Democrats ratchet up opposition to Israeli settlements as 2020 election approaches
- Democratic leaders have increasingly voiced their opposition to Israeli settlements, and have criticized the Trump administration for green-lighting such plans.
- A number of Obama administration officials asked the Democratic National Committee to formally oppose any expansion by the Israeli government. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden opposes “unilateral” moves by Israel to annex territory claimed by Palestinians.
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with backing by the Trump administration, expects to push through settlement development as early as July.
Democratic officials are ratcheting up their opposition against Israeli settlements, setting up a key 2020 debate in the U.S. as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to annex more land.
Democrats — including former Obama administration officials, lawmakers in Congress, and even the presumptive presidential nominee — have increasingly shifted against the idea of new Israeli settlements. Public opposition from the left comes as Netanyahu, a major ally of the Trump administration, could begin annexing land in the West Bank as soon as this summer,
In a letter addressed to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on May4, and first obtained by Huffpost, more than 30 former national security officials asked the Democratic Party and its nominee to officially oppose any expansion by Israel.
“[The 2020 Democratic Party platform] should include clear opposition to ongoing occupation, settlement expansion and any form of unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank as well as clear opposition to violence,
terrorism and incitement from all sides,” the former security officials wrote.
The letter also explicitly criticized President Donald Trump for giving Israel a “green light” to undergo such land grabs.
Among the signatories: Ben Rhodes, Tommy Vietor and Avril Haines, all of whom were top officials in the Obama administration. Also included were national security advisers for several former 2020 Democratic presidential nominees.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, opposes any unilateral moves by Netanyahu’s administration to annex Palestinian territory, according to Biden’s top foreign policy adviser.
Biden has been “on the record several times [that] unilateral steps taken by either side that makes the prospect of a negotiated to a two-state outcome less likely is is something he opposes, and that includes annexation,” Tony Blinken said in April during a webinar hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, according to the Times of Israel.
Blinken, a national security official and deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration, added that Biden “has been literally opposed to annexation.” However, Biden’s camp says that if he’s elected to the White House, he won’t reverse a decision by the Trump administration that moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Perhaps no other former Democratic presidential candidate has been more hypercritical of the current Israeli government than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist who has called Netanyahu a “reactionary racist.” In an April 29 tweet, Sanders said Israeli annexation “violates international law” and called it an affront to Palestinian freedom.
“Israeli annexation of occupied territory clearly violates international law,” the two-time presidential candidate said on Israel Independence Day. “An outcome in which Palestinians are denied equality, freedom, and self-determination is an affront to our values and interests. It should not be supported by the United States.”
The criticism precedes planned Israeli settlement developments on land claimed by Palestinians. Netanyahu, who has entered into a coalition government with his chief political rival, plans to begin the settlement developments as soon as July.
The Trump administration backs Israel’s settlement plans, despite strong criticism at home and abroad. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be traveling to Jerusalem and is due to meet with Netanyahu and his new coalition partner Benny Gantz on Wednesday. The two governments are set to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, lockdown orders, and the upcoming annexation measures.
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