US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday said Israeli settlement building was not an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians, instead blaming the failure to reach a peace accord on the Palestinian refusal to accept the Jewish state.
Schumer told the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual conference that Israel’s experience in Gaza, where it uprooted all its settlements in 2005 but was still targeted by Hamas rocket fire from the Strip, proved that Israeli building on land Palestinians claim for a state of their own was not the issue.
“It’s sure not the settlements that are the blockage to peace,” said the New York senator.
Schumer said disagreements over borders are also not an impediment to peace, pointing to the “huge territorial concessions” offered by former prime minister Ehud Barak that were rejected by then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Rather, “the fact of the matter is that too many Palestinians and too many Arabs do not want any Jewish state in the Middle East,” he said.
“So that’s the reason there is not peace. They invent other reasons, but they do not believe in a Jewish state and that is why we, in America, must stand strong with Israel through thick and thin,” Schumer said.
“We must, because that is the reason, not any of these other false shibboleths why there is not peace in the Middle East.”
Schumer lamented that many younger Americans don’t know the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “and as a result, they tend to say, both sides are to blame.”
“While Putin enables Assad’s atrocities in Syria, while a humanitarian crisis unfolds in Yemen, while human rights abuses happen every day to so many in Iran, somehow, to some, Israel receives the blame for a chaotic Middle East,” he said.
“The world draws a false moral equivalence between Israel’s actions to defend herself and the actions of terrorists who use children as human shields in their evil campaign to push Israel into the sea.”
Schumer, in his speech, called for the passage of the Taylor Force Act, a bill named for a former US soldier killed in a Tel Aviv terror attack that would slash funds to the Palestinian Authority by the amount Ramallah pays out to convicted terrorists and their families.
He also urged continued efforts to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which he accused of “anti-Semitism” for singling out Israel.
“Let us call out the BDS movement for what it is. Let us delegitimize the delegitimizers by letting the world know when there is a double standard, whether they know it or not, they are actively participating in an anti-Semitic movement,” he said.
The top Senate Democrat also warned of Iran’s military expansion in the region and said the US must help Israel counter the growing threat on its borders.
“Last summer Congress, Democrats and Republicans together, granted the administration new authority to counter Iran’s malign activity,” said Schumer, referring to a sanctions bill passed 98-2 by the Senate. “Now we must use it not only to combat Iran, but to push Russia to repel Iranian proxies in Syria. We can never be complacent about any threat near Israel’s borders and Iran is a threat right now.”
“So we must do these things and more to ensure Israel’s security to educate the younger generations about the true nature of the situation in the Middle East, for the cause of Israel is too important to you and to me,” he said.