U.S. Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) speaks at a news conference in New York on January 6, 2014. .
(photo credit: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Four of the strongest supporters of Israel among House Democrats issued a rare public statement Friday, warning from a possible move by Israel to annex the West Bank.
The four, Rep. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House committee on Appropriations; Rep. Eliot L. Engel, chairman of the House committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. Ted Deutch, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism; and Rep. Brad Schneider, signaled that Democrats would oppose annexation, creating a potential future confrontation between the Israeli government and pro-Israel Democrats in Congress.
“As strong, life-long supporters of Israel, a US-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 four wrote.
They reaffirmed their support for the two-state solution and called for direct negotiation.
“Every one of Israel’s frontiers plays an important role in its security, and Israel’s ability to guard itself from threats is non-negotiable. We hope that any security measures are implemented within the context of preserving the eventual possibility of a two-state solution.
“Two states for two peoples, negotiated directly by the two sides, with mutually agreed upon land swaps, is the best option to achieve a Jewish, democratic, secure Israel living side-by-side with a democratic, demilitarized Palestinian state,” they added.
However, the four also questioned the willingness on the Palestinian side to engage in such negotiation.
“This will not be easy,” the four stated. “Palestinian leadership has been unwilling to accept any reasonable peace proposal or even to negotiate seriously toward a solution. To paraphrase Abba Eban, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. And instead of negotiating, they have pursued unilateral statehood through 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.”
The statement was considered unusual, given that just last month when US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the reactions were very different.
“Israel has controlled the Golan Heights since the war in 1967,” Engel had told The Jerusalem Post the day after Trump’s decision. “I can’t think of anybody who seriously thinks that Israel should leave.
“Obviously, it is important to the security of Israel to continue to have a strong Israeli presence there,” he said in a short conversation at the sidelines of AIPAC policy conference. “However they do it – is fine with me. But I think that everyone realizes that given the situation in Syria, given the fact that there’s no real government there, given the fact that [Bashar] Assad is a murderer, no one thinks that the Golan Heights should return to Syria.”
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