Two Democratic lawmakers wrote to President Joe Biden on Thursday to ask him to keep pressing Israel to crack down on violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank.
“As your administration tirelessly works to prevent the expansion of this conflict, we write to specifically highlight the threat that violence in the West Bank — especially vigilante violence by Israeli settlers — poses to those efforts, Israel’s near-term security, Palestinian human rights, and long-term regional peace,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., wrote in a letter that NBC News first received.
Goldman and Booker, the only two lawmakers who were in Israel during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, argue that violence by settlers undermines the Palestinian Authority, which they view as a crucial partner in attempting to unify Gaza and the West Bank as part of an eventual peace plan that establishes a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
“We strongly believe that a two-state solution remains the only genuine option to achieve a just, secure, and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, settler violence against Palestinian civilians destroys the very seeds of trust and cooperation needed to make progress toward a two-state outcome and an enduring peace in the region.”
The State Department reports that Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month that the incidents of Israeli violence against Palestinians in the West Bank are “unacceptable,” which is one of the issues that is straining U.S.-Israeli relations. The lawmakers seem to be supporting the president’s position at a critical juncture for his domestic politics and his relationship with Netanyahu. They are both close friends of Biden’s and have strong ties to Israel.
The letter is a far cry from the cease-fire that many progressive activists and some Democratic members of Congress want the United States to pursue in the Middle East. However, the call to put pressure on Israel to enforce laws governing its own citizens in the West Bank coincides with pro-Palestinian protests meant to influence Democratic lawmakers and the Biden administration. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators were arrested last week when they obstructed traffic outside Goldman’s Brooklyn office, and on Wednesday night, they barricaded the DNC.
In addition to their broader call for pressuring Israel on violence in the West Bank, Booker and Goldman specifically ask Biden to ensure that it is not carried out with weapons provided by the U.S. to Israel.
“As the U.S. works to support Israel’s defense, we urge your administration to seek adequate assurances from the Israeli government that any rifles provided by the United States will not end up in the hands of civilians in the West Bank,” they wrote.