AJC urges Congress to back letter to Trump calling for two-states

ByRON KAMPEAS/JTA
March 17, 2017 01:11

The AJC letter is the latest salvo by establishment Jewish organizations to preserve the two-state solution in light of two signals that the Republican Party is backing away from the idea.




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Netanyahu and Abbas. (photo credit:LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

The American Jewish Committee is rallying support for a congressional letter to President Donald Trump urging him to reaffirm support for a two-state solution, the latest signal that the American Jewish establishment is committed to preserving the policy.

On Wednesday, the AJC sent a letter to members of the US House of Representatives asking them to sign on and support the letter authored by Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and David Price, D-N.C., and other measures that preserve peacemaking options even though “current conditions do not provide grounds for optimism.”

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Jewish Insider first reported the lawmakers’ letter last week urging Trump to “reaffirm the United States’ long-standing bipartisan commitment to supporting a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Connolly and Price have accumulated more than 175 signatures, mostly Democrats, a Hill insider told JTA.


At last count, there were just two Republicans signed on. The letter has yet to be sent.

The AJC letter is the latest salvo by establishment Jewish organizations to preserve the two-state solution in light of two signals that the Republican Party is backing away from the idea. Last summer, the Republican Party removed support for the outcome from its platform.  Trump more recently ended 15 years of US explicit backing for the outcome, telling reporters, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.” In Israel, meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government includes influential voices favoring annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Netanyahu, under pressure from those in his Cabinet to his right, also has retreated from explicitly supporting the outcome, although, unlike Trump, he has not retreated from it.

Trump’s international relations envoy, Jason Greenblatt, is in the region this week assessing the likelihood of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“As the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is increasingly questioned, AJC maintains that the two-state solution is the only realistic resolution to the conflict and that withdrawing support for the two-state solution, short-cutting negotiations, or attempting to impose solutions risks creating a failed state – a danger to Israel, the region and beyond,” said the letter from Julie Rayman, the AJC’s director for political outreach.

“The United States and the international community must remain committed to the concept of two states for two peoples, existing side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition, and achieved through direct, bilateral negotiations.”

The Reform movement and the Anti-Defamation League also have been outspoken in recent months in backing two states.

Last month, the ADL and the AJC both expressed opposition to a Knesset bill that would retroactively legalize Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. The Reform movement and the AJC also spoke out last month in favor of two states after Trump’s declared retreat.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee continues to back the outcome, albeit not as robustly as the other groups, although Democrats close to the lobby – particularly Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee – have also spoken out in defense of the policy in light of Trump’s retreat.

Notably, AIPAC has no position on the Connolly-Price letter, while J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, is actively lobbying for it. J Street’s influence, however, is limited to Democrats; AJC could conceivably draw in moderate Republicans.

Separately, Jason Isaacson, AJC’s associate executive director for policy, wrote House members on March 10 urging them not to cut funding for the United Nations. Republicans in Congress are seeking to defund the United Nations unless it repeals a Security Council resolution approved in December that condemns Israel’s settlement policies.

“While the impulse to retaliate against ‘the United Nations’ for obsessive condemnation of Israel is understandable, it is short-sighted since Member States – and not the UN per se – are responsible,” Isaacson wrote, noting “modest” improvements in the UN posture on Israel as a result of engagement under the Obama administration.

“Should the US cede its leadership at the UN, other States will rush to fill the vacuum, to the detriment of international peace and security,” Isaacson wrote. “Moreover, should the US retreat at the UN General Assembly or UN Human Rights Council, other Member States will only increase their campaign to use these bodies as vehicles for attacking Israel.”

Isaacson did not refer specifically to Republican bids to defund the United Nations.

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