WASHINGTON – A group of forty retired Israeli generals and spy chiefs sent a letter to the Democratic members of Congress who led the party’s opposition to unilateral Israeli annexation of settlements in the West Bank, thanking them for expressing their concerns and objections on the matter.
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The retired generals wrote that they fully agree with the U.S. lawmakers’ opposition to annexation.
Last month, more than 190 Democratic members of Congress signed a public letter against annexation that was initiated by four lawmakers: Rep. Ted Deutch from Florida, Rep. Brad Schneider and Rep. Jan Schakowksy of Illinois and Rep. David Price from North Carolina.
Deutch and Schneider are considered close to AIPAC, the influential pro-Israeli lobby group. Both voted against the Iran deal in 2015. Schakowsky and Price are perceived as more left-wing, and more in line with J Street.
The letter led by the four lawmakers was aimed at showing a unified Democratic position on annexation. A smaller group of 14 lawmakers signed a separate, much harsher letter that was led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but approximately 90 percent of Democrats in the House signed onto the Deutch-Schneider-Schakowksy-Price letter, which also included strong words of support for Israel and a commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The supportive and grateful response from Israel was led by former senior security officials, including three former Mossad chiefs Tamir Pardo, Danny Yatom and Shabtai Shavit; two former heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency; and two retired Deputy Chiefs of Staff of the IDF.
The retired generals and spies wrote: “We were heartened to see the signatures of 191 members of the House of Representatives on this letter raising their voices in disapproval of unilateral annexation of West Bank territory and warning about its potential dangers.”
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They also wrote: “We commend you on building such a broad coalition of members of Congress to join you in signing this letter. We consider it a further manifestation of the broad-based support for the kind of Israel we have fought for on the battlefield and continue to strive for, one that is strong and safe, maintains a solid Jewish majority for generations to come, all while upholding the values of democracy and equality as enshrined in our Declaration of Independence.”
The group of retired security chiefs also warned in their letter about the implications of unilateral annexation, stating that it "may trigger a chain of events beyond anyone’s control. It may undermine stability in the West Bank and Gaza, our peace treaties and security coordination with Egypt and Jordan, as well as any hope for an effective regional effort to check Iran’s meddling and ambitions.“
The discussions involving Israeli and American officials over annexation have stalled in recent weeks, as both countries are fighting a new coronavirus outbreak and dealing with difficult economic situations.
Prime Minister Netanyahu promised his supporters that annexation would begin around July 1, but three weeks after the target date, there has been no progress on the subject.
The administration is not ruling out that President Trump will still decide to give Netanyahu a “green light” for unilateral annexation, but there is a disagreement over the scope and timeline of such a move.
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has led the work on the administration’s Middle East plan, is open to a more limited Israeli annexation move, one that would leave room for future negotiations between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world.
However, limited annexation would mean that some settlements will become part of Israel, while many others will be marked as up for negotiation – a development that settler leaders and religious right-wing forces in both Israel and the United States oppose.