Progressive Democrats Introduce Bill to Keep Two-State Solution Alive

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A group of progressive and pro-Israel Democrats on Thursday introduced a comprehensive bill aimed at keeping alive the grim prospects of a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The two-state solution law introduced by Representative Andy Levin with more than a dozen co-sponsors aims to “preserve the conditions and improve the likelihood of a two-state solution that secures Israel’s future by as a democratic state and national home for the Jewish people, a viable and democratic Palestinian state.

However, he faces an uphill battle to become law. The bill is strongly opposed by more moderate Democrats, who say it demands nothing from the Palestinians.

The centrist Democratic Majority for Israel group has already announced its opposition to the bill, which it called “a counterproductive, one-sided and bad policy,” adding that it excessively rejected responsibility for the stalemate in the conflict. on Israel and that the Palestinians are to blame.

“This unilateral two-state solutions law appears to be aimed less at achieving a two-state solution than at rewriting history – both ancient and modern – and stirring up anti-Israel hostility,” he said. Group CEO Mark Mellman in a statement.

If passed, the bill orders the US government to take a series of measures aimed at limiting Israeli entrenchment in the West Bank.

The bill prohibits defense aid from being used by Israel to extend its control beyond the Green Line, through measures such as the building of settlements, the demolition of Palestinian homes or the expulsion of Palestinian residents. It also imposes strict monitoring of how Israel spends more heavily on defense aid.

The law says that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip are all occupied territories and should be mentioned as such in all official US policies, documents and communications.

Israel captured these areas in the Six Day War in 1967 and then annexed East Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, handing over control to the Palestinian Authority, which was ousted in 2007 from the coastal enclave in a bloody coup by the still ruling Hamas terrorist group. the band.

Palestinian protesters attend a protest against the Evyatar settlement outpost, south of Nablus, on June 4, 2021, in the West Bank. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its capital. Former US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to it.

The bill also seeks to overturn a 2020 Trump administration directive requiring products made in Israeli settlements to be marked as “Made in Israel.” Under the bill, imports into the United States produced outside of Israel would have to be marked as manufactured in the West Bank or Gaza.

The legislation also seeks to advance the Lowey Fund passed by Congress last year, setting aside $ 250 million in funding for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue programs and Palestinian business development. The Two-State Solution Law urges the State Department to allow grants to support human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Gaza and the West Bank, as planned by the Lowey Fund.

The legislation urges US President Joe Biden to follow through on campaign promises to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem, which served as a de facto mission to the Palestinians, as well as the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington. Both have been shut down by the Trump administration.

The bill also calls for the removal of the 1987 Anti-Terrorism Law, which considers the PLO and its affiliates to be a terrorist organization.

To get around the hurdle, the legislation states that the United States should encourage the PA to reform its so-called “pay-to-kill” practice of providing regular allowances to security prisoners and families of deceased terrorists through of its social assistance program.

Levin unveiled the bill at a press conference Thursday on the steps of Capitol Hill, where he was joined by several of his bill’s co-sponsors – Representatives Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Sara Jacobs and Peter Lowenthal from California, and Peter Welch from Vermont.

All five said they supported a separate bill approved by the House later in the day to expand funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The moderate Democrats who introduced the Iron Dome legislation are unlikely to reciprocate, however, and the Two-State Solution Act will most likely have a hard time getting through Congress, due to its sharp criticism of the actions. women in the West Bank.

Despite moderate opposition, progressive and pro-Israel lawmakers at Thursday’s press conference were optimistic about the chances of their bill.

“We need a new center of gravity to actually do something to bring long-term peace for Israel and human rights for the Palestinians,” Levin said.

“We speak for the American public. The American public wants a two-state solution, ”added Lowenthal.

“I have a master’s degree in international conflict resolution. I have been working on these issues for a very long time, ”said Jacobs, congressman for the first term. “It is not a question of whether we will make peace now … It does not mean that we should do nothing or give up hope.”

Michigan Democratic Representative Andy Levin (House Television via AP)

Levin said in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the vast majority of American Jewry supports his approach, which is to advocate for aid to Israel, but with strict monitoring to ensure that the money does not hinder the two-state outcome.

Levin referred to a Jewish Electoral Institute poll in July, carried out after the Gaza conflict, in which 58% of Jewish voters said it would be appropriate to restrict aid to Israel so that it cannot not spend American money in the colonies.

At the press conference, he downplayed the “excuses” commonly used by opponents to reject the search for a two-state solution, citing the Hamas regime in Gaza, the lack of legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority or the lack of legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority. opposition of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to a Palestinian state. He scornfully called him “a gentleman who represents six seats in the Knesset.”

“We can find a lot of excuses, but what is missing is for the United States to play a muscular role in saying that we stand behind you and bring you together through thick and thin to achieve a two-state solution,” he said. he explained.

Levin introduced his bill at the press conference with J Street, the liberal Jewish political group in the Middle East which in recent years has approved some restrictions on US aid to Israel. The CEO of Americans for Peace Now, Hadar Susskind, also joined him and spoke, whose group espouses like-minded people.

JTA contributed to this report.


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