Democrats pass two-state resolution in Congress
December 13, 2019
WASHINGTON (JTA)—Democrats in Congress passed a resolution on Friday saying that only a two-state outcome would bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians.
The nonbinding resolution approved largely on party lines has been subject to considerable behind-the-scenes drama since its introduction in the spring by Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif. The only Democrats who voted against were the Squad, the grouping of four freshman congresswomen who to varying degrees have been critical of Israeli government policies.
Lowenthal cast the resolution as a means of redressing decisions by the administrations of President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to retreat from the two-state outcome. Netanyahu’s suggestions this week that he is ready to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank helped spur the passage, insiders said.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the House majority leader, came close in his efforts to get Republican support for the bill. But other Democrats balked at a GOP demand that the word “only” be removed from the phrase “only the outcome of a two-state solution that enhances stability and security for Israel, Palestinians, and their neighbors 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.”
Also this week, New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a moderate Democrat, got leaders to attach an amendment to the resolution that made an “ironclad” commitment to maintaining defense assistance to Israel—an implicit rebuke to Democratic presidential candidates who have said they would consider leveraging aid to pressure Israel.
The five Republicans who voted for the amendment are members of the Problem Solvers Caucus of moderate Republicans and Democrats that is co-chaired by Gottheimer.
The bill passed 228-188, with two lawmakers voting “present.” Among the Squad, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said she opposed the bill because she favors a one-state outcome, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said she backed the resolution until this week, when Gottheimer got his “ironclad” language passed.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., said in his floor speech opposing the resolution that it did not sufficiently address Palestinian responsibility for the collapse of peace talks and undercut peace efforts by the Trump administration.
J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, backed the resolution. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee had no position.