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Senior pro-Israel US Democrats oppose Israeli annexations in joint statement

The small group of top Democrats includes Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 June, 2020

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Three top Democrats in the US Senate have released a joint statement condemning Israel's plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
Three senior pro-Israel US senators in the Democratic Party opposed Israel's planned annexation of swathes of the occupied West Bank in a joint statement on Friday, according to media reports, signalling a growing consensus against annexation among Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as Senators Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin, said that as "strong and dedicated supporters of the US-Israel relationship", they felt "compelled" to oppose Israel's annexation plans.

The senators called for negotiations that will result in "sustainable peace deal that ensures the long-term security of Israel and self-determination for Palestinians".

"Real diplomacy via direct negotiations, while an arduous road, is the only path for a durable peace," the statement read. "For that reason it has consistently been the long-standing, bipartisan policy in Congress to oppose unilateral action by either side."

Israel's annexation plans could "undermine regional stability and broader US national security interests in the region", the senators said.

“We are committed to sustaining a US-Israel relationship based on shared democratic values and our important security assistance partnership," the statement continued. "We are also committed to continuing to engage Israelis and Palestinians to find ways to live together with peace, freedom, security and dignity and achieve a two-state solution."

The statement comes as a letter is being drafted and circulated among Democrats in Congress, according to Haaretz, warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the consequences of annexation.

While leading pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC had previously told US lawmakers it would not push back on criticism of Israel's annexation plans, the organisation has been lobbying against the letter, Haaretz reported.

Schumer, Menendez and Cardin joined a growing chorus of prominent Democrats speaking out against the unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank.

Earlier this month, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was "very concerned" about Netanyahu's annexation plans, adding the move would undermine US national security interests and harm bipartisan support for Israel.

Last month, US presidential hopeful Joe Biden vowed not to approve Israeli annexation if he wins the presidential race.

"I do not support annexation," he said. "Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation and stop settlement activity because it will choke off any hope of peace."

However, Biden said he would not reconsider military aid to Israel over the annexations.

Israel's plans to annex approximately one third of the West Bank was greenlighted by US President Donald Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century". The plan also envisages the creation of a severely restricted Palestinian state.

The Palestinians have rejected the plan outright, while world leaders have urged Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Israel could begin implementing phases of its annexation plans as soon as 1 July.

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