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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Meet the Republican congressman who calls for a settlement freeze

In many ways, Representative Walter Jones (R-NC), is a staunch conservative. He blasted former President Barack Obama’s “burdensome” environmental regulations as “completely out of touch with the American people.” The North Carolina lawmaker vehemently opposed the outgoing administration’s rule mandating that states offer Title X funding for abortion providers including Planned Parenthood. However, his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are far outside the norm for a Republican member of Congress these days.

This post was originally published at JewishInsider.com.

In an interview with Jewish Insider, Jones called for a “moratorium” on Israeli West Bank settlement growth. Jones was one of four Republicans who voted with 76 Democrats against House Resolution 11 in January, a measure that criticized the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for condemning Israeli settlements at the end of the Obama Administration. While the overwhelming majority of Republican leaders including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and President Donald Trump assailed the UN for engaging in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process, Walter offered a dramatically different response. “I think they (the UN) can be part of a process that could be helpful,” he explained. When discussing America’s role as a mediator, the 74-year-old North Carolina lawmaker noted, “America because of its friendship and relationship with Israel – and I have great respect for Israel – I think it’s going to take more than just one country to put this together.”

Jones was one of only two Republicans to sign onto a letter currently circulating from Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VI) and David Price (D-NC), which “affirms” the two state solution. In doing so, Jones joined 113 Democrats who back the measure. Explaining his support, Jones noted, “If we just sit back, watch and complain, and nobody is making any effort to get the two sides together, I think it is wrong.” The veteran GOP Congressman cites his Christian faith in motivating his desire to search for peace. In contrast to most lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Jones repeatedly used the term “Palestine” throughout the interview.

Some pro-Israel organizations have worked tirelessly to unseat Jones given his unorthodox viewpoint as a Republican on the Jewish state. Breitbart called an ad from the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) against Jones, which included anti-Israel protesters burning U.S. and Israeli flags while narrating Jones’ Congressional record, “brutal.” The ECI ad also warned that Jones was endorsed by the “anti-Israel group J Street.” In addition to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, Jones broke with his party in 2005 emphasizing that his vote in favor of the 2003 Iraq War was mistaken, years before candidate Trump made opposition to the war a mainstay of his presidential campaign.

Despite the numerous foreign policy challenges, Jones urged Trump to signal that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be “the number one issue” in order for America “to be a facilitator to find peace.” With Trump calling on Israel to “hold back on settlements,” and the President’s Special Assistant Jason Greenblatt meeting this week with Netanyahu, and visiting a West Bank Palestinian refugee camp, Jones may have reason to be more upbeat than usual.

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