Cardin won't sign colleagues’ letter against sovereignty in Judea and Samaria

Maryland Senator: US-Israel relations must remain strong even when we disagree with the policies of the Israeli government.

Elad Benari ,

Ben Cardin
Ben Cardin

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) told Jewish Insider on Tuesday that he is refraining from publicly warning the Israeli government against a unilateral move to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.

Cardin’s comments come amid an effort from Maryland junior Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), along with Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), to voice opposition to a possible vote in Israel’s Knesset on the matter.

The three Democratic senators are circulating a letter claiming that Israeli moves forward on unilateral annexation “would fray our unique bonds, imperil Israel’s future and place out of reach the prospect of a lasting peace,” according to Jewish Insider.

J Street also reportedly emailed its Maryland-based supporters on Monday asking them to sign a petition pushing Cardin to join the letter.

Asked by Jewish Insider whether he would sign onto the letter, Cardin replied, “I don’t like to second guess Israel’s government’s decisions, although I have been pretty critical of a lot of policies under the Netanyahu prime ministership.”

Cardin, who is Jewish, explained that while he finds unilateral action “not to be a helpful process” and would “encourage [Israel] to try to preserve” the advancement of a two-state solution.

“I don’t think it is helpful for us to sow dissension in the United States as it relates to the support for Israel. I think we have to show that even when we disagree with the policies of the government that the relationship between the United States and Israel must remain strong,” he added.

Cardin’s comments and exchange with Jewish Insider came during a webcast hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America.

The comments come in the wake of the coalition agreement between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, which states that the government could apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria this coming July.

A State Department spokesperson said last week that “we are prepared to recognize Israeli actions to extend Israeli sovereignty and the application of Israeli law to areas of the West Bank that the vision foresees as being part of the State of Israel.”

The spokesperson also added that the US would ask Israel’s new unity government to negotiate with Palestinian Arabs.

Those comments came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that application of sovereignty was ultimately "an Israeli decision."