House Votes to Back Two-State Solution in Middle East

WASHINGTON (CN) — Rebuking President Donald Trump, the House of Representatives on Friday passed a resolution supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Smoke rises from Gaza City on May 5, 2019, after Israel launched over 350 airstrikes against the besieged Palestinian enclave. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

The bill passed in a 226-188-2 vote. Five Republicans voted with the Democratic majority to pass the resolution, while two Democrats – Betty McCollum of Minnesota and Jesús Garcia of Illinois – entered a vote of present.

The hour of debate on the legislation yielded a contentious discussion between lawmakers on each side of the aisle. Congressman Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., said the resolution was a watered-down version of one passed over the summer, which condemned a global protest against Israel known as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS.

The timing of Friday’s resolution’s introduction is off, according to Zeldin. In the last two years, he said Israel has been hit with 2,600 rockets strikes – including 450 last week – from the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip. He said the resolution does not mention the persistent attacks on Israelis or policy goals set by the Trump administration.

President Trump has closely aligned himself with Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and has said he believes some Democrats are anti-Jewish.

In an interview Friday, Congressman Andy Levin, D-Mich., said Zeldin’s obsession with the timing of the bill is “a very strange thing.”

“What’s happened in the timing is that Donald Trump, through [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo, has gone against not only Obama policy, but the policy of the United States since 1978,” Levin said. “Those of us who love Israel and love our Palestinian neighbors want everyone to be able to live in peace together [and] know that we need to get a two-state solution right away.”

The resolution’s author, Representative Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., said Friday the bill states facts that have been true for decades, reiterating support of the two-state policy. One of those facts, he said, is that the only way to secure Israel as a Jewish, democratic state is with American support.

“Why should Congress speak out now, or in this way? When peace appears most remote, our voices become more critical, not less,” Lowenthal said.

After the resolution passed, Lowenthal posted on Twitter that he was proud to see the resolution pass in a bipartisan way.

“We took a stand for a just peace which safeguards human rights and security, and stands against unilateral annexation and settlement expansion,” Lowenthal wrote.

Four Democrats dissented from their party’s position, including Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who voiced her opposition during debate on the House floor. The three other members voting no on the resolution were the remainder of a group of freshman lawmakers dubbed “the squad” – Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley.

Tlaib said Israel had made a two-state solution impossible and that its nation-state law was preventative to a two-state solution, giving only Jewish people there the right to self-determination and eliminating the political rights of Palestinians. A one-state solution was a more realistic goal for both nations, she said.

“Separate but equal didn’t work in our country and I can’t see it possible in other countries. Given our nation’s history of segregation, we should recognize when such injustices are occurring,” Tlaib said.

Levin, speaking about Tlaib’s position Friday, said while he would like to see a one-state solution to the conflict as she suggested, he thought the idea was impractical.

“To me, the real energy behind a one-state solution is either from greater Israeli people, who would truly create an apartheid state if it was one-state with a majority Palestinian population without full rights, or they would end a democratic, Jewish state of Israel,” he said. “None of that is acceptable to me. I want a Jewish and democratic Israel, side-by-side with a democratic Palestine and as hard as it is, we have to fight for it.”

Levin spoke on the House floor Friday about a recent trip he had taken to Israel and also told the story of his journey during a House Rules Committee hearing on the bill Wednesday. He said he had gone to Israel to explore if a two-state solution was even still possible.

“I came back heartened that yes, it absolutely is,” he said. “That there is still, with equal swaps – equal both in the sense of their size and the quality of the land – we could still have 90% of Jews beyond the green line in Israel, preserve a strong, continuous Palestinian state and achieve lasting peace. … It’s going to require a change in government in all three places, in Israel, Palestine and the United States.”

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