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Progressive Leaders Condemn Netanyahu's Vow to Annex West Bank as Unlawful 'Moral Catastrophe'

"Elected leaders should be advancing the cause of peace—not undermining it."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference in Jerusalem on April 1. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan on Thursday denounced newly reelected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vow to annex the occupied West bank as both immoral and a flagrant violation of international law.

"This move to entrench Israeli control over disenfranchised Palestinians would be a moral catastrophe."
—Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan

"Prime Minister Netanyahu's campaign threat to annex the West Bank signals an alarming and unprecedented violation of human rights and international law," Jayapal and Pocan said in a statement. "This move to entrench Israeli control over disenfranchised Palestinians would be a moral catastrophe."

The House Democrats' statement comes just days after Netanyahu won reelection this week by a razor-thin margin over his centrist opponent, Benny Gantz, following a campaign brimming with anti-Arab racism and voter suppression tactics.

Netanyahu's right-wing coalition won 65 of the 120 seats in Israel's Parliament, according to the final election results released Thursday.

"In the wake of his narrow reelection, we urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to reverse course from his provocative campaign rhetoric," the U.S. progressive leaders said. "Elected leaders should be advancing the cause of peace—not undermining it. We will make clear that Congress firmly rejects the unilateral annexation of West Bank territory."

J Street, the progressive-leaning American Jewish advocacy group, applauded Jayapal and Pocan for taking a strong stand against Netanyahu's annexation threat:

Netanyahu's vow to annex the West Bank—home to nearly three million Palestinians—came just days before of Israel's election on Tuesday.

"I'm going to apply sovereignty, but I don't distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlement points, because from my perspective every such point of settlement is Israeli," Netanyahu said during a television interview. "We have a responsibility as the Israeli government. I won't uproot anyone and I won't place them under Palestinian sovereignty. I'll look out for everyone."

As the New York Times noted, "Applying sovereignty to Israeli settlements on West Bank land that the Palestinians demand for a future state, presumably along with the roads and infrastructure tethering those places to the rest of Israel, would leave the Palestinians at best with an archipelago of disconnected territory."

And as Saree Makdisi, a professor of English at UCLA, wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed on Thursday, Netanyahu's victory only cements the "apartheid reality" of what Israel has become under under the right-wing leader.

Hanan Ashrawia—a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)—pointed to Netanyahu's annexation threat as one of many reasons to be alarmed by the prime minister's reelection and the victory of the Israeli right.

"Regrettably," Ashrawia said, "Israelis overwhelmingly voted for candidates that are unequivocally committed to entrenching the status quo of oppression, occupation, annexation, and dispossession in Palestine and escalating the assault on Palestinian national and human rights."

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