WASHINGTON — A coalition of progressive pro-Israel groups in the United States announced its support Thursday for a proposed Senate amendment that would ban Israel from using US military aid to annex parts of the West Bank.
Eight member organizations of the Progressive Israel Network, an umbrella association of 10 liberal Zionist groups, argued that the measure would ensure American assistance is directed toward Israel’s security and not a deleterious action that would harm the prospects of peace.
“All those who value human rights and Israeli democracy, support a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and want to see an end to decades of occupation should agree that it would be unacceptable for US tax dollars to help foot the bill for an act as extreme and destructive as unilateral annexation,” they said in a statement.
The signatories included the liberal Middle East advocacy groups J Street, the New Israel Fund, Americans for Peace Now, the rabbinic group T’ruah, and others.
Last week, Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen introduced an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to block US funds going toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned annexation of roughly 30 percent of the West Bank.
The motion currently has 12 co-sponsors, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine.
Netanyahu has said he intends to annex some 30 percent of the West Bank this summer, including all of the settlements and the entire Jordan Valley — territory that the Trump White House allocated to Israel under its peace proposal, which theoretically envisions a Palestinian state in the remaining territory with land swaps.
Van Hollen said that Israel annexing those territories “would end the chance of a viable two-state solution and is a violation of international law.”
“Neither the US government nor American taxpayers should finance or facilitate this unilateral move that goes against our shared democratic values,” he said. “No US funds are currently being expended on unilateral annexation, and this amendment would ensure that remains the case.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) expressed strong opposition to the proposal, tweeting that it would “weaken Israel’s defenses, especially as it faces unprecedented threats.” The powerful pro-Israel lobby said the amendment “restricts where Israel can place lifesaving missile defense systems like Iron Dome.”
The prospect of Israel annexing any parts of the West Bank has drawn international warnings and condemnation. Jordan’s King Abdullah II has said it would create a “massive conflict” in the Middle East and held a series of teleconferences with Congressional leaders two weeks ago urging them to block the move.
The Jewish groups warned Thursday that Israeli annexation of the West Bank would “violate international law and severely imperil Israel’s future as a secure, democratic homeland for the Jewish people. It would aim to permanently relegate the Palestinians to life in disconnected enclaves without independent statehood or basic civil rights.”
“It is because of these concerns that we strongly support Senator Chris Van Hollen’s proposed amendment,” they concluded.