Last week, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, helped lead a letter signed by 190 Democrats in the U.S. House to the Israeli government expressing concern over potential efforts to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.
The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, highlights the long-standing bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship and commitment to a two-state solution achieved through direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The letter references two votes in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019 – House Resolution 246 and House Resolution 326 – in which House Democrats overwhelmingly approved language supporting the two-state solution and the historic bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Israel, reaffirming congressional support for Israel’s security and recognizing the Palestinian right to self-determination.
Democrats in the Florida delegation who signed the letter include U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Lois Frankel, Al Lawson, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Donna Shalala, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson. Florida Democrats U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto did not sign.
The letter is below:
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gantz, and Foreign Minister Ashkenazi:
We write as American lawmakers who are long-time supporters, based on our shared democratic values and strategic interests, of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship. We firmly believe in, and advocate for, a strong and secure Jewish and democratic State of Israel, a state able to build upon current peace treaties and expand cooperation with regional players and the international community. We have consistently endorsed the pursuit of a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians resulting in two states for two peoples and a brighter future for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people. In that vein, we write today to express our deep concern that the push for unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank after July 1st will make these goals harder to achieve.
Longstanding, bipartisan U.S. foreign policy supports direct negotiations to achieve a viable two-state solution that addresses the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, and their desire for long-term security and just, sustainable peace. This position was twice reconfirmed by the U.S. House of Representatives last year. Our fear is that unilateral actions, taken by either side, will push the parties further from negotiations and the possibility of a final, negotiated agreement.
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, demilitarized Palestinian state.
Unilateral annexation would likely jeopardize Israel’s significant progress on normalization with Arab states at a time when closer cooperation can contribute to countering shared threats. Unilateral annexation risks insecurity in Jordan, with serious ancillary risks to Israel. Finally, unilateral annexation could create serious problems for Israel with its European friends and other partners around the world. We do not see how any of these acute risks serve the long-term interest of a strong, secure Israel.
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.