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Israel's annexation of West Bank would 'choke off any hope of peace', Joe Biden says

The presumptive Democratic nominee reiterated his pledge to unconditionally continue US aid to Israel
Criticism of Israel on the left 'too often' morphs into antisemitism, former vice president says (AFP/File photo)
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Washington

Joe Biden has said Israel's annexation of Palestinian territories in the occupied West Bank would "choke off any hope of peace," but renewed his pledge to unconditionally continue US military aid to Israel if elected president.

Speaking to Jewish American supporters at a virtual fundraiser on Tuesday, the presumptive Democratic nominee vowed to reverse Donald Trump's "undercutting of peace" and resume aid to Palestinians.

"Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation and stop settlement activity because it will choke off any hope of peace," he said.

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Still, Biden ruled out using US military assistance as leverage to pressure the Israelis into abandoning their annexation plans.

"I will not place conditions on security assistance given the serious threat Israelis face," he said.

Israeli politicians formed a unity government under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday which plans to initiate legislation to annex large parts of the West Bank starting in the beginning of July.

Axios reported on Monday that Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, has been lobbying US legislators and conservative pundits to convince them that Israel must push ahead with annexation before the US election in November in case Biden wins.

The Trump administration has suggested that it would not oppose Israeli annexation, framing the move as part of its own plan to end the conflict, which allows Israel to keep all of its West Bank settlements.

Palestinians have forcefully rejected Trump's scheme. 

Silencing debate around Israeli policies

On Tuesday, Biden accused left-wing activists who criticise Israel of antisemitism - a charge that Palestine solidarity advocates dismiss as an attempt to silence the debate around Israeli policies.

"Criticism of Israel's policy is not antisemitism, but too often that criticism from the left morphs into antisemitism," the former vice president said.

Biden also said that Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

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"They have to acknowledge flat out Israel's right to exist, period, as an independent Jewish state, and guarantee the borders," he said.

On Monday, Tony Blinken, a senior adviser to the Biden campaign, reiterated that demand as well. 

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation recognised the state of Israel in 1988, but the Palestinian Authority has refused to recognise it as a Jewish state. Such acknowledgement, Palestinian leaders say, would harm Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of return for refugees.

"In the category of 'Never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity', I think a reminder to Palestinians... that they can and should do better and deserve better and that requires leadership: leadership to make clear the reality of the Jewish state; leadership to make clear the need to end incitement and violence; leadership to bring people along for the prospect of negotiating," Blinken said.

Earlier this month, a coalition of anti-war groups urged Biden to adopt less hawkish foreign policies and leverage the annual $3.8bn military assistance to Israel.

"We call on you to use a combination of pressure and incentives, including leveraging the annual $3.8 billion in US military funding to Israel, to get all parties to come to an agreement that upholds UN Security Council Resolutions and international law," the groups said in a letter to the Democratic candidate.