Majority of Senate Democrats Speak Out Against Israeli Settlement Annexation

WASHINGTON — More than half of the Democratic senators currently in office havespoken out in recent weeks against Israeli annexation of settlements in the West Bank. Together with the opposition to annexation expressed by former Vice President Joe Biden, the senators’ statements on the subject show that annexation could harm Israel’s standing with Democratic politicians and voters.

As of Monday, at least 28 of the 47 Democrats in the Senate have expressed their opposition to annexation, most of them by sending letters on the subject to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. A Democratic source in the Senate told Haaretz that more lawmakers are expected to make similar statements against annexation in the coming days.

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Out of the 28 senators who have so far expressed opposition to annexation, 19 did so in a joint letter to Netanyahu and Gantz last month, which was led by Senators Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy and Chris Van Hollen. The letter was also signed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the runner-up in this year’s Democratic presidential nomination contest, and Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and Tammy Duckworth, both of whom have been mentioned recently as potential running mates for Biden.

Following the letter, nine other senators released their own statements and letters raising concerns over annexation. Democratic lawmaker Michael Bennett sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he wrote that “Unilateral annexation of the West Bank by Israel outside the confines of negotiations will diminish future prospects for such talks and could potentially destabilize the region further, undermining U.S. and Israeli security interests.”

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, who represents one of the most competitive and important “swing” states, also sent a letter to Netanyahu and Gantz in which he wrote that “Unilateral annexation of the West Bank will not only eliminate the possibility of a two state solution, but may result in erosion of regional and international arrangements that guarantee Israel’s safety and security.”

A banner depicts President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stating “No to a Palestinian State” and “Sovereignty Do it right!”, Jerusalem, June 10, 2020AMMAR AWAD/ Reuters

New Hampshire lawmaker Maggie Hassan, whose state’s election was decided by less than a 1 percent margin in both the presidential and Senate races in 2016, sent a letter to Pompeo, in which she cautioned: “Israel has a right and an obligation to secure its borders, but annexing key territories without bilateral communication and support will only serve to increase the animosity of extremist actors like Hamas and decrease the willingness of Palestinian groups to come to the negotiating table.” She added that “such actions undermine decades of shared understandings between Israeli, Palestinian, American, and international officials.”

Another U.S. politician who is often mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate for Biden, Amy Klobuchar, wrote to Pompeo in late May that “Preserving the prospects for a lasting peace agreement is critical to the interests of both the United States and Israel. It is for this reason that I urge the administration to oppose measures that could jeopardize those prospects.”  Such measures would include unilateral annexation by Israel, she added.