Supporting the resolution on Israeli Settlements

Har Homa neighborhood in east Jerusalem. Boston Globe photo Har Homa neighborhood in east Jerusalem. Boston Globe photo

Remarks presented at the Massachusetts Democratic Committee’s Settlements Resolution Forum on April 19, 2017

Over the years there have been hundreds of resolutions and letters from Congress unreservedly supporting Israeli government positions or condemning the Palestinians – but not a single action to support the established US policy regarding the Israeli settlements as obstacles to peace.  This has undermined any possibility that the US will be perceived as an advocate for a just and peaceful negotiated outcome to the Israel-Palestine conflict – or an end to the 50-year Israeli Occupation. 

How can members of Congress, who almost unanimously say they support a two-state solution, justify their silence on the Israeli settlement project that is making two states increasingly impossible?  The settlement population in the West Bank has increased three times since the signing of the Oslo agreement and the beginning of the supposed “Peace Process” since 1993.  Recently, the Israeli government has moved to “legalize” dozens of so-called settlement outposts that were regarded as illegal even under Israeli law.  Is this negotiating in good faith?

The fact is that ALL Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank (and also the Syrian Golan heights) are universally regarded as contrary to international law. 

Who says so?  The International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly and Security Council (with the US concurring), the signatories to the International Red Cross and the Geneva Convention and nearly every expert on international law – including the legal counsel to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The proposed resolution quotes a 2016 statement from President Obama’s State Department that declared settlement activity as “corrosive to the cause of peace … which raises serious questions about Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”[1]

However, when the UN Security recently reaffirmed the illegality of the Israeli settlements[2] – and the US refrained from using its veto to block the resolution — the House of Representatives was quick to pass a resolution condemning the UN action.  Shamefully, the majority of House Democrats – including four members of our Massachusetts delegation — supported the mostly Republican-sponsored bill to condemn the action of a Democratic administration.[3]

But the times are changing.  Opinion polls show that Democratic voters are demanding a more even-handed policy with regard to Israel and Palestine.  Democrats supported the recent UN Security Council resolution 47-16% even as many of their elected House representatives were voting to condemn it.[4] Democrats also regard the Israeli settlements as illegal by 38-19% — with self-identified Liberals even more lopsided at 42-17%.[5]

There is clearly a growing partisan divide on this issue. Republicans unwaveringly support Israel’s increasingly rightwing policies.  Democrats are growing more skeptical. Polls indicate that Clinton voters opposed Israeli settlements by 49-14%, while Trump voters supported them by 46-23%.[6] 

But this new reality is not yet reflected in Democratic Party policy at the state or national level – nor, especially, in Congress.  Our proposed resolution is a gesture for more balance in Democratic policy and a message to our Congressional delegation that they should speak up about the obstacles to peace that Israeli settlements represent. 

We think it’s time for the Party leadership to recognize the opinion of its voters and supporters on this issue.  We urge that you support the resolution.

[1] http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prsps2016/07/260577.htm
[2] http://www.un.org/webcast/pdfs/SRES2334-2016.pdf
[3] https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-resolution/11
[4] http://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000159-673d-de7a-a3fb-7fffba0b0001, page 180
[4] http://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000159-673d-de7a-a3fb-7fffba0b0001, page 174
[4] http://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000159-673d-de7a-a3fb-7fffba0b0001, page 180