The following is the text of a speech delivered on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez on Tuesday, December 6, 2016 (press release: http://bit.ly/2hcqUSv):
Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned about what is going on in Israel and I think it has implications both for U.S. foreign policy and for domestic policy and for our great ally, Israel.
As the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu consolidates power and becomes in many ways the one-party rulers of Israel, a number of things are changing that should be of concern to all Americans.
Specifically, the increasing dominance of the Likud Party as the one-party in Israel jeopardizes the two state solution that I and many others in the United States and Israel feel is the only way to achieve long-term peace in the Middle East.
There is a retrenchment of hard-line policies – aimed at solidifying alliances with smaller religious and hardline parties that keeps Likud in power – that will make it harder for Israelis and their allies in America – and anyone who seeks a lasting peace – to maintain progress towards a two state solution.
Right now, the Knesset is considering legislation to legalize all Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory on the West Bank, even those constructed on private Palestinian land.
Boom, 400,000 people in settlements across the West Bank, it’s all legal because they say it is legal. But it’s not.
And Israel is destroying Palestinian homes at a pace faster than we have seen before.
It is provocative, sweeping, and designed to make it harder to ever reach an agreement with the Palestinians.
The plan to restrict the Muslim call to prayer in Jerusalem has been revived, again to placate hardline religious constituents, by Prime Minister Netanyahu.
There is no clearer statement to people of the Islamic faith that they do not matter, they do not belong, and they will not be tolerated than to restrict the Muslim call to prayer in Jerusalem, a city that has heard the Muslim call to prayer for thousands of years.
I think what is going on in Israel with Prime Minister Netanyahu presents a cautionary tale about the consequences of following a political strongman. The strongman has to keep proving that he is a strongman over and over.
Like other strongmen who ride fear into leadership – when you base your political career on injecting fear and resentment into political affairs – when you use the backdrop of terrorism and the understandable fear of the Israeli people as a political tool for years and decades – this is the kind of policy that results.
There is an appetite for constant escalation of what you are doing to stand up to the enemy you have constructed – an enemy based on, but not the same as the enemies that fight against the state of Israel and tolerance and peace in real life.
Strongmen construct a foil – in this case based on the Palestinians, but sometimes exaggerated beyond recognition – and they need to feed the thirst for more and more action to attack the caricature that has been constructed.
But strongman politics in Israel have the impact of making a long-lasting solution that brings peace to the Middle East harder to achieve.
The fundamental rights of Palestinians to have their own state, a state alongside the Israeli state where they have the basic rights and dignity to govern themselves and raise their families in peace – that is what many Israelis, many Palestinians, and many around the world have been fighting for.
If we are ever going to achieve the permanent peace that allows Israel to exist without fear and Palestine to exist without occupation, we must continue to fight for the two state solution.
When I was just a freshman, almost 25 years ago, we celebrated the accomplishments of Rabin and Arafat and President Clinton to build towards a peace that recognizes the rights and dignity of Israelis and the rights and dignities of the Palestinian people.
For decades, the United States ― under different leaders in different parties from Carter to Reagan to Bush and Obama – have recognized that peace will only come with mutual respect and tolerance.
That is what we have based our foreign policy on and should continue to base our foreign policy on.
Having talked with average people and with leaders on both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict – I am convinced that it is the only path to peace.
America has been a catalyst – a constructive influence from outside –a nation based on religious freedom and democracy that has served as a model for both Palestinians and Israelis – and we have worked towards helping parties continue to move in the direction of two separate but mutually respectful countries, two nations that are not at war with each other or subservient to one another.
I fear, Mr. Speaker, that Israel herself is moving away from the two-state solution as a goal and that we as her closest ally must remind her – and ourselves – of what is at stake if we lose sight of this important goal.