Updated Jan 24, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Nearly all Senate Democrats sign onto Palestinian statehood measure

Sen. Brian Schatz. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

All but two Senate Democrats are supporting a measure endorsing the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a national security package that includes military aid to Israel.

Why it matters: It's a clear rebuke of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent comments rejecting the notion of Palestinian statehood, which have inflamed tensions with congressional Democrats.

Driving the news: 49 of the 51 Democrats in the Senate signed onto the two-page amendment, led by Jewish Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), which will be introduced as an amendment to the national security supplemental.

  • The measure reiterates that it is U.S. policy to "support a negotiated comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace."
  • It comes after Netanyahu, despite pressure from President Biden to support a Palestinian state after the Israel-Hamas war, said Israel "needs security control" in Gaza and the West Bank as part of any peace deal.

The intrigue: The measure's co-sponsors span the ideological spectrum of the Senate Democratic Caucus – from vocal Israel critic Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to arch-centrists like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.).

  • Just two Democrats did not sign on: centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), a one-time progressive who has rebranded himself as a firmly pro-Israel moderate since the Oct. 7 attack.
  • Fetterman "strongly supports a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine, and always has," his spokesperson told Axios. "He also strongly believes that this resolution should include language stipulating the destruction of Hamas as a precondition to peace."

What they're saying: "We were already working on this as standalone legislation ... but it is just a fact that the prime minister's statements last week, I think, accelerated our efforts," Schatz told reporters.

  • "What this does is tell people that there is hope for a peaceful and prosperous and healthy future," he said. "It's a message to Israel, but it's also a message to Palestinians ... it's a message to the world that the only path forward is a two-state solution."
  • "The prime minister's words are obviously very relevant here, but it's not the final word on the question of the future of Israel and Palestine," he added.

Reality check: Schatz acknowledged that a two-state solution is hardly uncontroversial for Republicans, telling reporters he will not block the national security package if his amendment doesn't get a vote.

  • "The supplemental will be hard enough to land, and I'm not in the business of increasing the degree of difficulty," he said.

The big picture: Democrats who have been critical of the Israeli war effort are planning multiple amendments to the national security bill aimed at preserving human rights in the region.

  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has cobbled together support from 17 Democratic colleagues for an amendment ensuring U.S. military aid is being used in compliance with international law and doesn't go to countries that restrict humanitarian aid.
  • Sanders told Axios he is "working on a variety" of amendments related to human rights in Gaza.

Go deeper: Sullivan: U.S. post-war strategy links Saudi-Israel peace deal with two-state solution

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comment from Fetterman's spokesperson.

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