80 Democrats Urge Biden to Work Against Steps Imperiling Two-state Solution

The letter follows swiftly on the heels of a similar letter to U.S. Secretary of State Blinken, signaling growing discontent about the Biden administration's failure to overcome the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington
U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office, last year.
U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office, last year.Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington

WASHINGTON – 80 Democrats urged the Biden administration on Friday to actively work against counterproductive measures that endanger a potential two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is the second significant effort by key Democratic caucus members across the ideological spectrum in as many weeks, reflecting a growing and pronounced sense of discontent concerning the administration’s approach to the conflict several weeks before Biden is slated to make his first trip to Israel as president.

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The members of Congress — led by key Democratic caucus members Reps. David Price, Barbara Lee, Jennifer Wexton and Joaquin Castro — said they were writing with “concern and urgency regarding ongoing developments that serve as flashpoints for escalating violence in the region and push a two-state solution further out of reach.

“Dangerous flashpoints related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have a way of rapidly increasing tension and violence in the region without active U.S. leadership,” they wrote, saying the U.S. “must harness its substantial influence to exercise leadership and continue its historical role as an honest broker in ending this conflict and serve as a clear, consistent voice for peace and human rights.

“It is therefore critical that the United States actively work to ensure both parties remain committed to halting counterproductive measures that undermine the viability of two states for two peoples,” they added.

The lawmakers highlighted five points of concern, requesting an update on concrete steps undertaken by the Biden administration aimed at deterring harmful actions. The first such point is the “rise in settler violence committed against Palestinians and Palestinian property, including instances of non-intervention or even aiding and abetting of such attacks by Israeli forces.”

The Democrats then raised the increase in Israeli approval of permits, tenders and housing starts for settlement construction, as well as the retroactive legalization of West Bank outposts. They also flagged the continued demolitions or threats of demolitions of Palestinians homes, business and infrastructure, as well as the inequitable rates of approval of building permits for Palestinians. They then flagged the reported growing level of Israel’s financial expenditures in West Bank settlements.

On the Palestinian side, they raised concern about the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing prisoner payments program, “which the PA has acknowledged a willingness to reform, but on which it has not taken meaningful action."

“It is clear that more must be done,” they stated in response to the administration’s engagement with both the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority, as well as its oft-repeated line of commitment to equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, and dignity.

J Street’s Director of Government Affairs, Hannah Morris, said: “This urgent message from Congress stresses that the Biden administration must demonstrate real leadership to promote peace and prevent the further deterioration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

She added, “As the president prepares to travel to the region in June, lawmakers are strongly encouraging him to push back on harmful, unacceptable actions that trample on human rights, exacerbate violence and imperil the future of both peoples.”

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