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GOP lawmakers went on a delegation to ‘Judea and Samaria’ and now oppose the two-state solution

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For decades now, the Beltway consensus on Israel/Palestine has been a two-state solution. This preferred outcome is generally cited alongside a number of additional goals: self-determination for Palestinians and security for Israelis. Whether or not this ambition lines up with the current reality of the conflict is obviously a disputed topic, but one thing is clear: challenge this consensus from a Palestinian perspective and you’re liable to be condemned. Challenge it from an Israeli perspective . . .  and you receive a collective yawn from Washington.

This summer the House overwhelmingly passed H.Res.246, a resolution that condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In addition, to effectively tagging BDS as an anti-Semitic movement, the text of the bill also focuses on the fact that BDS constitutes a sizable roadblock for those advocate for a two-state solution. This is dominant position within the Democratic Party. Even Senator Bernie Sanders (easily the most left-wing candidate currently running for president and an opponent of legislation that penalizes BDS supporters) criticizes the movement for this reason.

The small number of congress members who voted against H.Res.246 were criticized by pro-Israel individuals and organizations, but none of them faced a backlash comparable to Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Not only were they condemned as anti-Semites, they were also denied entry into Israel by the Netanyahu government over their support for BDS, a move that many believe was orchestrated by President Trump.

While Tlaib and Omar were making headlines for being barred from Israel, a group of GOP lawmakers were quietly going on a tour of West Bank settlements sponsored by a right-wing, Evangelical organization. The US Israel Education Association (USIEA) was founded by Heather Johnston, who also directs the association. “Heather has personally led the way in building the strategic relationships and providing the relevant perspective that makes USIEA a valued resource to U.S. and Israeli leaders,” the organization’s website explains.

USIEA sponsors congressional trips to Israeli settlements in the West Bank so that lawmakers can “understand the priorities of the Israeli government.” This summer four Republicans went on such a trip: Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri, Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama,  Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, and Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee. Johnston told the Jewish News Syndicate that the Representatives experienced a “paradigm shift” as a result of their trip and learned that “90 percent” of Palestinians actually want to work with Israelis.

Upon returning to the United States, Wagner told the Jerusalem Post that “Judea and Samaria” (the biblical name for the West Bank, and how it is commonly referred to by the Israeli government) were actually part of Israel.  “I know that there is a majority of Palestinians that live there,” she admitted, I believe that it is [part of Israel], just as I believe that the Golan Heights is.”

When asked if she supported a two-state solution Wagner said, “You are seeing some evolution in this regard. Time will tell if it’s feasible or not.” Byrne implied that the trip actually shifted his position: “I started out as being a two-state supporter and I am evolving,” he said, “I am beginning to have doubts that it can work.” A similar evolution was cited by Rodgers and Roe.

Last month, Byrne took the House floor to explain the group’s conclusions to congress. “Perhaps our struggles over the last 20 years to create a two-state solution there has blinded us from the fact that this is really about people,” he declared, “It is not about lines drawn on a piece of paper that we can’t seem to get a resolution to. Those people, if they are allowed to live and work together as they want to, maybe they will find peace on their own without some push from the rest of us, which seems to be getting us nowhere.”

Rep. Wagner said that the delegation met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to talk about the West Bank, a region he promised to partially annex if reelected. “We had a long discussion about the West Bank and about the time that we spent there inside the West Bank, watching Israelis and Palestinians working together in this integrated fashion,” Wagner explained, “I asked the Prime Minister: ‘Wow, so many of the myths have been debunked. I want to go back with this information, talk to my colleagues, and talk to my constituents. What should we say?’ The Prime Minister said: ‘Tell their truth.'”

Here is how Rep. Byrne described the truth he learned:

We were in a town in the northern part of Israel–in what Israel calls Samaria–called Ariel. In Ariel, there are two parts, two industrial parts, that have 209 different manufacturing companies in them. Most of the people working in those manufacturing factories are Palestinians, and they make on average four times as much as they could make if they were working somewhere else in what we, unfortunately, call the West Bank, but is really not the West Bank.

