More than 115 organizations on Monday urged Joe Biden and President Donald Trump to adopt a U.S. policy toward the Israeli government and Palestinian people that is “based on the principles of equality and justice for all.”
In matching letters sent to the two leading presidential candidates, a coalition of groups—including CodePink, Council on American-Islamic Affairs (CAIR), IfNotNow, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), Jewish Voice for Peace Action (JVP), Peace Action, Roots Action, and Win Without War—say the policy of the U.S. government “should affirm the right of every human being to live with dignity, equality, freedom, and respect for human rights—and that should include Palestinians and Israelis.”
U.S. policy in the region, the groups argue, “should be rooted in the same values and principles that are supposed to guide U.S. policy throughout the rest of the world—respecting human rights and international law, promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts, supporting diplomacy over military intervention, and utilizing multilateralism and multilateral institutions for dispute resolution.”
After decades of the United States directly intervening in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and pushing a two-state solution, “it is time to acknowledge that those efforts have failed—primarily because of U.S. failures to act as an honest broker,” the letter declares, citing U.S. diplomat Aaron David Miller’s 2005 argument that “many American officials involved in Arab-Israeli peacemaking… have acted as Israel’s attorney, catering and coordinating with the Israelis at the expense of successful peace negotiations.”
Under several presidential administrations, the letter continues, the United States has provided “unlimited diplomatic protection and massive military financing” that has enabled the Israeli government “to entrench its occupation, expand its illegal settlements, impose a 13-year-long siege and wage three wars against Gaza, pass laws that officially deny equal rights to Israeli citizens who are not Jewish, all under the veneer of peacemaking.”
The letter comes as the Israeli government is planning to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank in the coming days in spite of global opposition. Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set a July 1 start date for the annexation, “a workable plan remains unclear,” Al Jazeera reported Sunday. “The United States is backing the annexation if Netanyahu can reach an agreement with his coalition partner, Benny Gantz.”
The groups’ collective call for a shift in U.S. policy toward the Israeli government and the Palestinians in occupied territories follows a similar but broader message on foreign policy from a coalition of organizations last month as well as Gallup polling from February that found rising support for Palestinians, especially among young people, which the letter highlights.
“Public and media discourse, and crucially, voters’ opinions on Israeli violations and Palestinian rights, have dramatically shifted in recent years but too many past and present officials are out of touch, and unaware of those changes,” Phyllis Bennis of IPS and JVP said in a statement Monday. “Large percentages of key voting blocs want major changes in U.S. policy to match those changing public opinions—and any candidates hoping to win support from young, black, Democratic, progressive, and increasingly Jewish voters, will ignore those changes at their peril.”
The groups noted Monday that the Biden campaign recently released a statement “conflating American Jewry with support for Israel and bragging about having increased military assistance to Israel” at the end former President Barack Obama’s administration. The statement also touts Biden’s efforts leading opposition to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
The campaign’s statement outlines how, as president, Biden would “continue to ensure that the Jewish state, the Jewish people, and Jewish values have the unbreakable support of the United States.” The statement was amended to cut an accusation that the BDS movement was “letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices,” which JVP Action condemned as “explicit racism.”
Blaming Palestinians for their own oppression is an anti-Palestinian talking point and there is never an excuse for such explicit racism, let alone as the Israeli government makes blatant and illegal land grabs.
— JVP Action (@JvpAction) May 21, 2020
CodePink co-director Ariel Gold said Monday that “rather than reflecting the growth of support for Palestinian human rights within the Democratic party, Biden seems to be trying to show that he can be almost as hawkish and one-sided as Trump when it comes to the issue of Israel and Palestinian rights.”
“Despite paying mild lip service to the dangers of Israel annexing parts of the West Bank, Biden’s positions are to the right of where the Obama administration was,” Gold added. “Palestinians have been campaigning for over 70 years for their basic rights and freedoms. It is far past time for the U.S. to stop carrying water for the Israeli government and instead support justice and equality for all people.”
The letter includes a specific list of “what many American voters, including many Jewish voters, young voters, and voters of color, are looking for in presidential candidates” and urges both Biden and Trump to adjust their policy positions to align with the following:
- Explicit opposition to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and its unlawful blockade (abetted by Egypt) of the Gaza Strip;
- Recognition of Israel’s obligations toward the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, a protected population, according to international law;
- Support for conditioning U.S. military funding to Israel on an end to Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and adherence to all relevant U.S. laws, including the Arms Export Control Act and the Leahy Law;
- Support for H.R. 2407, the “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act,” sponsored by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), to ensure that no U.S. dollars contribute to Israel’s a military detention, interrogation, abuse and/or other ill-treatment of Palestinian children;
- Calling on Israel’s government to repeal the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law and to ensure that Palestinian citizens of Israel and other non-Jewish citizens in the country enjoy equal rights with Jewish citizens by passing a basic law guaranteeing those rights;
- Opposition to the use of U.S. security assistance against protected populations, including in Gaza, and calling on Israel’s government to protect civilians from settler violence;
- Support for Palestinian refugee rights consistent with international law and relevant U.N. resolutions;
- Promise to relocate the U.S. Embassy back to Tel Aviv until such time as the international status of East Jerusalem has changed from its current status as occupied territory;
- A promise to provide full U.S. cooperation with the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged war crimes committed by all sides in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip; and
- Rejection of U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over any territories now occupied, absent an internationally recognized final agreement with the Palestinians.
“With Netanyahu’s disastrous annexation plan imminent,” asked CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin in a tweet Monday, “will Biden speak out against the Israeli government?”