Rep. Ilhan Omar calls for a two-state solution to Israel-Palestine conflict in new op-ed

The freshman lawmaker, whose remarks prompted claims of anti-Semitism, calls for a "balanced, inclusive approach"

Published March 18, 2019 2:50PM (EDT)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., whose statements prompted allegations of anti-Semitism by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, called for a "balanced, inclusive approach" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new op-ed published Sunday in The Washington Post.

"My goal in speaking out at all times has been to encourage both sides to move toward a peaceful two-state solution," the freshman congresswoman wrote. "We need to reinsert this call back into the public debate with urgency. Both parties must come to the table for a final peace deal; violence will not bring us any closer to that day."

Omar noted that she recognized the historical foundations of Israel, pointed out "the founding of Israel 70 years ago was built on the Jewish people's connection to their historical homeland, as well as the urgency of establishing a nation in the wake of the horror of the Holocaust and the centuries of anti-Semitic oppression leading up to it." However, she added, "We must acknowledge that this is also the historical homeland of Palestinians. And without a state, the Palestinian people live in a state of permanent refugeehood and displacement. This, too, is a refugee crisis, and they, too, deserve freedom and dignity."

"A balanced, inclusive approach to the conflict recognizes the shared desire for security and freedom of both peoples," Omar wrote, highlighting that a two-state solution has received bipartisan support in the U.S., as well as from Israelis and Palestinians.

Still, the deep-rooted conflict between Israel and Palestine has persisted, with negotiators unable to reach an agreement on issues such as the actual borders of the two states and whether Palestinians should have the right to return and a right to the property they themselves or their relatives left behind — or were forced to abandon — in what is now recognized as Israel and the territories occupied by it, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

President Donald Trump last September expressed his support of a two-state solution, declaring it the "best" way to resolve the conflict. He later backtracked, however, and said he would endorse a one-state solution if it was agreed upon by both peoples — a position he previously cited. "I'm happy if they're happy," the commander-in-chief said at a news conference at the time.

Omar, a refugee from Somalia who this year became the first Somali-American and one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, advocated in her op-ed for "an inclusive foreign policy" that focuses on "human rights, justice and peace as the pillars of America's engagement in the world — one that brings our troops home and truly makes military action a last resort." The congresswoman explained that valuing human rights "means applying the same standards to our friends and our enemies" — an apparent jab at the veteran leaders of her own Democratic Party and Republicans who alleged her criticism of America's closest ally in the Middle East was offensive and invoked anti-Semitic tropes. (Omar has apologized for her comments.)

Omar has been a vocal supporter of the rights of Palestinians and has voiced her opposition to Israeli policies, from West Bank settlements to the lobbying influence of AIPAC, since she began her tenure on Capitol Hill this January. In her new op-ed, she revealed that "peace and respect for human rights" are values which drove her to run for office and persuaded Minnesotans to elect her.

"Let us apply these universal values to all nations," she concluded. "Only then will our world achieve peace."

By Shira Tarlo

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