It is good for those Palestinians to make that much money. It is good for them to be able to take advantage of the miracle of the Israeli economy.

Speaking from the House floor Rep. Rodgers referred to Ariel as “the capital of Samaria” and described the delegation’s meeting with the “Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce” where she saw Israelis and Palestinians cooperating on business matters and that she’d share this information with the Trump administration in hopes that it would influence policies in the region.

“What we saw, what we witnessed, that is the foundation for peace and must be a part of any of the peace plan moving forward…Israel is our greatest ally, our greatest friend in the Middle East,” said Rodgers, “…So I am going to be encouraging, and I know my fellow colleagues who traveled with me, we are going to be talking to the administration and Jared Kushner about the peace plan that is being developed right now and urging them to include, in any kind of a peace plan, this economic cooperation and America standing in support of this bottom-up grassroots approach that really makes a difference in people’s lives.”

In August, 21 Israeli lawmakers sent a letter to congress (addressed to Wagner, as well as Reps. Brad Schneider, Lee Zeldin, Jerry Nadler) condemning two-state solution rhetoric and insisting that it was actually more dangerous to Israel than BDS. While the letter praised the Trump administration’s approach in the region, it criticizes AIPAC for being too liberal for paying lip service to the very concept of a two-state solution. A Palestinian state would “undoubtedly be a dysfunctional terrorist state” that would “severely damage the national security of both Israel and the United States,” states the letter.

Developments like these are noticed by those who pay close attention to such legislative matters, but they certainly don’t permeate the mainstream discourse on the subject. However, the supposed danger of pro-Palestine sentiment remains a popular topic and talking point.

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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25 Responses

  1. echinococcus on October 15, 2019, 3:06 pm

    There is no limit to what a few dollars can buy — especially in the States. The whole whorehouse called Congress, the Madams of the Executive and the pimps of the Judiciary.

    • brent on October 17, 2019, 2:16 am

      No doubt dollars buy votes and policy. However, it is a serious error not to understand better the American relationship with Israel. For example, many religious believe the ingathering of Jews was prophesied and a prelude to a second coming…. god’s will unfolding. Some see Palestinians as more inclined toward force than politics.

      I don’t hear much discussion on how to do diplomacy with Trump’s coming plan. One reading of the tea leaves is Netanyahu’s promise to annex Palestinian land off-put Trump who axed Bolton to signal displeasure. Apparently there have been no phone calls for a while. Trump has halted the plan to dismember Syria. Refusing endless war was a devastating blow to the greater apartheid project Likely Trump’s having let it be known that if necessary he’d cut the money if his plan was rejected, hasn’t left Ne.tanyahu’s mind. Hopefully, discussion/debate will take place among Palestine’s intelligentsia about how to benefit from Trump’s ego in order to achieve an acceptable deal.

      • Mooser on October 18, 2019, 1:25 pm

        “I don’t hear much discussion on how to do diplomacy with Trump’s coming plan.”

        Oh, no rush, we can get to it when all this ‘impeachment’ hoo-haa is over and things go back to normal.

        “Refusing endless war was a devastating blow to the greater apartheid project”

        Oh, I see. So sending US troops (and tech and weapons) to Saudi Arabia on a mercenary arrangement must be part of that. Clever man, that Trump.

      • echinococcus on October 18, 2019, 4:27 pm

        “Oh, I see. So sending US troops (and tech and weapons) to Saudi Arabia on a mercenary arrangement must be part of that” [“that”= “Refusing endless war”]

        You see wrong again, Mooser. Pulling out of any aggression, (to name a random example of egregious US aggression deserving hanging, Syria, provided the US really pulls out), would certainly be part of that — even if limited to a single event and limited in time. No need to thank me, glad to help with a simple drawing when you can’t figure it out.

  2. lonely rico on October 15, 2019, 9:50 pm

    Referring to a possible Palestinian state, 21 Israeli lawmakers –

    Such a state would “undoubtedly be a dysfunctional terrorist state” which would “undermine stability” in the region and “severely damage the national security of both Israel and the United States.”

    They’re imagining a Palestine which resembles their own criminal Zionist state.

    Israel is an existing “dysfunctional terrorist state, which undermines the stability in the region and severely damages the national security of both Israel and the United States.”

    Israel must renounce terrorism if there is to be any hope for peace in Palestine.

  3. brent on October 16, 2019, 12:49 am

    This article reinforces the proposition that a sustained campaign for equality by Palestinian Israelis’ will have the effect of exposing hypocrisy by Members of Congress for being OK with discrimination under the law. That puts on the table a decision between equality or independence for Palestinians under occupation.

  4. Waterbuoy on October 16, 2019, 12:57 am

    So….they no longer support a two-state solution. Next OBVIOUS question ought to be, “So. Do you support Apartheid or Democracy?”

  5. RoHa on October 16, 2019, 2:35 am

    So are they supporting a single, democratic, state in Palestine?

    • eljay on October 16, 2019, 7:09 am

      || RoHa: So are they supporting a single, democratic, state in Palestine? ||

      You’re funny!  :-)

      I’m sure they support a single, “Jewish and democratic” state in Palestine. And if that requires some “necessary evil” to implement and maintain, I’m sure they support that, too.

  6. subconscious on October 16, 2019, 6:48 am

    So, who is this Palestinian “Sheikh Jabari [spelling?]” of Hebron, whom rep. Byrne refers to, and is pictured, in the first video? Does the “Sheikh” agree with the Congressman’s views? Since they visited the “Sheikh” in Hebron, did they also happen to pass through the highly segregated areas of Hebron? If so, how does that jibe with Bradley’s claims that Israelis & Palestinians are getting along merrily in Judea Don’t-Call-It-West-Bank Samaria?

  7. jon s on October 16, 2019, 6:52 am

    So right wing members of Congress and right wing members of the Knesset oppose two states. Sometimes you just have to see who is on the opposite side of an issue to know that you’re in the right place. Two states is still the only possible solution which is both morally sound and politically possible.

    • eljay on October 16, 2019, 8:07 am

      || jon s: … Two states is still the only possible solution which is both morally sound and politically possible. ||

      I don’t believe that’s true, but I’ll play along for now.

      So, if…
      – both states are the secular and democratic states of and for their respective citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally;
      – refugees are permitted to return to their homes and lands;
      – reparations are made; and
      – (war) criminals are held accountable for their past and on-going (war) crimes,
      …I’ll agree.

      But of course that isn’t at all what you mean by “two states”.

      And there’s nothing “morally sound” about a supremacist state, not even a Jewish one.

    • Mooser on October 16, 2019, 11:51 am

      ” Two states is still the only possible solution which is both morally sound and politically possible” “Jon s”

      Absolutely! Why, it’ll be like splitting up a gold mine!

    • genesto on October 16, 2019, 5:06 pm

      If you truly believe that, please tell me how you relocate as many as approximately 650,000 settlers, or as ‘little’ as approximately 350,000 settlers, from the land that would have to be used for this state? If you can accomplish that, then what about sovereignty, i.e. control over natural resources, a military to protect this state, etc.? Of course, you could be talking about a Palestinian state in another location, favored by the most hardcore of the Zionists. That location is called Jordan.

      Point is that the 2SS has gone the way of the dinosaur, assuming it was ever feasible to begin with. The only people still talking about the 2SS are liberal Zionists, who can’t fathom the idea of Jews and Palestinians living together as co-equals in Israel, or frightened and/or disinterested politicians, who simply want the issue to disappear and really couldn’t care less about any of the people living there.

      • edwardm on October 16, 2019, 7:44 pm

        “If you truly believe that, please tell me how you relocate as many as approximately 650,000 settlers, or as ‘little’ as approximately 350,000 settlers, from the land that would have to be used for this state?”
        Maybe they should follow the Zionist model for that – what was it called? ah yes, “transfer”.

      • echinococcus on October 17, 2019, 1:48 am

        ” The only people still talking about the 2SS are liberal Zionists, who can’t fathom the idea of Jews and Palestinians living together as co-equals in Israel”

        Come on, do you believe that?
        That’s what they say. In reality the 2-state solution was nothing else than the “liberal” Zionists’ fairy tale to persuade the world that negotiations would be ongoing (but eternally) to provide a pretext to Western governments for supporting their illegal crusader state against all international law. There was absolutely no objective sign to indicate that a 2-state solution would ever be allowed by the Zionists, other than their own lies. Especially after they pulled off their mask at Oslo, setting up a puppet “administration” that got rid of the resistance.

  8. Citizen on October 16, 2019, 7:03 am

    Their conclusion supports how Trump’s Zionist team will spin Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” which appears to be essentially a jobs program for Palestinians, a material bribe to buy off the Palestinians’ thirst to have their national aspirations and homeland back. It’s a tad better than offering them beads and blankets for New Amsterdam.

  9. tamarque on October 16, 2019, 8:50 am

    Always important to know the latest marketing mantra as fascist policies are promoted.
    Wish the headlines would sharply call this out instead of pretending to write a pretend neutral article.

    This new development is clearly part of the Trump/GOP push for destruction of the Palestinian culture with autonomy. It is disgusting to read of these GOP tools of destruction lauding the use of Palestinian labor in the service of Israeli manufacturing. It is disgusting to read the Israeli letter referring to the very idea of a Palestinian State as only a terrorist State possibility.

    Where are the articles describing the flourishing economy, the blooming agriculture that existed but were destroyed by Israel or taken over by Israel. Why aren’t we reading more about Palestinian ingenuity for survival in the face of intentional genocide by Israel and supported by the United States.

  10. Ossinev on October 16, 2019, 9:02 am

    @Jon S
    ” Two states is still the only possible solution which is both morally sound and politically possible”

    Still wondering around in the Alt Zio Universe I see.

    Even Jabari has stated clearly that a one state solution (with full citizen rights for Palestinians) is now the only way forward:
    https://www.timesofisrael.com/hebron-businessman-with-ties-to-settlers-may-be-lone-palestinian-at-bahrain-meet/

    His views of course are anathema to the Vichy PA cabal.

    As for the run of the mill Benjaminised US delegation more of the same hypocritical bull…t. Interesting comment from Byrne though viz:
    ” Those people, if they are allowed to live and work together as they want to, maybe they will find peace on their own without some push from the rest of us, which seems to be getting us nowhere.”

    I wonder if he will follow the logic of this this through by proposing that the US ceases its 3.8 billion per annum “push” gift to Zioland? Somehow I think not.

  11. Sheldonrichman on October 16, 2019, 9:30 am

    Opposing Palestinian self-determination because West Bank Arabs have a higher living standard than other Arabs is like opposing the abolition of slavery because, unlike white factory workers, slaves have job security.

  12. Elizabeth Block on October 16, 2019, 9:49 am

    It’s kind of a relief to see the GOP backing away from two states. People who support a two-state solution – which is impossible – actually support the continuation of the status quo, i.e. continuing theft of land, water, livelihoods, and lives.
    So, yes, we can ask these people: Do you support democracy or apartheid?

  13. Misterioso on October 16, 2019, 10:10 am

    And on the other side of the aisle:

    https://israelpalestinenews.org/dem-candidates-israeli-atrocities-palestinian-rights/?utm_source=mailpoet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+News

    “Dem candidates mostly turn a blind eye to Israeli atrocities and Palestinian rights”
    If Americans Knew Blog – Oct. 15/19, By Kathryn Shihadah

    “On the critical issue of Israel/Palestine, Democratic presidential hopefuls reveal a strong pro-Israel leaning that does not match the sentiments of a huge swath of Democratic voters. If voters who support justice and human rights don’t speak up, we’re likely to get another leader who bows to Israel.

