Dear Senator Chris Murphy,
As Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, I appreciate your involvement in foreign policy and engagement on matters in the Middle East. However, your approach to the region is seemingly a departure from official U.S. foreign policy, at odds with the idea of bipartisanship, belittles the danger of Palestinian terrorist groups and undermines the relationship with Israel.
I note the opening paragraph of the letter your office distributed to people who have written to you about the Arab-Israeli Conflict, about your recent trip to the region, copied here:
“Because you have written to us concerning Israel and Palestine, I wanted to share this important update. Senator Murphy, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, returned from foreign travel this month which included visits to Israel and the West Bank. He led a congressional delegation of his Senate colleagues to discuss regional security and democracy in the region. He was joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.).”
To start, the United States does not recognize any country called “Palestine.” As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, it is imperative that you not unilaterally begin to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority.
Please share the reason that you only traveled to the region with fellow Democrats, especially as President Biden repeatedly stated his desire to keep support of Israel a bipartisan matter between Democrats and Republicans. Was Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) or any of the Republicans on the Foreign Affairs committee unwilling to join the delegation?
I have additional questions as it relates to the second paragraph of your letter:
“The delegation’s visit to Israel came after the formation of a new government under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in June, and was the first to travel to the country after President Biden met with Prime Minister Bennett at the White House. The senators also met with President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and Ra’am Party leader Mansour Abbas to discuss the priorities of the new government and the path forward to ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians can live safely and securely and equally enjoy freedom, prosperity and democracy. The senators also met with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and young Palestinian leaders in the West Bank. In addition, the senators also engaged with USAID partners who are implementing programs on the ground.“
I understand why members of the US Foreign Relations committee would meet with Israel’s prime minister, president and foreign affairs minister. But why would the U.S. delegation meet the head of a small Arab party in the coalition government who is not a member of Israel’s own foreign affairs committee? Do you believe that Israeli Arabs are actually ‘Palestinians’ and wanted to be sure that Israel’s Arab citizens “enjoy freedom”? Or do you think that only an Israeli Arab perspective can shed light on what Palestinian Arabs feel, even though the delegation also met with leaders of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank? If you wanted a perspective of minority groups, did you also visit Israeli Jews living in the West Bank?
I note that you referred to Palestine as a country again when you called Mohammad Shtayyeh the Prime Minister of “Palestine” instead of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Does the subcommittee you head have its own foreign policy apart from the United States?
In your letter’s final paragraph, you decided to gratuitously and falsely accuse the former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu:
“Upon his return from travel, Senator Murphy joined CNN International’s Amanpour with Christiane Amanpour to discuss the United States’ role in the world following the withdrawal from Afghanistan. In recounting his visit to Israel and the West Bank, Senator Murphy said: “[I]t is important to note that this government has taken some really important steps: one, to do outreach with the Palestinians, the first government-to-government meetings at the highest levels in over a decade. And they have begun to open up humanitarian pathways into Gaza. They’re trying to relieve the suffering there in a way that the Netanyahu government would have never contemplated. This is obviously a very unique coalition government… but I left pretty impressed with the seriousness of the government, and some of the early steps that they have taken to lower the temperature, both inside Israel and in the relationship with Palestinians.”
I am baffled how your recollection of a visit to America’s strongest ally in the Middle East begins with the “outreach with the Palestinians.” You falsely stated that the meetings were the first held in “over a decade” between the US and the PA, seemingly forgetting the debacle of a flawed 2014 peace process shepherded by the Obama Administration’s Secretary of State John Kerry.
You stated that the goal of the mission was regarding “regional security and democracy,” yet offered nothing on the remarkable Abraham Accords that the Netanyahu government cemented with several Arab nations over the prior year. Instead, you implied that Netanyahu helped create the suffering in Gaza, rather than note that a US-designated foreign terrorist organization launched several wars against Israel, and the Netanyahu government responded in a restrained manner. Further, Netanyahu enabled Gaza exports to hit record levels in the beginning of 2021 and allowed monies from Qatar to flow into the terrorist-run enclave, much more than the current Israeli Prime Minister Bennett.
Senator, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, Americans expect you to call out the evil of the US-designated terrorist group Hamas, to not upgrade the PA to a state, to acknowledge the expanding circle of diplomatic relations Israel recently forged in the region, and to follow protocol in regards to visiting Israel, America’s strongest ally in the region, without gratuitously bad-mouthing the prior government. Your approach simply leads Americans to believe that the Democratic Party is pulling away from Israel.
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