A civil rights group is warning congressional Democrats that their opposition to an Israeli plan to take over land in the contested West Bank area may violate U.S. law and constitutes "a clear and present danger to American national security interests in the Middle East."
The Lawfare Project, a nonprofit legal group that combats anti-Semitism, wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) late last week to express opposition to a recent Democrat-led letter warning Israel over its impending decision to extend sovereignty into Jewish areas of the West Bank. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and a group of fellow Democrats warned Israel that the move could jeopardize critical U.S. aid money. That letter was backed by multiple organizations that promote boycotts of the Jewish state and traffic in anti-Semitic rhetoric, the Washington Free Beacon first reported last week.
The Lawfare Project letter, sent to Pelosi on July 1 and provided exclusively to the Free Beacon, argues that Israel's plan is not tantamount to an annexation of territory, as Ocasio-Cortez and her Democratic colleagues argued. Israel, the group maintains, has the proper international legal standing to extend its sovereignty into areas it already controls. So far, Pelosi has remained silent on both Israel's plan and Ocasio-Cortez's letter.
Israel's plan has sparked public outrage from leading Democratic lawmakers and their anti-Israel supporters, primarily groups that back the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel. As Democrats amplify their criticism of Israel—threatening longstanding bipartisan support for U.S. aid to the country—groups like the Lawfare Project are at the forefront of a push by the pro-Israel community to ensure the facts about the situation remain clear. The group hopes to pressure Pelosi into reestablishing her party's support for Israel.
"With this letter, The Lawfare Project reminds Congress that it has a legal obligation to recognize Israel's sovereign right to reunify its own territory," said Gerard Filitti, senior counsel for the Lawfare Project. "This obligation cannot be discarded in favor of political activism."
Congressional opposition to Israel's territorial takeover may violate U.S. law, which clearly recognizes Israel's possession of land in the West Bank area, according to the Lawfare Project. By not recognizing Israeli sovereignty over territory in the West Bank, Democrats could be in violation of legally binding U.S. agreements granting Israel control of this land.
"The threats by members of your caucus not to afford recognition to Israel's sovereignty over Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], along with concomitant threats to cut or condition assistance to Israel, may be contrary to American law, which has long recognized the rights of the Jewish people to a national home in Palestine," the Lawfare Project wrote to Pelosi.
The Lawfare Project calls Ocasio-Cortez's letter threatening U.S. aid "uninformed and inaccurate." It also said, "Its contents and tone (including overt threats directed at America's oldest, closest, and most reliable ally in the Middle East) are inimical to American interests and democratic values, and pose a clear and present danger to American national security interests in the Middle East."
International mandates that created Israel laid the legal groundwork for the current Israeli plan to extend its sovereignty into the West Bank. This includes the landmark 1924 treaty between the United States and United Kingdom that permitted Jewish immigration into the area that later became known as Israel.
These decades-old agreements "bar the United States from taking any action" that runs counter to its recognition of Israel's legal control over the West Bank territory and other similar areas, according to the Lawfare Project. The civil rights group also said Israel's plan is not legally annexation, but is rather a reunification plan that will rejoin areas long separated from Israel proper.
The letter also takes issue with claims by Democratic leaders that Israel is guilty of perpetuating human rights abuses in the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where the terror group Hamas controls the government. Palestinian terror groups continue to conduct cross-border terror attacks, warranting Israel's security apparatus, the letter maintains.
Brooke Goldstein, the Lawfare Project's executive director, said recent moves by Democrats in Congress—primarily Ocasio-Cortez's letter—have empowered Israel's detractors.
"It threatens our democracy and undermines the rule of law for Members of Congress to abdicate their legal obligation to recognize the sovereign rights of the Jewish State," Goldstein said. "When Members make biased and ignorant political statements that disregard or mis-state the law, it pollutes the dialogue, pours fire on a simmering conflict, and inflames hatred and anti-Semitism."