Quakers have a long tradition of working alongside Jewish, Arab, and other communities to oppose violence and support peace. In our lobbying in Washington, D.C., FCNL similarly strives to play that peacebuilding role.
We urge the United States to condemn violence on all sides and to provide assistance that can prevent, de-escalate, and resolve the long-standing conflicts that affect the security and well-being of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Where are we now?
In 2016, the U.S. government committed $38 billion in military aid to Israel over the course of 10 years. That is the largest U.S. military aid package in history. This aid has entrenched Israel‘s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza — which the U.S. officially opposes — and made progress on long-term, sustainable solutions more difficult.
Opportunities for change
A good first step towards peace would be to restart and fully fund United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) programming, which provides basic health and education services for 5.6 million Palestinian refugees living in Gaza and the West Bank. Since the United States stopped the nearly $360 million in funding for the program in 2018, UNRWA has been facing a major funding crisis and urgently needs contributions to continue its life-saving work. Without UNRWA, millions of Palestinians will face food and water insecurity and go without basic healthcare and emergency services.
United States should ensure that support for Israel does not equate to hostility toward Palestinians.
The United States should also use its influence with the Israeli government to lift the blockade on Gaza, including restrictions that prevent Gaza from accessing clean water. Israel needs to increase the amount of water and electricity it sells to Gaza and allow the region to rebuild its water and sewage infrastructure. These immediate steps would avert a widening humanitarian catastrophe and prevent the violence that could accompany an even more severe water shortage.
Additionally, the United States should prohibit U.S. military aid to Israel from being used for annexation of the West Bank. The prospect of unilateral annexation of the West Bank places the vision of a lawful, diplomatic, and equitable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under unprecedented threat. Such a step would not only contravene international law and decades of established U.S. policy, but also overturn the basic premise that both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to self-determination and security in their own homelands.
Finally, the United States must oppose the displacement of Palestinians and ensure that U.S. equipment is not used for any demolition activity. As Israel expands its settlements, the land available for a future Palestinian state diminishes. Settlements are illegal under international law, and U.S. presidents since 1967 have opposed them. Yet some in Congress want to treat settlements as part of Israel, implicitly recognizing their legitimacy. The United States must reiterate its opposition to settlements and other actions that impede sovereignty for Israelis and Palestinians.
These actions would help put an end to hostilities and promote a long-term and sustainable peace. Israelis and Palestinians alike must be heard at the negotiating table, and the United States should ensure that support for Israel does not equate to hostility toward Palestinians.
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