Congressional Dems intensify their pushback against Netanyahu with public defense of Palestinian state

Congressional Dems intensify their pushback against Netanyahu with public defense of Palestinian state

Congressional Democrats on Wednesday delivered their latest rebuke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, aligning behind a symbolic declaration that the U.S. remains staunchly supportive of a Palestinian state as part of any ultimate resolution to unrest in the Middle East.

As the Senate prepares to take up a potential emergency spending package with funds for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and border security, a group of 49 Senate Democratic caucus members led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) offered an amendment reiterating that U.S. policy favors a two-state solution. The proposal is a clear pushback against Netanyahu’s recent rejection of that approach, giving Democrats a fresh opportunity to channel their frustration with his conservative government.

“The prime minister’s statements last week, I think, accelerated our efforts and also turbocharged our efforts,” Schatz told reporters, adding that he will offer the amendment as part of the national security package’s floor consideration but would not insist on a floor vote. Schatz indicated that future pieces of legislation on the floor may offer another chance to insist on a recorded vote.

The only two members of the 51-senator Democratic caucus to not cosponsor Schatz’s proposal are Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and John Fetterman (Pa.), who has won new conservative fans with his stalwart support for Israel’s government during its war with Hamas. Independent Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Angus King (Maine) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.), all of whom affiliate to varying degrees with the Democratic caucus, all signed on.

Fetterman “strongly supports a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine, and always has,” a spokesperson said. “He also strongly believes that this resolution should include language stipulating the destruction of Hamas as a precondition to peace.”

Schatz’s isn’t the only new effort to distance Democrats from Netanyahu’s comments, which Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) described as “not helpful” to a bipartisan deal he and Sinema are spearheading with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) that could shake loose the stalled national security spending proposal.

A group of 44 House Democrats, led by Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.) and Jim Himes (Conn.), voiced their continued support for a two-state solution on Tuesday.

“We are deeply concerned by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s public rejection of a two-state solution on January 18, and respectfully request that your Administration outline a strategy to marshal international and ultimately, Israeli and Palestinian support to successfully implement a two-state solution,” they wrote to President Joe Biden.

Biden has said he still sees an eventual Palestinian state as achievable despite Netanyahu’s comments. The two leaders spoke by phone on Friday.

Senate Foreign Relations Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) declined to directly address Netanyahu’s comments but reiterated that “we’ve always supported two states and it is the only way forward.”

But other Democrats were less cautious. “There’s growing impatience with Netanyahu blowing off the president and just completely disregarding our support for a two-state solution,” said Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), calling Netanyahu’s comments “appalling.”

Some Democrats indicated they thought a reaffirmation of the U.S. position was important given mixed signals from former President Donald Trump as he seeks to return to the White House.

“It has been consistent US policy since 1948, but President Trump raised some questions about it. He didn’t say it wasn’t our policy, but maybe it’s time: We haven’t reaffirmed it legislatively for quite a while,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

Added Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) of a possible Trump return to the Oval Office: “It is in some sense another example of trying to batten down the hatches and secure some basic positions before the storm, if there is one.”

There are other efforts to push back on the Israeli government by Democrats. A group of 18 members of the conference are already on board with an amendment led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) that would set certain conditions on aid to Israel.

“The Van Hollen amendment has a lot of momentum and a lot of co-sponsors,” Schatz said. “That is not a particularly radical proposition.”

But there appears to be little indication any Republicans would support Schatz’s push, despite his contention that “the two-state solution remains bipartisan” — but Republicans simply attach “more caveats to it.”

Asked about the calls to condition aid to Israel, moderate GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) said “I get it” but “one thing that we need to keep in mind is how fluid everything is.”

“None of us are unsympathetic to [the death toll] but how you [condition aid], I think, is part of the big challenge that we have,” she said in an interview.

Joe Gould contributed. 

Go to Source