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Congressional letters urge Pompeo to protect Israel from International Criminal Court

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Letters signed by senators and U.S. House of Representatives from both parties urge Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to protect Israelis from International Criminal Court prosecution.

The letters, which have strong backing from the prominent Israel lobby AIPAC, note the recent ICC decision to accept “Palestine” as a state with the status to file a complaint.

“By accepting Palestinian territorial claims over the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, the Prosecutor is making a political judgment that biases any subsequent investigation or trial,” says the Senate letter spearheaded by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “Establishing the boundaries of any future Palestinian state is a political decision that must be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The House letter, spearheaded by Reps. Elaine Luria, D-Va., and Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., features similar language. Cardin and Luria are Jewish.

The letters’ effect is to put on the record congressional support for positions already embraced by the Trump administration, which is committed to thwarting ICC prosecutions of Americans and Israelis.

While the letters are bipartisan, more Republicans than Democrats signed on to each one. The Democrats who signed are identified with the party’s moderates, particularly on Israel policy.

Separately, 11 Democrats on Thursday called on Pompeo to speak out against plans by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex parts of the West Bank, citing the same logic in the ICC letters: It preempts a final status deal.

Four Jewish Congress members signed the statement, which also asks Pompeo “to endorse direct negotiations between the parties, reaffirming decades of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy.”

The Jewish signers are Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Alan Lowenthal of California and Andy Levin of Michigan.