Human rights, Middle East, New in Lobbying

AIPAC confronts liberals over ‘apartheid’ warning against annexation

America’s main pro-Israel lobby today took the unusual step of proactively asking Democrats not to sign on to a letter from their liberal colleagues as the politics of annexation becomes impossible to sidestep.

AIPAC the American Israel Public Affairs Committee had previously sought a middle road by telling lawmakers they could criticize Israel’s West Bank annexation plans without risking support as long as US aid to Israel remained untouched. A Dear Colleague letter spearheaded by four progressive House members however has prompted a more forceful response.

“AIPAC opposes the letter … which explicitly threatens the US-Israel relationship in ways that would damage American interests, risk the security of Israel & make a two-state solution less likely,” the lobby group wrote on Twitter.

AIPAC went on to remind lawmakers that the current 10-year, $38 billion memorandum of understanding regarding military assistance to Israel was signed by the Barack Obama administration, while presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden was vice-president.

“The letter rejects President Obama’s security assistance commitment to Israel (MOU),” AIPAC wrote. “Dems and Reps in Congress agree the MOU is in America’s interest and is a key pillar of our security strategy in the region. Congress must continue to fully implement the Obama-Biden MOU.”

The statement on Twitter comes in response to a letter spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and co-signed by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.). The letter was first reported by Jewish Insider.

“We cannot support an undemocratic system in which Israel would permanently rule over a Palestinian people denied self-determination or equal rights,” the letter states. “Should the Israeli government move forward with the planned annexation with this administration’s acquiescence, we will work to ensure non-recognition as well as pursue conditions on the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel, including human rights conditions and withholding funds for the off-shore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them.”

The escalating rhetoric comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to begin annexing Israeli settlements as early as July 1 under cover of the Donald Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan. Amid push-back from the US government, Netanyahu has been lobbying Trump’s evangelical base to support his plans.

“These places are an integral part of the historic Jewish homeland … but also an integral part of Christian identity,” Netanyahu said in a video message to the annual summit of Christians United for Israel (CUFI). “They are part of your heritage. Part of our common civilization and under Israel sovereignty our common heritage will be forever protected.”