Top Democratic Lawmaker: I'm Against Annexation, but U.S. Aid to Israel Is Nonnegotiable

Rep. Gregory Meeks, who serves as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has previously said the U.S. should be willing to leverage aid to Israel over annexation

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington
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Aerial view of the Israeli West Bank settlement of Efrat in the Gush Etzion settlement block, with the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the background, in 2020
Aerial view of the Israeli West Bank settlement of Efrat in the Gush Etzion settlement block, with the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the background, in 2020Credit: Ronen Zvulun/ REUTERS
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, said Wednesday that he believes annexation would destroy a potential two-state solution, though qualified that U.S. aid to Israel should not be leveraged over the matter.

“If you continue annexation, there’s no two-state solution. There’s nothing to negotiate. I’m also a firm believer that Israel has the right to defend itself, which is why I’m unequivocal in regards to support for the MOU and that should not be touched at all,” Meeks told the Brookings Institution, referring to the $3.8 billion annual military aid Israel currently receives from the United States.

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The fifth-term Democrat from New York, who recently replaced pro-Israel stalwart Eliot Engel as chairman of the important committee, has previously said the U.S. should be willing to leverage aid to Israel over annexation.

“There are certain requirements with some of the other dollars that already ... limit what it should be utilized for. I’ve seen some of the horrific acts of violence against Israeli people, I’ve seen how they have to use defensive weapons to stop missiles from coming in,” Meeks said. “But I want to be clear to my friends in Israel, and to Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu in particular, that annexation is not the way forward, that it’s a two-state solution.

“We have to sit down at the table,” he continued. “I want to help on the other side because I realize some of the hindrance that the Palestinians have. I want to make sure that I send a similar message that we want a two-state solution,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks.Credit: John Minchillo,AP

When asked about Congress’ role in providing assistance to the Palestinians, Meeks said: “I’m going to bring globally humanitarian concerns to the committee, and trying to make sure that you’re able to prevent innocent men, women and children from lacking medical treatment and medical care.”

Meeks continued his answer by noting, “I know how important Israel is to us as a partner, and I am committed to that partnership. Our social, political and economic ties went so deep in our bond between our two nations, so I’m committed to making sure that that relationship continues. I’m asserting a strong voice against antisemitism, which has been rising, along with racism, around the world.

“I will continue to condemn the use of violence. I’ve been to Israel several times. I’m against the use of violence on both sides. But I’ve also seen for myself the tunnels that were dug trying to attack Israel. I’ve seen individuals who were injured by a bus that had been blown up and were taken to a hospital. I know what this violence is and how emotional it is,” Meeks said.

“I don’t believe that having individuals who don’t have access to aid helps us, nor does it create an atmosphere where we can talk peace and prevent younger Palestinians from growing up with hostility. So I’m focused on humanitarian aid, and we need to figure out how to get medical aid back to Palestinian territories.”

Meeks advocated for the Biden administration’s current strategy on re-engagement with Iran over its nuclear program. “We have to make sure that we also look at extending the sunset clauses. There’s a number of other pieces that negotiations that will take place, we’re going to look at some of the issues that you have with ballistic missiles. But the way that you can control it, and the way that you approach, is through diplomacy and working with our allies. The Biden administration should have dialogue with the Israeli government. He’s talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu, he’s trying to get all of the individuals in the region and all the allies and P5+1 together. That’s the way I think that we can prevent an escalation of hostilities,” he said, referring to the world powers in the Iran deal.

Meeks also highlighted Israel’s normalization pacts with Arab states signed during the Trump administration as an area where he sees broad bipartisan support.

“It’s important to look at it, to try to make sure that we’re getting the Gulf states involved in acknowledging Israel’s right to exist, and to change that so there could be some dialogue. And maybe leverage more Gulf states to be part of the Abraham Accords and to get the Palestinians at the negotiating table and figure out how we can move forward and get real peace.”

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