Progressive lawmakers warn annexation ‘would lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state.’
A dozen Democratic lawmakers have signed on to a hotly debated letter spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that calls for placing conditions on aid to Israel if it moves forward with plans to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank or continues related actions, according to a copy obtained by POLITICO.
The letter, parts of which were previously leaked to the media, was condemned Monday by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as harmful to America’s interests before the statement or its signers were finalized.
“Should the Israeli government continue down this path, we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way,” Ocasio-Cortez’s letter reads. “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 letter, addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also said that annexation “would actively harm prospects for a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians can live with full equality, human rights and dignity, and would lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state, as your predecessor John Kerry warned in 2014.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s office said the trigger for conditioning aid includes settlements and other policies that are “laying the groundwork” for annexation.
AIPAC said on Twitter it “opposes the letter being circulated by [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez] — co-signed by [Reps. Pramila Jayapal], [Rashida Tlaib] & [Betty McCollum] — which explicitly threatens the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that would damage American interests, risk the security of Israel & make a two-state solution less likely.”
Progressives have been attempting to increase support for conditioning aid to Israel if the nation moves forward with annexation. About 1,000 alumni of J Street’s student arm, J Street U, have signed on to a separate statement urging the organization to “support legislation that would reduce American military assistance to Israel should it decide to unilaterally annex large parts of the West Bank.” Ocasio-Cortez’s office said groups such as IfNotNow, Arab American Institute, Jewish Voice for Peace Action and Demand Progress have thrown their support behind her letter.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, does not support conditioning aid to Israel. AIPAC said in its statement that Ocasio-Cortez’s letter “rejects President Obama’s security assistance commitment to Israel” and that “Congress must continue to fully implement the Obama- @JoeBiden” pledge.
Along with Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, McCollum and Jayapal, the letter was signed by Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Raul Grijalva, André Carson, Nydia Velázquez, Bobby Rush, Jesús “Chuy” Garcia and Danny Davis, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders.