July 02, 2020

Van Hollen, Senate Democrats File NDAA Amendment Prohibiting U.S. Funds from Supporting Israeli Annexation of the West Bank

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) filed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prohibit Israel from using U.S. security assistance funds to unilaterally annex Palestinian territory in the West Bank. The text of the Senator’s amendment is available here. 

“I am a strong supporter of robust security assistance to our friend and ally Israel, including the Memorandum of Understanding forged by President Obama, providing $3.8 billion in annual Foreign Military Financing and missile defense support. However, I oppose the use of any of these funds to support the unilateral annexation of Palestinian territories by Israel. Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territory would undermine the long-held understandings between the United States, Israel, the Palestinians, and the international community and would ultimately undermine the security of Israel itself. It will end the chance of a viable two-state solution and is a violation of international law. Neither the U.S. government nor American taxpayers should finance or facilitate this unilateral move that goes against our shared democratic values. No U.S. funds are currently being expended on unilateral annexation, and this amendment would ensure that remains the case. We must work together to pursue a viable, negotiated two-state solution,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“The United States provides billions of dollars in security assistance to Israel every year.  But the purpose of those funds is to enable Israel to defend itself against regional threats, not to support the unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank.  Annexation would contradict the policy of Republican and Democratic administrations going back decades, it would provoke a deep divide between the U.S., our allies, and the Palestinians, and it would destroy any remaining hope for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It would violate international law and it would threaten Israel’s own future as a democracy.  I strongly support this amendment to ensure that U.S. funds are not misused, and that the chance for peace is not lost,” said Senator Leahy.

“For nearly two decades, the United States has called for a two state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. So why would we reverse course now?” said Senator Murphy. “There is no way unilateral annexation of the West Bank by Israel will bring the region any closer to peace—in fact, it will do the opposite—and the United States should have no role in encouraging it. That’s why we’ve introduced an amendment to the defense bill that prohibits U.S. funds in facilitating any such decision. It’s the right thing to do for U.S. national security, for the sake of our longstanding bilateral relationship with Israel, and for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

“I support a viable two-state solution and unilateral annexation of Palestinian territories would effectively end the chances of achieving that goal. Israel’s own top former generals and commanders agree that this will undermine the decades long agreement between the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians, making Israel and the region less safe,” said Senator Baldwin. “I have always supported a robust security partnership with Israel, but U.S. funds and equipment should not be used for anything that would violate international law or undermine the prospects of a two-state solution.” 

“Israel's annexation of occupied Palestinian territory would be a disaster for human rights, international law, self-determination, and equality. American taxpayers shouldn’t be supporting policies that undermine our values and interests, in Israel, in Palestine, or anywhere. We should be supporting an end to the conflict and helping build a future of security and prosperity for both peoples,” said Senator Sanders.

“The U.S. must remain steadfast in its support for a two-state solution, which is the world’s best hope to preserve Israel’s Jewish and democratic nature, while also fulfilling the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination,” said Senator Merkley. “This amendment is a critical reaffirmation of America’s historical commitment to supporting that vision, and would ensure that American taxpayer dollars are not wasted on a dangerous West Bank annexation that would cripple the path towards peace and undermine Israel’s long-term stability and security.”

“I am a proud co-sponsor of the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Act of 2020. This amendment makes clear that this assistance and other U.S. funds may not be used to support Israeli annexation of the West Bank. I strongly oppose any such move, which could destroy the prospect for a two state solution, negatively impact Israel’s future, and betray our shared democratic values by denying Palestinians’ right to self-determination,” said Senator Kaine.