“We cannot allow US tax dollars to be used to violate Palestinians’ human rights,” the Senator tweeted
Benjamin Netanyahu; BERNIE SANDERS, one of several US Democratic candidates who spoke at J Street
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Senator Bernie Sanders has joined an anti-annexation letter spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, which threatens to cut US assistance to Israel should it move forward with its plan to annex parts of the West Bank. Sanders is the only Senator to sign the letter, alongside 12 House Democrats, including Rashida Tlaib, Betty McCollum, Pramila Jayapal and Ilhan Omar.
“Israel’s annexation of occupied territory would be a disaster for international law, self-determination, freedom, and equality,” Sanders tweeted on Tuesday. “I stand with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and House progressives. We cannot allow US tax dollars to be used to violate Palestinians’ human rights.”
The letter which was sent on Tuesday to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, urges the Trump administration not to greenlight the move, warning that “it would lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state.”
“Unilateral annexation in the West Bank is in direct opposition to the principles of democracy and human rights that the United States of America is supposed to stand for,” the letter reads. “At a time when the American people are taking to the streets to demand justice for all in our own country, there is no question but that such an action would alienate many US lawmakers and citizens. Members of Congress should not be expected to support an undemocratic system in which Israel would permanently rule over a Palestinian people denied self-determination or equal rights.”
The group also warned Pompeo that should the Israeli government promote the plan, they will “work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in US military funding to Israel to ensure that US taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way.”
“We will include human rights conditions and the withholding of funds for the offshore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them,” the lawmakers added.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) released a statement on Monday to announce its opposition to the letter.
“The U.S.-Israel relationship is a mutually beneficial partnership that reinforces our moral values and strategic interests. The overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans, in Congress and across the country, agree that America is best served when we stand with Israel,” AIPAC said in a statement.
The pro-Israel group added that America’s security assistance to Israel is an investment that serves the US national interests, including promoting peace and deterring war.
“Our lone, stable, democratic ally in the Middle East faces unprecedented threats and challenges, and American support is critical to ensuring our strategic partner remains strong and secure. Annual security assistance helps ensure Israel can defend itself, by itself,” the statement reads.
The Democratic Majority for Israel opposed the letter, as well. “DMFI opposes annexation, but we’re urging House Democrats NOT to sign AOC’s letter,” the pro-Israel PAC tweeted. “Unlike letter opposing annexation sent by 189 House Dems, this one is bad policy, bad politics, and counterproductive to the goal of stopping annexation and encouraging a two-state solution.”
Last week, some 190 members of House Democrats released a letter expressing opposition to Israeli annexation. However, that letter did not threaten to condition US aid to Israel.