Palestinian-American lawmaker says Israeli policies pushed her to one-state view

Rep. Rashida Tlaib says that if Netanyahu would ‘take down walls’ and freeze settlements, people like her would believe in two states

Rashida Tlaib, then a Democratic candidate for Michigan's 13th Congressional district, during a rally in Dearborn, Michigan, October 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
Rashida Tlaib, then a Democratic candidate for Michigan's 13th Congressional district, during a rally in Dearborn, Michigan, October 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

The Israeli government “gave up” on the two-state solution, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in the US Congress, charged in an interview published Friday.

The only Democrat to openly challenge the party’s two-state consensus on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Tlaib, of Michigan, was challenged on whether she had “given up” on a two-state peace in an interview on the Skullduggery podcast.

“I didn’t give it up,” she said of the two-state solution. “[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his party gave it up, and the Israeli government gave it up.”

She insisted it was Netanyahu who was working to ensure the proposal would not be achievable.

“If Netanyahu got up tomorrow morning and decided, ‘You know what? I’m going to take down the walls. I’m not going to expand settlements. Enough is enough, I really want to push toward a two-state solution’ — he has every power to do that. And then people like myself and others will truly believe in that.”

US President Donald Trump smiles at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, after signing a proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Asked if she shared the policy of the terror group Hamas, which uses violence in a battle ultimately aimed to destroy the Jewish state, she rejected the idea: “I don’t come from a place of violence, I come from a place of love and equality and justice. For many of these organizations it’s about power struggle.”

Tlaib made waves as one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, and for her open support for a single state as a solution to the conflict.

She defended the idea in the interview, insisting it would still leave Israel as a safe haven for Jews.

“There’s kind of a calming feeling, I always tell folks, when I think of the tragedy of the Holocaust, in the fact that it was my ancestors, Palestinians, who lost their lands, and some lost their lives, their livelihoods, their existence in many ways… was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post the Holocaust, post the tragedy, horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time,” Tlaib said. “And I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that in many ways.”

But, she added, “they did it in a way that took their human dignity away. And it was forced on them. So when I think about one state, I think, ‘Why can’t we do it in a better way? I don’t want people to do it in the name of Judaism, just like I don’t want people to use Islam in that way. It has to be done in a way of values around equality, and around the fact that you shouldn’t oppress others so you can feel free and safe. Why can’t we all be free and safe together?”

Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) votes for Speaker-designate Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) along with her kids during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

Tlaib said it was ultimately up to Israelis and Palestinians “to decide what it looks like,” comparing Israel’s current situation to segregation in the United States. “It’s important to understand that separate but equal didn’t work here. We have to allow self-determination to happen there.”

She went on to challenge what she depicted as a prevailing willingness to let Israel off the hook for its policies.

Tlaib has called for a profound shift in US policy toward Israel, and last year announced plans to lead an alternative trip to the West Bank in summer 2019 that will take a more pro-Palestinian perspective than the Israel trips organized for US lawmakers by the American Israel Education Foundation, an affiliate of AIPAC.

She challenged critics, saying the ball was in Israel’s court to prove her wrong, and said she could “smell” Netanyahu’s racism.

“Until I actually see people moving toward desegregating, then maybe [critics] would have some sort of credibility with somebody like myself, that grew up in Detroit, where we can smell it from far away, that no, you don’t want to look my grandmother in the eye, Netanyahu, and say, ‘You are equal to me, you’re as human as I am to you, and yes, you deserve to die with human dignity.'”

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