President Joe Biden
President Joe BidenGripas Yuri/ABACA via Reuters Connect

A group of 14 Democratic lawmakers on Thursday urged the Biden administration to undertake a foundational shift in its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict.

Spearheaded by Rep. Jamaal Bowman and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the letter, quoted in Haaretz, urges US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “undertake a shift in US policy in recognition of the worsening violence, further annexation of land, and denial of Palestinian rights. Only by protecting democracy, human rights, and self-determination for all Palestinians and Israelis can we achieve a lasting peace.”

The letter was signed by Reps. Cori Bush, Andre Carson, Summer Lee, Betty McCollum, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Raul Grijalva, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Delia Ramirez.

The lawmakers are further urging the Biden administration to ensure US taxpayer funds are not supporting “Israeli settlements projects”, and to determine whether US military aid is in violation of the Arms Export Control Act or the so-called “Leahy Law.” The Arms Export and Controls Act stipulates that US weapons are sold only for legitimate self-defense, while the Leahy Law prohibits US funding from being used to equip or train foreign military forces suspected of human rights abuses or war crimes.

“Furthermore, we call on your administration to ensure that all future foreign assistance to Israel, including weapons and equipment, is not used in support of gross violations of human rights, including by strengthening end-use monitoring and financial tracking. We ask that you respond with a detailed plan as to how the administration plans to achieve that goal,” the letter says.

The lawmakers wrote that they are “deeply concerned by Israeli government moves that demonstrate that illegal de facto and de jure annexation of the occupied West Bank is well underway,” stressing that “this Israeli government’s anti-democratic mission to dismantle the rule of law is a threat to Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

“We know your administration has met repeatedly with Israeli officials to reiterate US support for ‘equal measures of freedom, dignity, security and prosperity’ for both Israelis and Palestinians. Unfortunately, these good faith entreaties have had no effect,” they note.

They add that Israel’s postponement of the planned judicial reform will fail to “lessen the systemic violence against Palestinians, including annexation of Palestinian land. The Israeli government’s actions are in clear violation of international law and commitments made to the US; its agenda will further devastate Palestinian communities and heighten tension with violent consequences for both Palestinians and Israelis. Only clear steps to change political conditions will pave the way for peace.”

Sanders has in the past more than once called for the US to condition its aid to Israel, most recently this past February.

“I am very worried about what Netanyahu is doing and some of his allies in government and what may happen to the Palestinian people,” Sanders said in an interview with CBS at the time.

“And let me tell you something, I mean, I haven't said this publicly. But I think the United States gives billions of dollars in aid to Israel. And I think we've got to put some strings attached to that and say you cannot run a racist government. You cannot turn your back on a two-state solution. You cannot demean the Palestinian people there. You just can't do it and then come to America and ask for money,” he added.

Other signatories to the letter – Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Omar – are members of the so-called “Squad” which has repeatedly criticized Israel.

The latest letter from Democrats comes a month after more than a dozen Jewish House Democrats called on the Israeli government to suspend its plans to pass the judicial reform, in an extraordinary expression of concern by US government officials over a foreign, domestic political matter.

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)