Part of the Gush Etzion bloc of Israeli settlements near Bethlehem in the West Bank, Palestine.
MCC photo/Emily Loewen.

Part of the Gush Etzion bloc of Israeli settlements near Bethlehem in the West Bank, Palestine.

July 2020 marked the start of when the Israeli government could move to formally annex parts of the West Bank, with the support of the Trump administration. Annexation would codify Israel’s ever-increasing control over the West Bank and make life even more difficult for Palestinians, who would lose access to land and basic rights.

The responses from Members of Congress have varied. Some support the administration’s position, while others are working to ensure U.S. money is not used to implement annexation. Here’s a summary of what is happening.

On the House side:

  • In June 116 representatives expressed support for Israeli annexation, saying Israel has “the right to make sovereign decisions.”
  • A few days later, 191 members of the House sent a letter to Israeli leaders, expressing their opposition to annexation.
  • Another 12 House members (and one senator) went further, stating that if the Israeli government moves forward with annexation, they will take legislative steps to ensure the U.S. does not recognize annexed territories and to condition U.S. military assistance to Israel.

And in the Senate:

  • Seven senators have expressed support for Israeli annexation.
  • Forty senators have stated their opposition to unilateral annexation.
  • These differences have found their way into the National Defense Authorization Act, annual legislation that the Senate is currently debating. Unfortunately, language cementing U.S. military assistance to Israel was included in the bill, which will make it more difficult to condition aid in the future. At the same time, 13 senators, led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), have introduced an amendment to ensure that no U.S. funds are used to implement annexation. Getting support from as many senators as possible for the amendment will send a message to the Israeli government that many in Congress oppose annexation.

In early June, U.S. Christian leaders said Israeli annexation would be “an act of aggression, not a step for peace,” as the Trump administration has framed it. The leaders called on Congress “to wield its power of the purse and not allow any United States funds provided to Israel to be used for the recognition, facilitation or support of annexation, or for denial of Palestinian rights and violation of international law, including continuing occupation.”

The leaders went on to say, “Respect for human rights, compliance with international law, and achievement of peace with justice is essential not only for the security and wellbeing of Palestinians, but for that of Israelis as well.”

As this matter is debated, please ask your members of Congress to ensure that U.S. funds are not used to carry out unjust practices such as annexation and to uphold the rights of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

This article was originally published on July 17, 2020 on thirdwaycafe.com