Thank you for contacting me about the ongoing conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories and the Pentagon’s recent audit. I appreciate hearing from you on these important issues.
I share your deep concerns about the cycle of violence and tension. While there are reports of some protestors committing violent acts, human rights groups have characterized the Israeli military response as disproportionate. I support the ability of people to exercise their right to assemble and to engage in nonviolent protest and urge all parties to allow urgent humanitarian assistance to reach those in need in Gaza.
I believe we need to reinvigorate a diplomatic process that deals with the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. While the road to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and Palestine may not be short, I believe real progress can be made by a U.S. Administration with the vision and political will to invest in sustained, high level engagement. That is why I am a proud cosponsor of H.Res. 138 and H.Res. 326, which express support for addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict concurrently with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and for a two-state solution.
I opposed the Trump Administration’s cut-off of U.S. contributions toUNRWA and economic aid for the West Bank and Gaza, including the East Jerusalem hospitals. It also closed the Palestinian representation office in Washington and revoked the visas of their top diplomat and his family. These actions not only will exacerbate the suffering of Palestinian refugees and make it more difficult to get access to education, health and livelihoods, it is a security concern, as evidenced by concerns raised by Israeli military and intelligence agencies about the UNRWA cut, and could set back the quest for peace. You may be pleased to know that the FY20 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which was approved by the House Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, restores $226 million in economic assistance to the Palestinians including a contribution to UNRWA.
I have been greatly disappointed that President Trump has all but abandoned the two-state framework for peace, and that his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem was delinked from the peace process. In March 2019 he unilaterally accepted Israeli’s annexation of the Golan Heights, seized in 1967, breaking the principle of international law that sovereignty of land should not be determined by force. These actions departed from decades of U.S. policy across both Republican and Democratic administrations. The President’s designated envoy, his own son-in-law, appears to be spending more time talking to undemocratic Arab monarchs than with the people, Israelis and Palestinians, who will have to live with the solution that the Administration may seek to impose. We must encourage an independent and viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel, with security and human and civil rights for all citizens.
Given the continued suffering of innocent people on both sides of this conflict, it is my hope that a peaceful resolution is found soon.
Additionally, as you know, in 2018 it was announced that the Department of Defense failed its first comprehensive audit. The audit of the Pentagon, which had a $2.7 trillion budget in Fiscal Year 2018, found multiple accounting discrepancies. Please rest assured that I will continue to monitor this issue. Further, I believe that instead of dramatically increasing defense spending at the expense of other vital programs, the Department of Defense should become more efficient and eliminate outdated programs. I was pleased to support budget agreements in the last Congress that contained reductions in overseas operations funding, continuing the decline in Presidential requests for overseas operations since FY10. Also, in the past, I have joined my colleagues in sending letters to the members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction urging them to reduce outdated and unnecessary nuclear weapons.
If we are serious about getting the deficit under control, we must make smart cuts to the defense budget including wasteful spending on outdated Cold War era technologies, ineffective programs, a failed missile defense program, the proposed Space Force, and unnecessary military bases abroad. I believe we should focus on rebuilding our infrastructure and fully funding our education programs, ensuring that our troops receive the support they need, and emphasizing programs that successfully address our domestic security.
I will continue to tackle these important issues with my colleagues in the 116thCongress. Thank you again for being in touch, I hope to see you in Maine soon.
Member of Congress
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