WASHINGTON — A group of 41 former Israeli security officials sent a letter to four Democrats from the US House of Representatives Tuesday, thanking them for authoring a letter opposing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stalled plan to annex parts of the West Bank.
The Congressional missive, unveiled last month, implored the Israeli leader to halt his plan and preserve the possibility of a two-state solution, warning that Israel annexing West Bank territory would hurt the Jewish state’s relationship with the United States. It was signed by 191 House Democrats.
“We commend you on building such a broad coalition of Members of Congress to join you in signing this letter,” the ex-officials said. “We consider it a further manifestation of the broad-based support for the kind of Israel we have fought for on the battlefield and continue to strive for, one that is strong and safe, maintains a solid Jewish majority for generations to come, all while upholding the values of democracy and equality as enshrined in our Declaration of Independence.”
The signatories include former Mossad chiefs Tamir Pardo, Shabtai Shavit, and Danny Yatom; and ex-Shin Bet heads Ami Ayalon and Yaakov Peri. Efraim Sneh, who was deputy defense minister under former prime minister Ehud Olmert, also signed on, along with a number of other one-time top IDF officials, such as Amos Yaron, Giora Inbar and Baruch Spiegel.
Together, they wrote that they are “convinced that in any future negotiations Israel must insist on the annexation of certain settlement blocs and East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods within an agreed territorial swap,” but that “what is a just demand in negotiations is bound to prove counterproductive when done unilaterally.”
Unilateral annexation, they added, could “trigger a chain of events beyond anyone’s control,” destabilizing the West Bank and Gaza, ending Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, preventing Israel from normalizing relations with its other Arab neighbors, and eroding the possibility of a two-state outcome.
The letter was sent to Florida Congressman Ted Deutch, Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Congressman Brad Schneider, and North Carolina Congressman David Price — all of whom wrote the June 25 letter.
The retired officials also alluded to a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, sent by progressive lawmakers such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calling for aid reductions to Israel if the country annexes parts of the West Bank.
“Any perceived erosion, however misconstrued, in these relations and in the ironclad US commitment to the durability of security assistance risks undermining our deterrence,” they wrote.
The United States currently earmarks $3.8 billion in military assistance for Israel every year, per a memorandum of understanding forged between the Obama administration and Netanyahu government in 2016.
Netanyahu has vowed to annex the roughly 30 percent of the territory, including all settlements and the Jordan Valley, allocated to Israel under the Trump administration peace plan, which theoretically envisions a Palestinian state in the remaining territory with land swaps.
He originally hoped to begin annexing these territories as early as July 1, but the process has stalled, as the Trump administration has not approved the plan and the prime minister has faced resistance from inside his own coalition, including from Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz.