By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – Nearly all Democrats in the US House of Representatives signed on to a letter Thursday warning Israel against its plan to annex the occupied West Bank.
Led by representatives Ted Deutch, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider and David Price, the letter calls on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to change course, saying if they follow through, it will "push the parties further from negotiations and the possibility of a final, negotiated agreement."
"We have consistently endorsed the pursuit of a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians resulting in two states for two peoples," said the letter's authors, all of whom except Price are Jewish. "In that vein, we write today to express our deep concern that the push for unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank after July 1st will make these goals harder to achieve."
Beyond Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, the letter warns unilateral annexation risks upending normalization with Israel's Arab neighbors, particularly Jordan, and could further deteriorate Israel's ties with Europe.
"We do not see how any of these acute risks serve the long-term interest of a strong, secure Israel," the authors wrote.
The missive has so far garnered the support of 191 of the chamber's 233 Democrats in yet another sign that the bipartisan support long seen on Capitol Hill for Israel may be eroding.
It does not, however, vow any retribution should Israel's leaders refuse to change course.
Many lawmakers from the progressive wing of the Democratic party did not lend their support to the letter, including Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has not decided its position on Israel's planned annexation, according to a report from the Associated Press, as the international community has voiced near-uniform opposition.
But President Donald Trump has long founded his political fortunes, in part, on evangelical Christians who staunchly support the planned move, and nationwide polling shows him far behind presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden heading into November's presidential election.
Biden leads Trump by roughly 10% on average based on a tally of polls compiled by the Real Clear Politics website.
The Trump administration will have additional consultations with Israeli officials, and a senior official told the AP Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Trump's special envoy for Mideast peace Avi Berkowitz will travel to Israel Thursday.
Netanyahu announced last month that his government would formally annex the Jordan Valley and all settlement blocs in the West Bank, which it has occupied since 1967.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is viewed as occupied territory under international law, thus making all Jewish settlements there – as well as the planned annexation – illegal.
Palestinian officials have threatened to abolish bilateral agreements with Israel if it goes ahead with its annexation plans, which would further undermine the two-state solution.