details on the plan are tightly under seal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in multiple appearances before the House and Senate this month, refused to endorse the two-state solution and instead called it an “old set of ideas not worth retreading.”

Leading Jewish groups also expressed concern over abandonment of the two-state solution. In a letter spearheaded by the Israel Policy Forum, signatories urged President Trump to “pledge that any peace initiative your administration proposes will be based upon the principle of a negotiated two-state solution… and that you declare that the United States will not support any Israeli proposals to annex the West Bank, in whole or in part.” Organizations that signed the letter include the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Reps. Engel, Lowey, Deutch and Schneider, also said that Palestinian leadership has been “unwilling to accept any reasonable peace proposal” and condemned them for unilateral moves at the United Nations.

“Our fear is that such unilateral steps – whether from Israelis or Palestinians – would push the parties farther from a final, negotiated settlement.”

Laura Kelly is the Capitol Hill reporter for Jewish Insider. Follow her @HelloLauraKelly

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