February 29, 2024

Congressional Delegation Statement on Trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Mark Takano (CA-39), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Sean Casten (IL-06), and Becca Balint (VT-AL), released a statement on their recent trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories and outlining changes for future U.S. policy.

“What happened in Israel on October 7th was horrifying. On our recent trip to Israel, we saw firsthand the remnants of the violence that innocent people were subjected to on that dark day. The world must not forget that there are still over 130 hostages being held by Hamas – they must be freed immediately. Hamas is ultimately responsible for this war and must be defeated.

“Through our travels around Israel and the Palestinian Territories, we saw the impacts of October 7th and Israel’s response following that dark day. We learned how leaders and residents are preparing for the ‘day after’ this deadly conflict. We went to the site of the Supernova Sukkot Gathering music festival that Hamas attacked and saw the memorial to over 300 that were murdered. We went to Kibbutz Be’eri and saw the homes where so many were massacred. And we visited the Hostage Square and met with families of those taken hostage by Hamas. We then went to Khirbet Zanutah, a Palestinian village in the West Bank where settlers destroyed homes and a school. We were briefed from Gaza by UNRWA, which has lost 154 staff to the violence. 

“We are deeply worried that Prime Minister Netanyahu is moving toward the total destruction of Gaza and has demonstrated an utter disregard for Palestinian lives. Nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed – with almost 70,000 more injured and thousands missing. He has shamefully been unwilling to allow humanitarian services in at the scale needed.

“The Prime Minister’s plan for Gaza foresees Israel with a permanent occupation of Gaza and rejects any role for the Palestinian Authority. It makes it impossible for moderate Arab states to play a future role. 

“With the defeat of Hamas, the Palestinian people must have a strong vote and voice in their future. A two-state solution is the only path that gives the Israeli and Palestinian people hope, dignity, and security. Prime Minister Netanyahu opposes a two-state solution. That puts him in direct conflict with President Biden and virtually all Arab states. 

“We found all parties working for change are looking for greater U.S. leadership and welcome the major steps President Biden has taken. The President must continue to lead on humanitarian assistance and ending settler violence, building off the executive order.  

“We believe that the changes outlined in this statement are necessary to bring us toward our ultimate goal: an end to this conflict, an end to the suffering, and lasting security and peace for all Palestinians and Israelis.

“This trip created an opportunity for us to hear diverse views on what must happen going forward in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, and the Middle East. Throughout every stop and meeting on our trip, it was evident that major changes are needed in order to bring security and peace to Israelis and Palestinians:

  • “An immediate end to violence in Gaza and the West Bank:
    • An immediate, sustained pause in fighting of at least six weeks to allow for an increase in humanitarian assistance and to protect Palestinian civilians. This pause must include the release of all hostages that continue to be held by Hamas.
    • Recognition that the current level of civilian loss of life in Gaza is unacceptable and far beyond what is necessary to defeat Hamas. The Israeli government must take every step possible to prevent the loss of civilian life and deconflict military action with humanitarian deliveries. 
    • The Israeli government must bring an end to settler violence, which predated October 7th and then surged after October 7th
  • “Providing humanitarian aid and security for refugees:
    • A dramatic increase in the level of humanitarian aid into Gaza. There is currently a need to more than double the number of trucks to at least 500 trucks of aid per day and a re-start to commercial shipments. 
    • Sustained funding to UNRWA alongside accountability for any UNRWA workers who participated in the October 7th attacks. If UNRWA is no longer funded, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza will worsen substantially. 
    • Israel’s military response has killed thousands of innocents – too many of which were avoidable – and worsened a humanitarian crisis that has put millions at risk of starvation. Any Israeli offensive on Rafah must include a radically different plan for refugees.  To date, no such plan has been provided.
  • “’Day After Plan’ and Reconstruction:
    • Meaningful reforms to strengthen the Palestinian Authority so that it can represent the Palestinian people and a Palestinian state, including new elections of new leadership.
    • Increased regional cooperation among Arab states that can support new Palestinian leadership to help lead to a two-state solution. 
    • Reforming the Palestinian Authority’s current prisoners’ payments program, allowing a resumption of aid to the Palestinian Authority in line with the Taylor Force Act. 
    • Increased efforts by the U.S. and Israel to bring an end to settler violence – including by greater accountability for perpetrators, expanding the use of President Biden’s Executive Order, and reinforcing that the West Bank and Gaza are “occupied territory” under international law. 
  • “Promoting long-term regional stability:
    • Joining with U.S. allies in pushing back on the Iranian government for supporting the Houthis and other proxy groups and militias in the region. 
    • Stronger U.S. leadership to bring security and peace to the Middle East.
    • Regional security assurances for Israel to live side-by-side with an independent Palestinian state.
    • Constructive participation by the Israeli government in planning for a future Palestinian state.
    • Commitment to the long-term and ultimate goal of security, peace, and hope for all Palestinians and Israelis.”