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Knesset disagrees with Florida state legislature

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When a Knesset committee rejected a proposal to extend Israeli law to West Bank settlements, did it leave Florida’s state legislature hanging out to dry?

On Sunday, the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs batted down the bill, which ran into opposition from members of the governing Likud Party.

The Times of Israel reported:

The government on Sunday struck down a proposal by a Likud lawmaker to extend Israeli law to the Jewish communities beyond the Green Line, a move that frees the government from having to face claims it seeks to annex parts of the West Bank.

Likud MK Miri Regev had submitted a bill that, if passed, would have applied Israeli law to all officially recognized Jewish settlements in the West Bank — tantamount to a de facto annexation of Area C, the Israeli-controlled West Bank territories. Currently, Israeli law extends only to sovereign Israel, the Old City and East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights — not to the West Bank. The Jewish settlements are held under military rule.

“This bill is an unrealistic display, and for such displays we pay a heavy price in the international arena,” Likud lawmaker Benny Begin reportedly said.

Perhaps Begin didn’t realize, however, that in rejecting the bill, the Knesset arguably put itself in conflict with the vision for achieving peace offiicially endorsed by Florida’s state legislature.

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Back in February, both houses of the Florida state legislature unanimously passed a resolution stating that “peace can be afforded the region only through a whole and united Israel governed under one law for all people.”

Almost identical language was previously adopted in resolutions approved by the South Carolina state House of Representatives and the Republican National Committee.

Critics suggested that the resolutions effectively called for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — an outcome that could undermine Israel’s Jewish character.

That interpretation was rejected by the South Carolina legislator who authored the original bill, as well as by the Zionist Organization of America, which brought the bill to Florida — with both stressing that the “one law for all people” language was really about securing for Jewish settlers the rights to build in their communities. (Though the resolutions actually made no mention of this issue.)

“One law for all people — and by ‘all people’ we mean Israeli citizens,” said Joseph Sabag, executive director of the Florida chapter of the Zionism Organization of America, in an interview with JTA.

It may have been the case, though, that Florida lawmakers simply didn’t think very hard about the language and implications of the bill they were voting for. As JTA reported:

Asked about suggestions that the text of Florida’s resolution seems to call for a one-state solution, one lawmaker said the reading did not occur to him.

“I would have to say, I did not focus on that,” said Rep. Jim Waldman, a Jewish Democrat from Coral Gables, who was one of more than 30 co-sponsors of the resolution in the Florida House of Representatives. “If it’s anything other than support for the State of Israel, then I would say shame on us for signing on.”

When the RNC approved its resolution (which could be seen as contradicting the Republican Party platform’s endorsement of a two-state solution), Buzzfeed suggested that the move indicated grassroots Republican support for “a far more maximal Israel position than that held by any but the most hawkish Israeli parties.”

Buzzfeed may have been on to something.

Earlier this month, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a Tea Party favorite, penned an Op-Ed rejecting a two-state solution. “The only viable solution for the Middle East is a one-state solution: one contiguous Israeli state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. There will not and cannot be lasting peace in the Middle East until then,” he wrote.

And whereas the “one law for all people” language endorsed by the Florida legislature, South Carolina state House of Representatives and the Republican National Committee caused significant confusion, Walsh was much clearer in his proposal: “Those Palestinians who remain behind in Israel will maintain limited voting power but will be awarded all the economic and civil rights of Israeli citizens,” or, he wrote, they can move to Jordan.

UPDATE: It’s worth noting that Benny Begin (who happens to the son of Menachem Begin) is himself no fan of a two-state solution and has views on the future of the West Bank that defy easy categorization. I wouldn’t presume to guess how he, in particular, would respond to the language of the Florida resolution.

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