Bipartisan US Congressional Delegation to Israel Pushes for 2-State Solution
Delegation led by Democratic Sen. Chris Coons meets with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials during a whirlwind visit
A bipartisan, bicameral delegation of American legislators visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the two-state solution on Wednesday.
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, is in Israel leading a US congressional delegation that includes House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Palestinian Affairs Unit of the American Embassy in Jerusalem held a briefing with Coons and other American legislators at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
“We have a few common themes and messages: that the support for Israel remains bipartisan and strong in the United States Congress,” Coons told reporters. “We are in strong support of the two-state solution, we’re strong supporters of the US-Israel relationship and having that be a nonpartisan and sustained feature of US-Israel relations.”
Coons has often been described as a close ally of President Joe Biden, who also hails from Delaware and served in the Senate for nearly four decades.
The delegation is meeting with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials during their whirlwind visit.
Among the topics of discussion was the Biden administration’s pending decision on whether to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinians.
Both Bennett and Lapid have presented a united front in their opposition to the move and suggested instead that the American mission be placed in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, the current seat of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, while Israel holds that Jerusalem is its indivisible capital.
We are in strong support of the two-state solution, we’re strong supporters of the US-Israel relationship and having that be a nonpartisan and sustained feature of US-Israel relations
Biden has vowed to reopen the consulate in Jerusalem, which was closed by former President Donald Trump in 2018 when the US Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but has not yet given a firm date on when that would occur.
When pressed, Coons refused to provide any additional information on the matter.
“It was discussed in all of our meetings,” Coons told The Media Line at Wednesday’s briefing. “We recognize its importance as an issue and, speaking for myself, I recognize the importance of having an open channel of communication with the Palestinian Authority, but in exactly what space that should occur, I think I will leave that to the administration.”
When asked about Israel’s designation of six Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations as terrorist groups, he said that US lawmakers had requested additional information about the decision.
“It’s been offered and it will be reviewable by members of Congress by about the time we return next week,” Coons said.
Also in attendance at the King David Hotel were Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; as well as Reps. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J.; and Scott Peters, D-Calif.
“As our closest ally in the Middle East, I recognize how critical it is for me to work in the Senate to ensure that Israel has the full cooperation and support of the United States when it comes to safeguarding its defense and security,” Gillibrand said in Jerusalem. “We must work to support a two-state solution, in which the Israelis and Palestinians can work to live side by side in peace and security.”
During their meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday, Bennett thanked US lawmakers for supporting the decision to fund the Iron Dome missile defense system. After the issue sparked debate on Capitol Hill, Congress in September voted to approve a $1 billion funding request from Israel to replenish the system, which had been depleted during the 11-day conflict with Gaza in May.
A second congressional delegation also is visiting Israel concurrently, organized by the progressive J Street advocacy group and led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.
That delegation, made up of only Democratic lawmakers, also met with Bennett on Tuesday as well as with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Monday. The group includes Reps. Marc Pocan, D-Wis.; Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; Melania Stansbury, D-N.M.; and Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y.
J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, also was in attendance at the meeting with Lapid and shook hands with him, according to Israeli media reports.
The meeting marked a shift from the Israeli government’s previous boycott of delegations led by J Street under then-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. While Netanyahu would meet with the US Congress members visiting Israel regardless of whether they were brought in by the progressive lobby, he would refuse to meet with representatives from J Street.