Today, APN sent the following message to foreign policy staffers in the offices of members of the House of Representatives:
On behalf of Americans for Peace Now (APN), America’s veteran grassroots, Jewish, Zionist, pro-peace organization and the sister organization to the Israeli Peace Now movement (Shalom Achshav), I’m writing to urge your boss to refuse to cosponsor H. Res. 567 – a resolution that would reverse almost 5 decades of U.S. policy with respect to Israeli settlements – and to oppose this resolution if it is brought to a vote.
The starting point for H. Res. 567 (as well as language inserted into two major trade bills in recent months) are legitimate concerns about the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. APN shares these concerns and opposes BDS against Israel – and if H. Res. 567 was strictly about putting Congress on the record opposing BDS targeting Israel, APN would support it.
Regrettably, and regardless of intent, H. Res. 567 is not strictly about opposing BDS against Israel. Rather, it is primarily about legislating U.S. protection and support for Israeli settlements.
It does so by erasing the distinction between Israel and the occupied territories and thereby treating policies of other nations that merely distinguish between the two as a form of anti-Israel BDS. H. Res. 567, in effect, redefines “Israel” to mean “Israel-plus-Israeli-controlled-territory,” (code for the settlements) and, by extension, seeks to have members of Congress endorse the view that “supporting Israel” now means “supporting Israel and the settlements.”
This is a reckless and dangerous step for Congress to take, for a number of reasons:
- This conflation flies in the face of nearly 5 decades of unbroken U.S. policy opposing settlements. Since 1967, every president, regardless of party, has maintained this policy. And until recently, every Congress, regardless of which party was in control, supported this policy, including in law (e.g., legislation barring Israel from using U.S. loan guarantees in areas occupied in 1967). Indeed, never before in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, until now, has there been any serious effort in Congress to legislate U.S. support for settlements.
- This conflation threatens the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite U.S. opposition, successive Israeli governments have continued to build in settlements for decades, eroding both the credibility and the viability of the two-state solution. An unprecedented shift in policy in Congress to now actively support settlements can only encourage further construction, undermining the chances for ever resolving this conflict.
- This conflation contradicts Congress’ commitment to negotiations as the only means of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With H. Res. 567 and similar measures, Congress is seeking to use U.S. law to grant “legitimacy” to settlements and, in doing so, to impose specific elements of a solution, outside of negotiations. The future of the occupied territories – and the settlements Israel has built in them – will be determined through negotiations, not by unilateral actions by either side, nor by actions at the United Nations or by the international community, nor by acts of Congress.
- Those who adopt this conflation are, deliberately or unwittingly, playing into the hands of BDS, rather than fighting it. They are making common cause with and fueling hardliners and zealots on both sides, including in the BDS movement, who likewise refuse to distinguish between Israel and the occupied territories. They seek, instead, a zero-sum goal of one nation, be it Israel or Palestine, extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
- This conflation further discredits Congress and U.S. leadership in the Middle East arena – an arena in which even Israel’s closest allies– countries that have not adopted anything even resembling BDS against Israel (the EU remains Israel’s largest trading partner) – have run out of patience with Israeli leaders who talk about supporting two states but keep building settlements.
- This conflation pointlessly puts the U.S. on a collision course with its own allies. It does so not for the sake of supporting and defending Israel, but for the sake of defending settlements – settlements built in defiance of almost 50 years of U.S. policy and settlements which the Israeli government continues to build, in contradiction to a genuine commitment to achieving a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- This conflation represents an extraordinary twisting of reality. Israel and the settlements are not the same thing. Members of Congress would do well to note that Israel has never annexed the West Bank, meaning that under Israeli law, the West Bank is not considered part of Israel, and under international law and Israeli court decisions the West Bank is deemed as being held in a state of belligerent military occupation. Distinguishing between Israel and settlements is neither discrimination against nor unfair treatment of Israel. Rather, it reflects this objective reality, and is both pro-Israel and pro-peace. This is true whether talking about the new EU interpretive notice relating to settlement products, or longstanding U.S. Customs rules, or the longstanding policy of Congress that U.S. aid cannot be used in the settlements.
The dangerous conflation of Israel and the settlements is at the heart of H. Res. 567. While we hope that the intention behind this resolution is genuinely a desire to support Israel, the real impact of H. Res. 567 would be to put members of Congress explicitly and unequivocally on the record supporting not Israel but Israeli settlements. For this reason, members of Congress who truly care about Israel and truly support a two-state solution must oppose it.
We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the 1967 War and of the occupation. As this anniversary nears, the situation on the ground grows more and more dire. Israeli security authorities recognize that actions by the Israeli military and law enforcement, alone, will not suffice to end the violence. Now, more than ever, they recognize the urgency of re-establishing a horizon for a political solution – a two-state solution – to the conflict. While such a solution may not be within reach today, it can and must be in the future, but it won’t be if the Green Line (the line separating between Israel and the West Bank), has been erased.
For the sake of Israel and the hopes of ever achieving a two-state resolution to this conflict, it is critical that members of Congress who care about Israel – including your boss – refuse to accept the dangerous conflation of Israel and the settlements. Opposition to BDS must not become cover, deliberately or inadvertently, for legislation that seeks to erase the Green Line and reverse 48 years of consistent, non-partisan U.S. opposition to settlements.
If you have any questions about APN’s opposition to H. Res. 567, or wish to discuss anything related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Director, Policy & Government Relations
Americans for Peace Now