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Harris-Grosky '22, Kianovsky '23, Edelstein '23, Nussbaum Cohen '23, Federman '23: The Democratic party must concretely oppose Israel’s annexationist policies

For decades, the long-standing consensus in American politics has been support for the two-state solution as the only viable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite this, the situation on the ground in recent years has deteriorated to the point that the dream of two states appears bleak. President Trump’s backing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s annexationist policies further entrenches the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. In response, J Street U is engaged in a campaign to push the Democratic Party to take a more aggressive stance against settlements and the threat of annexation.


To fully appreciate the significance of this moment, it’s important to understand the history of this conflict. In 1967, Israel wrested control of the territory known as the West Bank from Jordan. Since then, Israel has carried out an illegal, systematic military occupation of this land. Israeli checkpoints limit basic Palestinian movement throughout the territory, settlements infringe upon Palestinian property rights and Israeli soldiers often engage in cruel and excessive violence against Palestinian civilians.


The occupation is not isolated from American politics. For decades, American leadership has maintained its opposition to the occupation, instead favoring a two-state solution. But American foreign policy has continuously failed to take concrete steps to actualize this goal. For example, the United States is the largest provider of military aid to Israel with $38 billion committed for 2019 to 2028. Military aid continues to flow despite settlement expansion and repressive actions against Palestinians in the West Bank that obstruct pathways toward the two-state solution. In recent years, Trump’s political maneuvering has further endangered prospects for a two-state solution. Trump’s dangerous encouragement of Netanyahu’s right-wing administration has emboldened the Prime Minister, who proposed annexation of the Jordan Valley, an area which comprises approximately one third of the West Bank. In recent weeks, Trump reversed a long-standing U.S. policy that categorized Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal under international law. These policy shifts have thrown the already shaky viability of a two-state solution into unprecedented jeopardy.


Although American politicians have enabled Israel’s annexationist policies, progressive Americans have the power to challenge these dynamics. One way to do this would be to lobby the Democratic Party to adopt an explicitly anti-occupation platform. The current platform only vaguely supports a two-state solution without condemning the expansion of illegal settlements and threat of annexation: “We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty and dignity.”


Without explicit stipulation of the measures required to achieve a peaceful solution, this platform is rendered meaningless. In addition, its ambiguity allows Democratic politicians to express support for a two-state solution without any accountability for direct action against settlements and annexation.


In response to this insufficient position, J Street U is spearheading a campaign to pressure the Democratic Party to adopt a platform that categorically opposes the occupation. J Street U is the student organizing arm of J Street, a progressive national organization devoted to promoting a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine. We have proposed a platform that directly condemns settlement expansion and the threat of annexation: “The Democratic Party recognizes that the Israeli government’s current policy of settlement expansion, occupation and creeping annexation is an obstacle to any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, including the two-state solution. We believe that the U.S. government should hold the Israeli government accountable and use whatever means necessary in order to ensure that annexation does not occur. It is in the U.S. interest to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution by firmly opposing settlements, occupation and annexation.”


If the Democratic National Committee were to adopt this proposal, constituents would be able to point to a platform that holds party leaders to a standard of explicitly opposing further annexation and settlement expansion by any means necessary. This movement is gaining widespread acceptance: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, have proposed withholding aid if Netanyahu annexes the West Bank. In addition, Democratic and progressive student groups around the country have endorsed J Street U’s proposal. College Democrats chapters at Harvard  and the University of Washington have unanimously endorsed this proposal.


Of course, this proposal alone will not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The most critical work lies in the hands of grassroots activists organizing on the ground in Israel and Palestine. But a more progressive platform will reflect a new Democratic consensus that rejects American complicity in the Israeli occupation. By pressuring the DNC to take an assertive stance against annexation and settlement expansion, Americans can ensure ensuing Democratic support for progressive policy.


As members of J Street U at Brown, we believe it is time to bring this campaign to Brown’s campus. We hope you will join us in this effort. We are looking to build coalitions on campus to build power and show our party what its voters want. It’s time for the Democratic Party to stand up for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.


Zachary Harris-Grosky ’22 can be reached at zachary_harris-grosky@brown.edu. Isaac Kianovsky ’23 can be reached at isaac_kianovsky@brown.edu. Jesse Edelstein ’23 can be reached at jesse_edelstein@brown.edu. Elana Nussbaum Cohen ’23 can be reached at elana_nussbaum_cohen@brown.edu. Zachary Federman ’23 can be reached at zachary_federman@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

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