Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 January 2020

US House passes resolution breaking with President Trump on Israel policy

The government should "discourage steps by either side" that would harm chances of a peaceful end to the conflict, it said

President Donald Trump welcomes visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington. AP
President Donald Trump welcomes visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington. AP

The US House of Representatives on Friday threw its weight behind a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, in a warning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he mulls annexing the West Bank.

Passed largely along party lines, the House resolution also marked a shot across the bow to President Donald Trump, who has stood squarely behind Mr Netanyahu.

In its first-ever resolution on a West Bank annexation, the House said that a two-state solution "can both ensure the state of Israel's survival as a Jewish and democratic state and fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own."

The United States should "discourage steps by either side that would put a peaceful end to the conflict further out of reach," the resolution said.

Such steps include "unilateral annexation of territory or efforts to achieve Palestinian statehood status outside the framework of negotiations with Israel," it said.

Representative Eliot Engel, the Democrat who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, recalled his longtime support of Israel and how he backed Mr Trump's shift of the US embassy to the city of Jerusalem.

But he said, in a choice turn of phrase, US security was being "trumped by decisions about our own political interests".

"Those of us that are strong supporters of Israel understand that Israel is best served by a two-state solution, that a two-state solution is good not only for Palestinians but also good for Jews," Mr Engel said on the House floor.

The two-state solution had enjoyed support from successive US presidents and, until recently, House resolutions on Israel saw little dissent.

Republicans accused the Democrats of improperly intervening in Israeli decision-making and ignoring what they call incitement by the Palestinians.

"The resolution completely ignores the reason why the two-state solution has never gotten off the ground: Venomous voices among the Palestinians don't want two states, they want one - a Palestinian state," said Republican Representative Steve Chabot.

The resolution "gives the Palestinians a vote over Israel's future. We shouldn't let that happen," he said.

Mr Netanyahu, who is clinging to power after two inconclusive elections and a criminal indictment, has vowed to annex much of the West Bank - a move that would doom prospects for a Palestinian state.

The Trump administration, whose evangelical Christian base staunchly backs Israel, has not condemned annexation and rallied behind Mr Netanyahu.

In a step that could ease the way for annexation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that the United States no longer shared the widely held international position that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal.

Updated: December 7, 2019 09:31 PM

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