ZOA President Morton A. Klein and Chair Mark Levenson, Esq. released the following statement:
ZOA strongly criticizes a dangerous draft letter authored by Israelophobes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Betty McCollum (D-MN) being circulated among House members and addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The letter threatens damage to the U.S. relationship with Israel if the democratically-elected Israeli unity government extends Israeli sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, (where 500,000 Jews live), and the Jordan Valley. The letter gets many facts wrong. Israel’s extension of sovereignty is in fact lawful under binding international law, (San Remo, Balfour Declaration, UN Article 80) and is called for under the new plan for Middle East peace plan announced by the Trump Administration in January.
The letter is an insult to America’s greatest ally, the Jewish State of Israel, raises the false and outrageous charge that Israel would become an apartheid state, ignores democratic values and essential Israeli security needs, and calls for giving the intransigent, terror-financing, pay to slay anti-peace Palestinian-Arabs veto-power over Israel’s rights to lands that were guaranteed to the Jewish people to re-establish the Jewish homeland 100 years ago at the San Remo Conference.
ZOA National President Mort Klein said:
“It is outrageous that the letter does not even contain the word ‘security.’ The authors are not even pretending they care about the lives of 500,000 Jews who live in Judea and Samaria. Instead, the letter is focused on the supposed rights of the Arabs who live there, and on making threats to the democratically-elected Israeli unity government. The polemic nature of the letter is indicative of the many factual errors the congresswomen make. The extension of sovereignty is not annexation, because the land in question already belongs to the Jewish People-legally, historically, politically and religiously. Extending sovereignty will not be a violation of international law. The letter is so extreme it includes Jerusalem as part of the supposedly occupied territories, and it blames Israel for ‘inciting armed conflict’ instead of the Palestinian Arab terrorists who perpetuate it and continuously attempt to murder innocent Israeli Jews.
ZOA Director of Government Relations Dan Pollak said:
“The drafters of this letter are the most extreme anti-Israel voices in the House of Representatives. It is ironic that one of them already subscribes to the antisemitic BDS program against Israel, and all four already oppose military aid to Israel, but they are threatening that if Israel extends sovereignty, Congress will be forced to act to reduce military aid and cooperation with Israel. In fact, each of these congresswomen already accuses Israel of being an apartheid state, which is a ludicrous charge to anyone who has visited Israel. The only apartheid in the region is in the territory of the Palestinian Authority (PA), where it is a crime, punishable by death to sell land to a Jew.”
Palestinian Arabs are not at the table
The letter states “Palestinians have overwhelmingly rejected the idea of annexation and were not at the table for discussions leading to this point, having understandably refused to participate in a process that is not grounded in a recognition of their national rights under international law.” In fact, the PLO choose to boycott the talks where the discussions that led to this opportunity were developed. They are responsible for the choice they made to not attend, and the word ‘understandably’ illustrates just how extreme this letter is. It is not ‘understandable’ that the Palestinian Arabs are refusing to even consider peace. The rejectionists are being given a free pass for being completely unreasonable.
“Annexation” and “Palestinian territory” are the wrong terms
The lawmakers’ draft letter uses the improper, misleading terms “annexation” and “Palestinian territory.” The term “annexation” misleadingly implies that Israel is taking another party’s sovereign territory. Here, Israel has the longstanding sovereign rights to Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley under international law. This is not “Palestinian territory.” The correct phrase is Israel’s extension of Israeli law to areas to which Israel has sovereign rights. In fact, exercising sovereignty would express the democratic will of Israel’s people. Israel held three national elections in a less than a year, which included all Israeli citizens of voting age eligible to vote. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze and other religious minorities all participated in these elections. The new Israeli unity government was approved with broad support. Seventy-two (out of 120) Knesset members voting for the new government, ranging from members of the Labor Party on the left to the Likud party on the right; and from the secular to the religiously observant members. Any possible extension of Israeli sovereignty would be voted on by the Knesset in a democratic process.
