Democrat Senator calls to make support for Israel dependent on future Palestinian state

US Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) called for the Biden administration to get tougher on Israel, in an interview with CNN on Thursday.

“If we’re going to continue to support the Israeli government, they have to be engaged in the ongoing work of a future Palestinian state — and that doesn’t seem to be the policy of this government right now,” Murphy said in an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson. 

Referring to the position of the current Israeli ministry, it warned against “the Netanyahu government’s attack on the two-state solution in particular, which is very bad for US-Israeli relations in the long run.”

“So whether it’s a condition of helping Israel, whether it’s a condition of visits to the United States (of Israeli officials), we have to send the message that this attack on the two-state solution, in particular, is very bad for the relationship between the United States and Israel in the long term,” Murphy added.

In point of fact, the Prime Minister has yet to be invited to visit the White House despite beginning his current stint twelve weeks ago. According to a Reuters review of official visits going back to the late 1970s, only two out of 13 previous prime ministers heading a new government waited longer.

Last month, Murphy released a statement critical of Israel’s move to advance nearly 10,000 new settlement homes and legalize nine outposts, a position he emphasized in the interview.

“I worry that we are at a moment in which we are watching a future Palestinian state be obliterated by the pace of settlements, by the legalization of outposts,” Murphy said in the  interview. “And I think the United States needs to draw a harder line with this government. If we’re going to continue to be in the business of supporting the Israeli government, they have to be in the continued business of a future Palestinian state. And that does not seem to be the policy of this government right now.”

Conditioning aid to Israel may be problematic as the Memorandum of Understanding set funding for Israel at levels of $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing and $500 million for cooperative programs for missile defense over a ten-year period. Signed in 2016, the MOU went into effect  in 2018. 

Conditioning US aid to Israel would also violate a campaign promise made by President Biden. During the Democratic presidential primaries, then-candidate Joe Biden said it would be “absolutely outrageous” and a “gigantic mistake” to condition US aid to Israel on policy choices regarding the Palestinians.

In reality, Biden increased funding to Israel in the 2023 budget in order to help restock the Iron Dome anti-missile batteries that were depleted in the May 2021 Gaza War as well as other military assistance. But the administration also reinstated over $500 million in assistance to the Palestinians since entering office that had been cut off by the previous administration. Many lawmakers have questioned whether this aid violates the Taylor Force act which prohibits giving funds to the PA while it pays stipends to terrorists. 

Murphy has been a strong supporter in the past but this seems to have changed recently. In advance of a UN Security Council resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria in 2016, Murphy signed an AIPAC-sponsored letter urging President Obama to veto “one-sided” resolutions against Israel. But one year later, Murphy criticized Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. 

In December, he snubbed Israel, referring to Qatar as the United States’ “best partner in the region.”This shift by the Democratic lawmaker seems to reflect a shift in the opinion of the left-wing electorate. A newly released Gallup survey reported that 49% of Democrats responded that “their sympathies lie with the Palestinians” as compared to 38% who favored Israel. This represents an increase of 11% increase in support for the Palestinians among Democrats in the past year alone. At the same time, the percentages sympathizing more with the Israelis (38%) and those not favoring a side (13%) have dipped to new lows.

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