WASHINGTON – More than 50 Members of Congress signed a public letter calling on President Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, to denounce violence committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, in the same manner that he condemns violence committed by Palestinians against Israelis.
The lawmakers, all Democrats, urged Friedman to address the issue in light of a rise in the number of reported cases of violence committed by settlers against Palestinians in recent months. They emphasized in the letter that they are “concerned with all violence in the West Bank”, whether it is committed by Israelis or Palestinians.
“According to Israeli media, Israeli human rights experts and the United Nations, there has been a sharp increase in these violent acts as both Israeli and Palestinian authorities have necessarily refocused their efforts on combating the COVID-19 pandemic and implementing containment measures like shut downs and curfews,” the letter said.
The lawmakers added that “We believe the United States must condemn all acts of violence that pull us further away from peace and should make its condemnation clear whether the victim is Israeli or Palestinian.” Friedman, before becoming ambassador, was involved in right-wing organizations that support settlements in the West Bank, and wrote articles against the two-state solution.
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The lawmakers ended their letter by asking Friedman “to urgently and publicly speak out against settler violence and work with relevant Israeli authorities to address both the spike in attacks during the Coronavirus crisis and the overall surge in such violence in the past two years.”
The letter was initiated by Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), and among those who signed it are Reps. Andy Levin (D-MI), Steven Cohen (D-TN), John Yarmuth (D-TN), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), Peter Welch (D-VA), Jen Shackowsky (D-IL) and Ayana Pressley (D-MA).
The letter was supported by J Street, which put out a statement saying that “Settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank is an affront to the values we aspire to uphold as Americans. It's harmful to interests of the United States, Israel and the Palestinians and further erodes the prospects for a negotiated end to the conflict.”