Days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated his opposition to Palestinian statehood, nearly half the Senate is poised to go on record backing a two-state solution for the Israelis and Palestinians as the only viable option for Israel’s peace, security and future as a Jewish democracy.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, on Wednesday told reporters the amendment he plans to file to the national security emergency supplemental spending bill has already drawn 48 co-sponsors and more are possible. Bipartisan negotiations on the broader measure still need to hash out the details of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians and for domestic border security.
The Schatz amendment would reaffirm longstanding U.S. policy of supporting a “negotiated comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace, security, dignity, and mutual recognition,” according to the text.
Schatz said he didn’t want his amendment to make it harder to pass the supplemental bill, but he also noted that Netanyahu wouldn’t have the final word on the decision of statehood.
A statement released last week by Netanyahu’s office said the Israeli leader reiterated to President Joe Biden during a phone call that it remains “his policy that after Hamas is destroyed Israel must retain security control over Gaza to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel, a requirement that contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty.”
And in a Saturday post on X, formerly Twitter, Netanyahu, referring to the occupied West Bank, said he would “not compromise on full Israeli security control over the entire area west of Jordan — and this is contrary to a Palestinian state.”
Those statements were met with strong criticism by many Capitol Hill Democrats still committed to a two-state solution. Some Republicans have recently indicated they are less committed. Schatz said he’s talking to Republicans about co-sponsoring his bill.
Prior to the Oct. 7 mass terrorist attacks on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, hope for an eventual two-state solution had been at historically low levels due to the lack of an effective and unified Palestinian government in the territories and because of increasing Israeli expansion of settlements in the West Bank.
“The prime minister’s voice is obviously very relevant here, but it’s not the final word on the question of the future of Israel and Palestine,” Schatz said. “This is going to be a multilateral conversation, and even within Israel, it’s a multilateral conversation because he currently leads a coalition government and a coalition war cabinet. I think people were correctly alarmed about what Mr. Netanyahu said but I think people should remember that there is no individual that can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this.’”
After Netanyahu made those remarks, Schatz said his office in “very, very short order” was able to gather the 48 co-sponsors for his amendment, which he said had been in development as stand-alone legislation before the Oct. 7 attacks.
“It is just a fact that the prime minister’s statements last week accelerated our efforts and also turbocharged our efforts where some people felt a need to clarify that this remains the position of the United States Congress,” said Schatz, who is Jewish and a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee.
Schatz said he would not insist his amendment receive a floor vote as a condition of his support for the emergency supplemental measure.
“Frankly speaking, the supplemental will be hard enough to land and I am not in the business of increasing the degree of difficulty,” he said, adding he was open to refiling his proposal as an amendment to another bill or as a stand-alone measure.
The Hawaii Democrat said he is having “very good conversations” with some Senate Republicans about joining as co-sponsors, but they have “caveats” related to wanting to see language added about changes to the Palestinian Authority, which has been criticized for corruption and ineffectiveness.
Schatz’s amendment joins two other announced Israel-related amendments to the supplemental from Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Tim Kaine of Virginia.
The Van Hollen amendment, which last week picked up five more Democratic co-sponsors for a total of 18 backers, would require offensive weapons paid for by the supplemental comply with U.S. law, international humanitarian law, and the law of armed conflict.
The Kaine amendment, which has 12 Democratic co-sponsors, would delete language in the Senate Democrats’ $110.5 billion supplemental bill that would waive normal congressional oversight requirements for U.S. funding to Israel made through the Foreign Military Financing grant program.