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Elizabeth Warren at J Street: Israeli opposition must stop infighting to oust Netanyahu

WASHINGTON – Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has poorly served Israel’s long-term strategic interests, sharply criticizing him for driving Israel to political crisis as a means to protect himself from criminal charges.

“He has precipitated four stalemate elections in two years in his frenzied effort to immunize himself from well-documented charges of corruption,” the Massachusetts senator told the J Street 2021 annual conference.

If Netanyahu, who Warren noted does not have a Knesset majority, cannot form a government after being tasked to do so by the president, “the majority that opposes him must decide what to do next. Will they continue to fight among themselves and, in the process, prop up a corrupt leader who puts his own interests ahead of those of his country? Or will they join together to begin the difficult task of rooting out corruption and reinstating the rule of law?” she said to the pro-Israel, left-wing group’s annual confab.

She compared Israel’s current political moment as one that preceded U.S. President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. “Despite our differences, a significant majority of Americans concluded the integrity of a democracy is far more important than the personal interests of one leader, and so we banded together to defeat Donald Trump,” she said, adding that “Israel’s elected leaders should do the same, and give the Israeli people a new prime minister.”

In her speech, Warren described the two-state solution as being on “life support.” She called this situation a “moral issue, and it is also the best outcome for U.S. interests, the best outcome for Israel’s long term security and economic future, and the best outcome for ensuring that Palestinians have the rights, freedom, and self determination to build a secure future for themselves.”

She added that the Trump administration’s “disastrous” policies further delayed the realization of the two-state solution. “The Biden administration has the values, the judgment, and the experience to undo the damage, and set the conditions that can make the two-state solution viable again.”

Warren said that the “United States cannot stand for security, human rights, and dignity, and at the same moment turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.”

She accused the Trump administration of “undermining 50 years of U.S. leadership as an effective mediator by abandoning any pretense of neutrality, and by jumping directly into the peace process in a way that put a thumb on the scales by giving a green light to settlements, cutting off aid and communication with the Palestinians, and publishing a one sided peace plan.” She said this was highlighted by the administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem without any equivalent step for the Palestinians.

Warren criticized the settlement expansion overseen by Netanyahu-led governments as a critical threat to peace, saying that “the Netanyahu government may have put aside formal annexation for now, but the continued growth of these settlements and the destruction of Palestinian homes amounts to de facto annexation.”

She took the Palestinian leadership to task, noting that the “West Bank is ruled by a corrupt and increasingly authoritarian leadership under President Abbas,” while Gaza “is governed by Hamas – a terrorist organization that has yet to renounce violence.” She called for the U.S. to support Palestinians in their efforts to hold elections, saying “the answer cannot be to stand in the way of democracy, or to reject democratic outcomes that we don’t like.”

Warren called for the United States to take several steps to improve the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians, including pushing Israel do more to help Palestinians get vaccines against COVID-19, reopening the U.S. consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the PLO delegation office in Washington, improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and rethinking U.S. military aid to Israel – what Warren described as “the elephant in the room.”

“If we’re serious about arresting settlement expansion and helping move the parties toward a two-state solution, then it would be irresponsible not to consider all of the tools we have at our disposal. One of those is restricting military aid from being used in the occupied territories,” she said.

“By continuing to provide military aid without restriction, we provide no incentive for Israel to adjust course,” Warren added. “In addition to destroying Palestinian lives and livelihoods, the continued de facto annexation of the West Bank is one of the greatest long term impediments to the two-state solution.”

Warren concluded her remarks by saying the United States needs to address its own historical role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Historically, successive U.S. administrations have pushed our European and Arab partners to the side instead of working with them, in genuine partnership. That was folly,” she said. “Our allies and partners are a great source of strength, and we should be working with them to achieve a just and lasting two-state agreement, just as we worked successfully with them to secure the Iran nuclear agreement. We must press for a lasting just peace.”

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