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Intel: AOC incurs AIPAC’s wrath with anti-annexation letter

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are facing off over a letter the progressive firebrand sent Tuesday warning against Israeli efforts to annex parts of the West Bank.
ANN ARBOR, MI - MARCH 08: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) addresses supporters during a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders on March 8, 2020 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ocasio-Cortez has become a Democratic Party favorite among millennials and Gen Z. Sanders covered his policy agendas for immigration, women's rights, healthcare and economic inequality. (Photo by Brittany Greeson/Getty Images)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are facing off over a letter the progressive firebrand sent Tuesday warning against Israeli efforts to annex parts of the West Bank.

AIPAC took the rare step of warning lawmakers against signing onto Ocasio-Cortez’s letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, using a Twitter thread Monday to argue that the letter “explicitly threatens the US-Israel relationship.” Eleven other House Democrats and failed presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., nonetheless jointed Ocasio-Cortez and signed onto the letter.

“Should the Israeli government move forward with these plans, they would actively harm prospects for a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians can live with full equality, human rights and dignity, and would lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state, as your predecessor John Kerry warned in 2014,” the 13 lawmakers wrote Pompeo.

Why it matters: AIPAC’s public rebuke of the Ocasio-Cortez letter followed a quieter yet unsuccessful attempt to dissuade the majority of House Democrats from signing onto a separate letter warning the Israelis against annexation. Several AIPAC-friendly Democrats, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Middle East panel Chairman Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., signed onto last week’s letter.

That letter — addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi — warned that annexation would undermine a two-state solution. However, it refrained from using the word apartheid, called for a demilitarized Palestinian state and did not threaten to restrict US military aid.

What’s next: Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders and their allies advocate conditioning US military aid to Israel should it move ahead with annexation, something that center-left and progressive advocacy groups such as J Street have started advocating in recent months.

“We will include human rights conditions and the withholding of funds for the offshore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them,” the 13 lawmakers wrote.

Know more: Congressional Correspondent Bryant Harris brings you up to speed on the anti-annexation letter signed by 189 House Democrats. And be sure to read about the dueling letter greenlighting annexation signed by 116 House Republicans.

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