18 SENATE DEMOCRATS, LED BY MURPHY, KAINE, & VAN HOLLEN, CAUTION ISRAEL AGAINST UNILATERAL ANNEXATION OF WEST BANK TERRITORY

In a Letter to Netanyahu and Gantz, Senators State They Would Not Support Such a Move Which Would Critically Endanger Prospects for a Negotiated, Lasting Peace

WASHINGTON—On Thursday, 18 Senate Democrats, led by U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and U.S. Senate Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), expressed grave concern regarding unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory potentially as early as July. In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the senators warned that such a move would mark a dramatic reversal of decades of shared understandings between the United States, Israel, the Palestinians and the international community, and would impact Israel’s future, placing its security and democracy at risk.  

“A deep commitment to Israel’s security and a shared set of democratic values are foundational elements of the close relationship between our countries. We are therefore concerned that unilateral annexation puts both Israel’s security and democracy at risk. Annexation would betray our shared democratic values by denying Palestinians’ right to self-determination in a viable, sovereign, independent and contiguous state. It could bring an end to Palestinian security cooperation with Israel, directly threatening the security of the Israeli people, and endanger Israel’s crucial peace agreement with Jordan,” the senators wrote.

The senators concluded: “As friends and supporters of Israel, we caution you against taking unilateral steps that would fray our unique bonds, imperil Israel’s future and place out of reach the prospect of a lasting peace. If you move forward with unilateral annexation, we would not support that action. This is consistent with long-standing American policy opposing unilateral actions by either party to the conflict. Pursuit of a viable, negotiated two state solution is essential to ensuring our shared democratic values and lasting bipartisan support for Israel in Congress.”

Joining Murphy, Kaine and Van Hollen were Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tom Carper (D-De.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Full text of the letter can be viewed here and below:

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gantz,

As American lawmakers who have long supported strong U.S.-Israel ties and a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we write to express our grave concern with provisions in the recently concluded government agreement to consider unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory as early as this July. Such an action would mark a dramatic reversal of decades of shared understandings between the United States, Israel, the Palestinians and the international community, and would have a clear impact on both Israel’s future and our vital bilateral and bipartisan relationship.

A deep commitment to Israel’s security and a shared set of democratic values are foundational elements of the close relationship between our countries. We are therefore concerned that a unilateral annexation puts both Israel’s security and democracy at risk. Annexation would betray our shared democratic values by denying Palestinians’ right to self-determination in a viable, sovereign, independent and contiguous state. It could bring an end to Palestinian security cooperation with Israel, directly threatening the security of the Israeli people, and endanger Israel’s crucial peace agreement with Jordan. 

On the world stage, unilateral annexation will be met with deep concern from our mutual allies and partners, including Jordan and Egypt, and nearly universally viewed as a violation of international law. The formalization of a fragmented and disconnected array of Palestinian islets surrounded by Israeli territory would be rejected by the international community as both unequal and undemocratic. And most concerning, unilateral annexation outside of a negotiated agreement would likely erode the strong support among the American people for the special relationship and diplomatic partnership with the United States that Israel currently enjoys. 

We hope you view this relationship as the strategic asset it is for both of our countries. As friends and supporters of Israel, we caution you against taking unilateral steps that would fray our unique bonds, imperil Israel’s future and place out of reach the prospect of a lasting peace. If you move forward with unilateral annexation, we would not support that action. This is consistent with long-standing American policy opposing unilateral actions by either party to the conflict. Pursuit of a viable, negotiated two state solution is essential to ensuring our shared democratic values and lasting bipartisan support for Israel in Congress.

Sincerely,

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