AIPAC-affiliated Democrats Warn Netanyahu Against West Bank Annexation

Four U.S. lawmakers who have long proved staunch supporters of Israel express concern over the prime minister's campaign promise ■ Other lawmakers single out Netanyahu's 'full-throated embrace of the far right’s extreme agenda'

House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., speaks during a Senate hearing in Washington D.C.,  March 27, 2019.
AFP

WASHINGTON — Four Jewish American lawmakers, who are considered strong supporters of Israel, warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday against annexing parts of the West Bank.

The four representatives — Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel of New York, Florida's Ted Deutch and Brad Schneider from Illinois — are among the most pro-Israel legislators in today’s Democratic Party and have strong ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

In a public letter they warned that “as strong, lifelong 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.”

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This comes days after Netanyahu, as part of his reelection campaign, promised to begin annexing parts of the West Bank. U.S. President Donald Trump's administration and State Department have so far remained silent on the issue.

>>Read more: The best chance for Israeli right's dream of annexing the West Bank: The Palestinians | Analysis ■ The Trump pollster who helped Netanyahu win reelection ■ Benjamin Netanyahu, the undertaker of the two-state solution | Analysis 

The lawmakers ended their letter by stating: “Our fear is that such unilateral steps — whether from Israelis or Palestinians — would push the parties farther from a final, negotiated settlement.”

Engel is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Lowey chairs the House Appropriations Committee, which controls budget issues.

Two other Democratic lawmakers — Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia — issued a stronger warning against Netanyahu’s annexation promise. In a Washington Post article titled “Congress cannot afford to ignore Netanyahu’s embrace of the far right,” the two wrote: “Netanyahu’s full-throated embrace of the far right’s extreme agenda has placed him on a dangerous track that is not in the interest of Israel, the Palestinians or the United States."

Connolly and Van Hollen added that “as longtime supporters of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, we are deeply concerned about recent developments. If enacted, these policies would fundamentally change the character of Israel, undermine basic Palestinian human rights and violate long-held policies and values adopted by U.S. presidents of both parties to achieve a future two-state solution that enables Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and dignity alongside each other. That’s why Congress cannot afford to look the other way.”

Several leading Jewish American organizations have also issued a joint letter to the Trump administration asking it to oppose any moves toward unilateral annexation.

The letter was signed by the Anti-Defamation League and the Israel Policy Forum, as well as the Union for Reform Judaism and two organizations leading the Conservative stream of Judaism in the United States.

The letter shows a growing concern within mainstream, pro-Israel Jewish groups about the prospect of Netanyahu following through on his annexation promise.