Democratic lawmakers press Biden on Israeli violence in the West Bank

WASHINGTON – Two Democratic lawmakers wrote to President Joe Biden on Thursday to ask him to keep pressing Israel to crack down on Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

“As your administration works tirelessly to prevent the expansion of this conflict, we are writing to specifically highlight the threat that violence in the West Bank – particularly vigilante violence by Israeli settlers – poses to these efforts, Israel’s short-term security, Palestinian human rights , and long-term regional peace,” wrote Sen. Cory Booker, DN.J., and Rep. Dan Goldman, DN.Y., in a letter first obtained by NBC News.

Goldman and Booker, the only two lawmakers who were in Israel during the October 7 Hamas attack, argue that settler violence is undermining the Palestinian Authority, which they see as a crucial partner in the effort to unite Gaza and the West Bank as one part of an eventual peace plan that establishes a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“We are convinced that a two-state solution remains the only genuine option for achieving a just, secure and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” the lawmakers wrote. “But settler violence against Palestinian civilians destroys the very seeds of trust and cooperation needed to make progress toward a two-state outcome and lasting peace in the region.”

The White House did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment on the letter.

Israeli violence against Palestinians in the West Bank is one of the issues straining US-Israel relations, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month that the incidents are “unacceptable,” according to the State Department. . The lawmakers, both Biden allies with strong ties to Israel, appear to bolster the president’s position at a sensitive time for his domestic policies and his relationship with Netanyahu.

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The letter is a far cry from the cease-fire that some Democratic members of Congress and many progressive activists want the United States to seek in the Middle East. But the request to pressure Israel to monitor its own people in the West Bank comes amid pro-Palestinian demonstrations aimed at influencing the Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers. On Wednesday night, protesters blocked access to the Democratic National Committee, and pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested outside Goldman’s Brooklyn office last week when they blocked traffic.

In addition to their broader call to pressure Israel on violence in the West Bank, Booker and Goldman are specifically asking Biden to ensure that it is not carried out with weapons supplied to Israel by the United States.

“As the United States works to support Israel’s defense, we urge your administration to seek appropriate assurances from the Israeli government that any rifles supplied by the United States will not be used to perpetuate settler violence in the West Bank,” they wrote.