ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 187
(Senate - November 21, 2019)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.


[Page S6748]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                          ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I vividly recall the feeling of optimism 
that people in this country and around the world felt on that day in 
Washington in 1993 when Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and PLO Chairman 
Arafat signed the Oslo Accords. For those too young to remember, the 
Oslo process began as secret negotiations in Oslo, resulting in the 
recognition by the PLO of the State of Israel and the recognition by 
Israel of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people for 
the purpose of direct negotiations between the two parties. The Oslo 
Accords marked the formal start of that process, which aimed at 
achieving a peace treaty based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 
and 338 and at fulfilling the ``right of the Palestinian people to 
self-determination.''
  The negotiations were to focus on resolving the key issues in 
dispute: Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem, Israel's 
military presence in and control over remaining territories after 
Israel's recognition of Palestinian autonomy, and the return of 
Palestinian refugees. It was hoped and believed that the signing of the 
Oslo Accords was the beginning of the end of the Israeli-Palestinian 
conflict and of a process that would culminate in a two-state solution 
with secure borders for both Israel and a new Palestinian state.
  Since then, virtually nothing has occurred as envisioned. Prime 
Minister Rabin, a visionary leader whom I knew and greatly respected, 
was assassinated by a Jewish extremist. Over the years, time after 
time, the hopes and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians have been 
dashed. Israelis have suffered countless deadly attacks by Hamas and by 
other Palestinian extremists. The Palestinians have suffered countless 
humiliations and assassinations. But despite the many setbacks, missed 
opportunities, and failures of leadership on both sides, I have never 
felt that the Oslo process was a lost cause--until today. Today, I feel 
a greater sense of sorrow and discouragement about that once hopeful 
vision than I ever have before.
  On Monday, Secretary of State Pompeo announced that the 
administration no longer considers Israeli settlements to be contrary 
to international law, thereby reversing a longstanding U.S. position 
that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal. That position 
was based on adherence to international law and UN Security Council 
resolutions and was embraced by both Democratic and Republican 
administrations. Upon learning of this change of position, I could not 
help but feel that it signified the demise of the Oslo Accords. After 
so many similar reversals of U.S. positions by this White House on key 
issues that both sides had pledged would be resolved only through 
negotiations, it seems beyond dispute that President Trump never 
believed in a two-state solution.
  In fact, this White House has been consistently disingenuous about 
its intentions in the Middle East, all the time talking about wanting a 
political settlement but acting in ways that put it increasingly out of 
reach. It was just a matter of time before they abandoned any pretext 
of supporting the principle that territorial disputes should be 
resolved through dialogue. Every step of the way, administration 
officials have insisted on the myth that they are improving the 
prospects for peace, but 3 years later, Israelis and Palestinians are 
farther from that goal than at any time since 1993. The White House, 
with the support and encouragement of the U.S. Ambassador and the 
Secretary of State, has done whatever it could to ensure that the West 
Bank, home to nearly 3 million Palestinians, is occupied permanently or 
annexed by Israel.
  Without a change of leadership with the necessary vision and 
political courage in the United States and in Israel, the Palestinians 
will remain as second-class citizens, subjected to a lifetime of 
indignities and entitled to only limited rights. I cannot help but 
wonder what my friend Prime Minister Rabin would be thinking today and 
how he would react to this announcement. I suspect he would be as 
disappointed as I am that his courageous act more than a quarter 
century ago, and the opportunity that act offered for lasting peace for 
both Israelis and Palestinians, has been so selfishly and recklessly 
squandered.
  (At the request of Mr. Schumer, the following statement was ordered 
to be printed in the Record.)

                          ____________________