Pro-Israel US Democrats press to keep two-state solution

House Foreign Affairs Committe Chairman Eliot Engel is joining other pro-Israel Democrats in urging House Foreign Affairs Committe Chairman Eliot Engel is joining other pro-Israel Democrats in urging continued efforts for a Palestinian state AFP/Brendan Smialowski

WASHINGTON: Four top US Democratic lawmakers known for their support of Israel on Friday (Apr 12) warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to annex the West Bank, amid signs President Donald Trump is ending Washington’s longstanding push for a Palestinian state.

In a joint statement, the four lawmakers including Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said they backed Israel’s security but were “greatly concerned” about prospects that the Jewish state will unilaterally annex Palestinian territory.

“We hope that any security measures are implemented within the context of preserving the eventual possibility of a two-state solution,” they wrote.

“Two states for two peoples, negotiated directly by the two sides, with mutually agreed-upon land swaps, is the best option to achieve a Jewish, democratic, secure Israel living side-by-side with a democratic, demilitarized Palestinian state.”

The statement was also signed by House Appropriations Committee chair Nita Lowey, Ted Deutch – who heads the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East – and Brad Schneider, another Democratic congressman known for his support of Israel.

All four lawmakers are longtime backers of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC and broke with their party to oppose a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran negotiated under president Barack Obama.

Netanyahu, who narrowly won a historic fifth term this week, promised at the end of the election campaign that he would annex at least parts of the West Bank – a move that would effectively preclude a negotiated deal for a Palestinian state.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is expected shortly to unveil a plan for the Middle East.

In a series of appearances before Congress, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to say whether the plan would reaffirm Washington’s decades-old backing of a Palestinian state, saying only that past plans have failed.

The Democratic lawmakers’ statement comes as Israel faces growing criticism within the party, with presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke both attacking Netanyahu as an extremist and pledging a new approach if elected.