Israeli security needs:
The letter does not even consider Israel’s security needs, which is a direct interest of US foreign policy, since Israel is one of our closest allies. Opposition to Israeli sovereignty seriously harms Israeli security. Security experts – including over 1,000 high-ranking Israeli Defense Forces officers and commanders of the “Protectors of Israel” movement – confirm that sovereignty is necessary to secure Israel and maintain defensible borders. Without Israeli control of the Jordan Valley, the Jewish state would be just 8.7 miles wide at its “waist,” and at great risk. The Arabs launched multiple attacks against Israel from Jordanian territory through the Jordan Valley. Moreover, this policy of sovereignty was first introduced by Israel’s leftwing Labor party in the form of the Allon Plan in the late 1960’s.
Jewish rights and Arab intransigence:
The congresswomen’s letter also wrongly claims: “Unilateral annexation in the West Bank [… would result in the] Palestinian people [being] denied self-determination or equal rights.”
There is in fact no lawful Palestinian-Arab “right to self-determination” in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley. These are parts of the lands guaranteed to the Jewish people to reconstitute the Jewish state under binding international law. Just a month ago, the world marked the 100th anniversary of the San Remo Conference and San Remo resolution adopted by the victorious world powers at the conclusion of World War I. The San Remo resolution made the Balfour Declaration, which called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” into a binding obligation. The “Mandatory” (Britain) was required by put the Balfour declaration into effect, in accordance with mandate system adopted by Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant. Further, under the Mandate for Palestine, the League of Nations confirmed that “recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country” and called for “close settlement by Jews on the land while ensuring that “no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign Power.” The Anglo-American Convention and UN Charter Article 80 (both U.S.-international treaty obligations) again confirmed the Jewish people’s rights to these lands. This standard still stands.
Moreover, the Arabs rejected incredibly over-generous offers for a state of their own, on lands guaranteed to the Jewish people, at least a half-dozen times between 1937 and 2008 – including offers giving the Arabs some 95 percent of the territory they claim they wanted. The Arabs scuttled every potential deal because they refused to agree to end their aggression and claims against Israel and refused to recognize a Jewish state of Israel in any shape or size. There is no indication that the Palestinian-Arabs will agree to these two basic stipulations for peace in the future. The Palestinian-Arabs have also been infringing on the rights of Israelis living in “Area C” of the Oslo Accords, which specifically permit Jewish communities in these areas of Judea and Samaria.
Thus, the lawmakers’ expressed concern for Palestinian-Arab “self-determination” is misplaced. The Palestinian-Arabs are their own impediment to “self-determination.” Hamas terrorists control the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian-Authority dictators control the Arab communities in Judea and Samaria. About 98 percent of Palestinian-Arabs are governed by these entities. It is the Palestinian-Arab leadership that denies their people democracy and basic democratic freedoms, and has refused to hold a democratic election since 2005.
The Palestinian Authority have turned down a State three times in the last 20 years and 6 times in the last 83 years, and they never established a Palestinian State when the Arabs controlled Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem and Gaza between 1948-67. This is because the Arabs will not accept a Palestinian State if it means accepting a Jewish State within any borders. They have refused to even sit down and negotiate with Israel for over 10 years. The Palestinian Arabs goal remains Israel’s destruction and murdering Israeli Jews-not Statehood.
“Unilateral annexation in the West Bank would alienate U.S. lawmakers and citizens.”
The entire letter has a bizarre and frankly hypocritical tone, since the authors are saying that Israeli actions will cause them to be hostile to Israel, while in fact they already are hostile to Israel. One of the authors, Rashida Tlaib, is infamous for her antisemitic pronouncements and support for BDS. Rep. Betty McCollum has sponsored the equally infamous “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act” (H.R. 2407), which absurdly accuses Israel of routinely torturing children. All already support reducing defense cooperation with Israel and blame Israel for every problem in the region. It strains credulity to believe that if Israel does not extend sovereignty, these Congresswomen will be in any way supportive of the vital relationship between the US and Israel. The foreign policy of the United States is determined by the President in our system, and recognizing that there has been little progress towards peace by traditional negotiations, President Trump has put forth his own plan, which includes incentives for both sides. Threatening the security relationship with Israel because it acts in accordance with the President’s peace plan is counter-productive and potentially destructive to American interests.
The truth is that this letter, and others like it that some senators have signed creates a rift in American support for Israel that could embolden those who want to destroy Israel and murder Jews. The ZOA strongly urges all members of the House to not sign this divisive letter.