Rep. Andy Levin proposes pathway to two-state solution in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — Michigan U.S. Rep. Andy Levin is leading a bill would take steps to encourage a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He introduced the text Thursday at the U.S. Capitol, marking the close of the High Holy Days and the start of the Jewish new year.

Congress has on multiple occasions passed bipartisan resolutions endorsing the two-state proposal, but this legislation goes beyond a statement by Congress to laying out a pathway to get there — or at least preserving the possibility of two states. 

"Saying that you're for a two-state solution today really to me feels a lot like saying your ‘thoughts and prayers’ are with the victims of the latest mass shooting at some school or event in the United States," said Levin, a Democrat from Bloomfield Township. "We need action."

He said he was prompted to draft the bill after the deadly spring fighting between Hamas rulers in Gaza and Israeli forces, fearing a continuing cycle of violence and the next Gaza war.

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin

Levin's goal with the legislation, introduced with about 20 co-sponsors, is to reassert the United States' long-standing role as both Israel's "best friend and guarantor," but also a neutral arbiter and good-faith mediator who's prodding the parties to come together toward peace, he said.

A two-state solution would create an independent Israel and Palestine, as opposed to a one-state option of melding Israel, the West Bank and Gaza into one country.

The bill comes at a time when the two-state solution is "in deep trouble," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal Jewish group J Street. 

"It's on life support," said Ben-Ami, whose group supports the bill. "If it is, in fact, vital to the future of Israel and the Palestinians, then the United States needs to do something to advance that. And that's what this bill does."

The legislation also has the support of Americans for Peace Now, Foreign Policy for America and Partners for Progressive Israel.

The bill would make it U.S. policy that "only the outcome of a two-state solution can both ensure the state of Israel’s survival as a democratic state and a national home for the Jewish people and fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own."

The legislation also states that the establishing of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is inconsistent with international law and that the forced evictions of Palestinian civilians by Israel violate Palestinians' human rights.

The bill also would: 

  • Reaffirm U.S security aid to Israel but says the aid may not be used to annex more Palestinian territory or in a way that violates human rights, requiring oversight reporting to ensure compliance.
  • Distinguishes between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and revokes policies put in place by the Trump administration that blurred such distinctions.
  • Provide an incentive for Palestinian leaders to come into compliance with a U.S. law that restricts funding for the Palestinian Authority over its payments to Palestinian prisoners accused of terrorism by Israel.
  • Calls for reopening a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and the reopening of the Palestine Liberation Organization foreign mission in Washington, D.C.
  • Recognize the need for programs to boost human rights, rule of law, flourishing civil society organizations in the Palestinian territories to aid building up democracy there.

A bill summary stressed that the legislation would not reduce the financial support the United States gives to Israel to bolster its security, but would ensure oversight similar to that over U.S. taxpayer support to other nations.

Levin said he's spoken to the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Greg Meeks of New York, and others on the panel, on which he serves, about the bill. He doesn't expect it to be taken up right away or to garner much, if any, Republican support. But he wanted to start the conversation. 

"If you know something has to happen to create the world that we need and that people deserve, you to have to work for it. And the U.S. can't sit on the sidelines and wait for perfect conditions because they will never come," Levin said. 

"We, as America, say to the parties, 'We're going to push you into each other's arms for negotiations. We're not saying the details of what the final status of Jerusalem is or what the exact land swaps or borders would be. You all have to negotiate that.'"

mburke@detroitnews.com