    “Democratic candidates for president are talking 24/7, but for the most part, they fail to express the prevailing attitudes about Israel/Palestine.

    “According to a Pew Research poll conducted in January 2018, just 27% of Democrats sympathize more with Israel; 25% sympathize more with the Palestinians (the rest answered neither, both, or don’t know). Just two years ago, the numbers were 43% for Israel and 29% for the Palestinians.

    “A Gallup poll from about the same time further found that ‘nearly as many liberal Democrats now sympathize more with the Palestinians (38%) as with the Israelis (41%).’

    “That’s correct: Of Democrats who are disposed to one side, it’s nearly an even split between supporters of Israel and supporters of justice for Palestinians.

    “And a Pew poll found that 35 percent of liberal Democrats sympathize more with Palestinians, compared with only 19 percent who sympathize more with Israel.

    “In fact, the erosion of support for Israel has become so marked that a new, abundantly funded pro-Israel organization has been created by Democratic bigwigs to specifically target progressives.

    “One might expect, based on the numbers, that Democratic candidates for president (and Congress – but that’s a topic for another day) would reflect these preferences: they ought to be taking a centrist position or a pro-justice position; alternatively, we’d expect to see a split close to 50/50 between pro-Israel candidates and candidates who want justice for Palestinians.

    “Turns out, that’s not what is happening. Instead, the candidates often seem to be expressing the will of the pro-Israel lobby, pro-Israel political action committees, and pro-Israel billionaire campaign donors such as Haim Saban and others.

    “Voters who are interested in justice for all need to change the conversation. The candidates need to know that there is another side to this issue.

    “Below is a sampling of quotes on Israel/Palestine from the candidates who will be participating in the October 15 debate, followed by commentary on how their statements line up with the facts and the concepts of justice and human rights.

    “Some of the candidates, such as Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar, are unabashedly supportive of Israel in spite of its atrocities, and oblivious to its oppression of Palestinians. (Klobuchar is considered ‘the candidate most closely aligned with AIPAC,’ and was nicknamed by Benjamin Netanyahu, ‘the Israeli Prime Minister of Minnesota.’)

    “Others at least occasionally acknowledge Palestinian suffering, but from an Israel-centric point of view that necessarily distorts the facts.

    “A few candidates – notably Bernie Sanders (who has family in Israel) – have called out Israel over its violations of international law; but still within an Israel-centric context. (Even Sanders has room for improvement. Read more on Sanders here.)

    “Voters who want a US president who will support human rights and justice for Palestinians, and oppose Israeli brutality, oppression, and violation of international law, need to demand better from our candidates. We want them to take a strong stand.

    “They need to hear from us, not just from the Israel lobby!”

    • Mayhem on October 16, 2019, 6:36 pm

      What’s more important is to consider what the Palestinians want for
      themselves rather than what American politicians want for the Palestinians.
      According to a recent poll from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy a two-state solution is not very popular while the maximalist position of regaining all of historic Palestine from the river to the sea gained most favour.
      The results there show fortunately that pragmatic realities do temper to some degree such unrealistic popular views.

  14. mondonut on October 16, 2019, 12:56 pm

    …and now oppose the two-state solution

    Perhaps the OP has some additional information that he is withholding from us. Otherwise the headline is just another click-baiting lie.

    Nowhere are the four representatives on record as opposing the two state solution. Evolving, yes. Doubts, yes. But not to be found is actual expressed opposition to the 2SS.

  15. James Canning on October 17, 2019, 5:23 pm

    As a good Christian, is Heather Johnston pleased that Israel has destroyed almost all of the Christian communities in the occupied West Bank?

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