Levin Statement on Israel-Palestine Conflict

May 14, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09), member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement:

“On Monday, the spokesman for the State Department said that while the Biden administration ‘over the longer term may move toward playing some sort of mediating role between Israelis and Palestinians,’ the administration is ‘just not in a position, I think, to see meaningful progress.’

“Statements like this suggest that U.S. engagement can begin after the violent crisis in Israel and Gaza and the provocations that preceded it sort themselves out—that circumstances allowing for ‘meaningful progress’ will materialize miraculously.

“In reality, we have a choice: will the United States act in a manner that promotes meaningful progress? Or are we content to let an unbearable situation fester, leading certainly to more violence and more loss of life?

The Biden administration has dispatched Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr to the Middle East to deescalate the situation—a positive step, as an urgent ceasefire is vital. Let me state unequivocally that rocket fire from Hamas and Islamic Jihad is depraved and intolerable, and Israel has the right to protect Israelis. I will never forget seeing bomb shelters scattered throughout Israeli communities and learning that folks have as little as eight seconds to reach them.

“At the same time, we must recognize that Israel’s retaliatory strikes should not be grossly disproportionate under universally recognized laws of war. As a Jew who rejects tribalism of all kinds and takes seriously the duty to love the stranger as myself even and especially under the most difficult of circumstances, we must do everything we can to halt the killing of innocent civilians on both sides.

“I understand, and agree, that stopping the ongoing violence is the Biden administration’s immediate priority. To determine what must come next requires us to look at what brought us here: a deliberate campaign to dilute the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem.

“Critics will push back fiercely on this characterization. They will say that Hamas is making cynical and horrifying use of the situation for its own political ends. Sadly, that is true. But they will also argue that there is a legal case to be made for the settlers seeking to remove Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and will call the situation ‘a real-estate dispute between private parties,’ as Israel’s foreign ministry has.

“This argument sidesteps uncomfortable truths about the law's bias against Palestinians, the illegality of imposing Israeli law in occupied territory, the morality of forcing families from their homes, and the explicit goals of Israeli authorities.

Aryeh King, Jerusalem’s deputy mayor, said the forced removals in Sheikh Jarrah are ‘of course’ part of an effort to position ‘layers of Jews’ throughout East Jerusalem, claiming, ‘If we will not be in big numbers and if we will not be at the right places in strategic areas in East Jerusalem,’ peace negotiators ‘will try to divide Jerusalem and to give part of Jerusalem to our enemy.’

“The forced removal of Palestinians from this particular area is not an accident. It is part of a systematic campaign—with government support—by settler groups to encircle the Old City, root out the Palestinian population so that Jerusalem can be proclaimed Jewish, and ensure East Jerusalem cannot become the capital of a future Palestinian state. This is not presumptuous or hyperbolic. It is stated government policy.

“But is it a policy the United States will support?

“For posing the questions I’ve posed, I will be accused of being ‘anti-Israel.’ To that I’d ask, what would be considered ‘pro’ Israel? To support the forced removal of Palestinians? To allow the occupation and creeping annexation to continue unabated, ensuring Palestinians will never have their human rights respected and Israelis will never live in security? To then proclaim alarm when there is renewed violence and more innocent lives are lost?

“As a lifelong Zionist, I reject that false choice.

“I believe U.S. policy must support real human rights for Palestinians and real security for Israelis, who have a right to live without fear of deadly rocket fire. We must admit the status quo protects neither and examine the policies that brought us here. The administration must take this issue off the back burner and more urgently undo the harms done by the Trump administration that heightened tensions and pushed peace further out of reach, such as by reopening the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem.

“We find ourselves at an existential moment that will impact whether peaceful coexistence is possible between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. ‘Meaningful progress’ to ensure this coexistence will not happen on its own. We must choose to pursue it. If we do not, then we have chosen the status quo, and while the horrors unfolding before our eyes may cease, it will only be a matter of time until they erupt again.”