“I know that there is a majority of Palestinians that live there,” Wagner said. “I believe that it is, just as I believe that the Golan Heights is.”
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
Judea and Samaria are as much a part of Israel as the Golan Heights, leading Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri told The Jerusalem Post.
Wagner spoke after visiting the West Bank settlements with three other Republican members of Congress on a trip sponsored by the US Israel Education Association (USIEA), founded and directed by Heather Johnston.
When asked by the Post if she thought Judea and Samaria was part of Israel, she responded, “Yes I do. I very much do. I know that there is a majority of Palestinians that live there. I believe that it is, just as I believe that the Golan Heights is.”
Wagner is the vice ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and was the first co-sponsor and a key architect of July’s House resolution against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and 21 members of Knesset sent her and a number of other US representatives a letter criticizing them for including language in the bill that spoke globally of supporting a two-state solution, even though the statement did not include any territorial designation for such an idea.
When asked about the letter, Wagner said that a two-state resolution to the conflict was US policy.
“But you are seeing some evolution in this regard,” she said. “Time will tell if it’s feasible or not.”
Republican Representative Bradley Byrne of Alabama said that he “started out as being a two-state supporter and I am evolving. I am beginning to have doubts that it can work.”
The other two Republican representatives on the trip, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State and Phil Roe of Tennessee, also said they were “evolving” when it came to the notion of two states.
McMorris Rodgers also echoed Wagner in stating clearly that she saw Judea and Samaria as part of Israel.
Neither women clarified the territorial designation of Judea and Samaria, whether it included only Area C of the West Bank or all of the West Bank.
US President Donald Trump has rarely spoken of Palestinian statehood since coming into office, and the Palestinians fear he intends to withdraw his support for a Palestinian state.
Right-wing Israelis have taken his silence for tacit support. In the last two years, Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, relocated the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and recognized Israelis sovereignty on the Golan.
Trumps actions on the Golan and Jerusalem “are all things that will allow us to go forward,” Wagner said.
The trip, which took place toward the end August, included a meeting with Netanyahu, visits to the Temple Mount, the settlement of Ariel, and a trip to Hebron to see Palestinian businessman Ashraf Jabari.
News of the trip was not allowed to be published until after the group had left last week.
The congressional delegation was particularly impressed by the Judea and Samaria chamber of commerce, which brings together both settlers and Palestinian businesspeople. Jabari is co-chair of the group, and was one of the few Palestinians to attend the US led economic workshop in Bahrain in June.
A number of the representatives said they were impressed by the chamber’s work, and how it represented a blueprint for how Israelis and Palestinians could move forward. Johnston, whose organization brought the Congressional delegation to Israel, is one of the key sponsors of the chamber.
The trip to the industrial park in the Ariel area was an “eye-opener,” Wagner said. “To see Palestinians and Jews working together, so many of the myths I had heard fell apart.”
Said Byrne, “I saw Ariel, I didn’t see a settlement, I saw a city.”
Wagner recalled how during the delegation’s meeting with Netanyahu he had urged them to go back to Washington and tell “their truth.”
The BDS movement doesn’t just hurt Israelis, it also hurts the Palestinians, Wagner said.
McMorris Rodgers said the Israeli and Palestinian business leaders she saw working together to provide economic opportunities for their people was “compelling,” particularly hearing them talk about the positive difference it was making.
On a separate note, Wagner also spoke against renewing US financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
“Given the terrorism that is coming out of the PA, given the corruption that is inherent in the PA, I do not believe that we should be giving money to the PA,” she said. “If there is a way to work with NGOs and other organizations to provide for the Palestinian people, that would be fine. We cannot have them taking and using the money for corrupt and terrorist enterprises in any way shape or form.”
USIEA sponsors advanced educational tours to Israel with members of Congress to educate them in the areas of defense, security and joint economic development between Israelis and Palestinians.