US House members talk restoring aid to Palestinians with Israeli, PA officials

Visiting Israel and the West Bank, members of Congress discuss the two-state solution and celebrate July 4 at Jerusalem embassy

A bipartisan delegation of US House members who visited Israel and the West Bank in July 2019 (Courtesy)
A bipartisan delegation of US House members who visited Israel and the West Bank in July 2019 (Courtesy)

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan delegation of US House members visited Israel and the West Bank this week, meeting with Palestinian Authority officials about legislative efforts to restore American aid to the Palestinians that the Trump administration slashed.

The members of Congress also discussed these efforts with Israeli officials, according to Florida Representative Ted Deutch, a Democrat, who headlined the visit.

“Throughout our trip, we discussed legislative efforts to reinstate US economic and security assistance which would foster stability, strengthen security for Israelis and Palestinians, and further the chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace,” Deutch said in a statement Friday.

The delegation met with PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and Palestinian business leaders in Ramallah. “We discussed US policy, the prospects for peace and economic development, and efforts to improve conditions for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza,” Deutch added.

Since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy there, Palestinians have refused to engage with the White House. In response, the administration cut aid to the PA, the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, East Jerusalem hospitals and Israeli-Palestinian coexistence programs.

In April, Senate Democrats introduced a resolution to restore humanitarian funding to the Palestinians.

The Palestinians boycotted the recent workshop organized by the Trump administration in Bahrain, where it unveiled the economic aspects of its promised peace plan.

The members of Congress also met with top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Blue and White party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid.

A bipartisan Congressional delegation meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in July 2019 (Courtesy).

Deutch said the group discussed in several meetings “the prospects for a two-state solution and my continued belief that two states, a secure Jewish State of Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state, achieved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, must remain the goal of Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians.”

The visit comes as Trump administration has refused to explicitly endorse the a two-state solution, calling the term unhelpful.

Other members of Congress on the trip included Representative Gus Bilirakis (Republican-Florida),  Representative Henry Cuellar (Democrat-Texas), Representative Randy Weber (Republican-Texas), Representative Cheri Bustos (Democrat-Illinois), Representative Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (Republican-American Samoa), Representative Scott Peters (Democrat-California), Representative Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (Republican-Puerto Rico), Representative Kathleen Rice (Democrat-New York) and Representative Darren Soto (Democrat-Florida).

Israel is gearing up for another round of elections after Netanyahu failed to assemble a government following his April victory.

On the eve of that election, Netanyahu vowed to extend Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements, which critics have said would effectively foreclose the possibility of a future two-state outcome.

The Trump administration has signaled tacit support for such an idea. In June, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told The New York Times that Israel “has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”

The congressional delegation also met with Friedman, with whom they celebrated the July 4th holiday. “We met with US Ambassador David Friedman and embassy staff to hear directly from American officials about the breadth and depth of our bilateral relationship,” Deutch said. “We were also honored to attend the first Independence Day celebration hosted in Jerusalem by the US Embassy.”

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