A group of Massachusetts Peace Action members this week wrote to the eleven members of Massachusetts’ Congressional delegation expressing concern about a resolution which expresses support for a two-state solution without proposing any consequences if Israel fails to live up to these principles. The letter’s text follows.
We are writing in reference to H.Res.326 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding United States efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated two-state solution, for which you are one of 180 Democratic co-sponsors, including 7 others from Massachusetts.
We welcome continued congressional support for Palestinian statehood and opposition to Israeli moves to annex all or part of the West Bank. In light of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent pledge to move ahead with annexation, Congressional opposition is called for at the very least. But we are concerned that the sentiments in H.Res.326 do not go far enough.
The core of the conflict remains Israel’s occupation of the West Bank/East Jerusalem and the occupation/siege of Gaza, along with its ongoing construction of settlements and separation wall on land beyond its recognized border.
This is not “disputed territory,” as the Israeli government and some of its supporters claim, but a “belligerent occupation” – supposed to be temporary under international law — that began 52 years ago. The UN General Assembly and Security Council (often with the US concurring), the International Court of Justice, the High Contracting Parties of the Geneva Convention, and the International Red Cross have reaffirmed this status repeatedly. Under well-established international law and treaty, Israel’s perpetual occupation, with its settlements and separation wall snaking through the West Bank is illegal.
All of this goes unmentioned in the latest version of the resolution, and we understand that Democratic leadership has blocked the new (watered-down) version of H.Res.326 from moving to a vote.
Moreover, equating the Israelis and Palestinians as functionally equal adversaries who must negotiate a voluntary agreement is unrealistic and unfair. It fails to recognize that one is an occupier, a massive military power subsidized by the US to the tune of more than $4 billion a year; the other comprises 5 million civilians in the West Bank and Gaza who have no say or vote in the government which controls their borders, roads, natural resources and air space. No just and enduring outcome can come from “direct negotiations” between parties so disparate in power unless through the framework of international law. Otherwise, it is simply “might makes right.”.
Repeating outworn pledges of support for “two states” is ineffectual. If Congress is serious about promoting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, it must exert pressure on Israel, the stronger party, especially because the Israelis have lately repudiated the Palestinian right to self-determination. The Palestinians—backed by long-standing international law and numerous UN resolutions – have accepted a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders; the Israeli government does not.
Instead of rewarding the Israelis with lavish US military aid and diplomatic cover in the UN, the US must exert meaningful pressure on them to comply with international law. We urge you to join Rep. Ayanna Pressley in cosponsoring H.R.2407 – Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, which represents a small step in this direction. But this is a modest, narrow measure. We believe it is time to insist that Israel be held accountable for abiding by international law and negotiating with the Palestinians in good faith.
A start might be to begin deducting from our annual military aid to Israel the amount it spends on maintaining its West Bank occupation, siege of Gaza and illegal settlement activity. Overall aid could also be gradually reduced as long as Israel fails to abide by relevant Security Council resolutions and refuses to negotiate in good faith along these lines.
We look forward to discussing these matters in person at your earliest convenience.