189 House Democrats urge Israel to ‘reconsider’ annexation
A majority of House Democrats is urging Israel’s leaders to “reconsider” upcoming plans for annexation, saying in a letter on Thursday that unilateral action will drive both Israelis and Palestinians further apart.
“We remain steadfast in our belief that pursuing two states for two peoples is essential to ensuring a secure, Jewish, democratic Israel able to live side-by-side, in peace and mutual recognition, with an independent, viable, de-militarized Palestinian state,” the lawmakers wrote.
Their letter comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to make a July 1 announcement on annexing areas in the West Bank and Jordan Valley, territory outlined in President Trump’s Middle East peace plan as belonging to Israel.
The lawmakers said such action would make it harder to achieve a negotiated agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, with a Jewish and democratic state of Israel next to an independent Palestinian state.
They also highlighted opposition to annexation by the European Union, warnings by King Abdullah the II of a risk to Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel and an outbreak of violence, and a plea from a top diplomat from the United Arab Emirates that moves by Israel would reverse progress on normalization with Arab states.
“We do not see how any of these acute risks serve the long-term interest of a strong, secure Israel,” the Democrats wrote. “As committed partners in supporting and protecting the special U.S.-Israel relationship, we express our deep concern with the stated intention to move ahead with any unilateral annexation of West Bank territory, and we urge your government to reconsider plans to do so.”
The letter was led by Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Ted Deutch (Fla.), David Price (N.C.) and Brad Schneider (Ill.) and signed by 185 members, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.).
It was sent to Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Israel’s foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi.
Republicans have put their support behind Israel’s right to decide on annexation without outside pressure and urged Trump to provide the necessary support if Israel moves forward with annexation.
The president and administration officials have yet to decide on whether to publicly endorse annexation.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said annexation is a decision for Israelis to make and that the administration is talking to “all of the countries in the region about it is we can manage this process for our end state objective.”
Trump’s “Vision for Peace” plan for Israelis and Palestinians, unveiled in January, specified about 30 percent of the West Bank and all of the Jordan Valley as belonging to Israel, with Palestinians assigned disjointed territory in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and parts of southern Israel surrounded by an Israeli security barrier.
Administration officials initially said Israel did not have to wait to annex territory but that it would keep frozen the territory assigned for Palestinians for a period up to three years to encourage direct negotiations between the two parties.
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