Pelosi reads out J Street-backed two-state letter at AIPAC confab
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Pelosi reads out J Street-backed two-state letter at AIPAC confab

Warm applause as House minority leader shares with pro-Israel lobby a plea sent to Trump that liberal Mideast policy group pushed on Capitol Hill

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, addresses AIPAC's 2017 Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center on March 28, 2017 (courtesy)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, addresses AIPAC's 2017 Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center on March 28, 2017 (courtesy)

WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made an interesting move during her speech at this year’s annual AIPAC Policy Conference: She read the full text of a J Street-backed letter — signed by 191 members of Congress, mostly Democrats — that urges President Donald Trump to support a two-state solution.

Addressing the confab’s plenary session Tuesday morning, its last of the three-day event, Pelosi noted the letter — which was released last week, just before the conference was to begin — was signed by 189 Democrats and two Republicans.

“As strong supporters of Israel, we write to urge you to reaffirm the United States’ long-standing, bipartisan commitment to supporting a just and lasting two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Pelosi began, reading from the text, and garnering immediate applause from thousands at the Washington Convention Center..

“For decades, American presidents and Israeli prime ministers of all political parties have publicly supported and worked toward attaining a peace agreement that recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state and establishes a demilitarized Palestinian state, coexisting side-by-side in peace and security,” she continued from the text.

Pelosi went on to read the full letter.

Organized by Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly and North Carolina Rep. David Price, both Democrats, the letter’s release last week was followed by a J Street statement welcoming the gesture, and saying the group had pushed for it.

“J Street has advocated for the Price-Connolly letter over the past few weeks,” its press release said. “Hundreds of J Street activists urged Members of Congress to sign the letter during J Street’s National Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill in late February, the culmination of the organization’s Sixth National Conference in Washington, DC.”

While President Trump has not explicitly pulled US support for a two-state solution, he has also not insisted on that outcome as the only resolution to the decades-old conflict, as his most recent successors have all done.

When asked about the topic at a joint press conference in Washington with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, Trump said, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
US President Donald Trump (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on February 15, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

The House members said they wanted a stronger position from the White House on this matter, which they insisted was necessary for the long-term survivability of the Zionist ideal, as well as a fair and equitable future for Palestinians.

“We remain convinced that a two-state solution is the only outcome that would quell ongoing incidents of violence, maintain Israel as a secure, Jewish and democratic state, and provide a just and stable future for the Palestinians,” the legislators said.

“It is our belief that a one-state outcome risks destroying Israel’s Jewish and democratic character, denies the Palestinians fulfillment of their legitimate aspirations, and would leave both Israelis and Palestinians embroiled in an endless and intractable conflict for generations to come.”

There have been mixed signals from the administration on its level of support for pushing a two-state framework.

Trump’s envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in February that “we absolutely support at two-state solution” and that those who think that the US does not were “in error.” But, she added, the US was also considering new means to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. “We are thinking out of the box as well.”

AIPAC’s chair Howard Kohr told AIPAC members Sunday night that he supports a two-state solution — which he called the “desirable outcome.”

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