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Congress Pleads With Obama to Veto Palestinian Statehood

April 19, 2016

“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”  (Jeremiah 8:11)

An April 8 letter signed by 90% of the United States Congress urges President Barack Obama not to support a unilateral bid for Palestinian Authority (PA) statehood at the United Nations.

The United States has traditionally used its UN Security Council veto against unilateral measures in the UN that would stymie Israel, as it did in the PA’s 2011 bid for statehood, but the congressional letter illustrates a concern that Obama will deviate from the standing US position.

“People in the government are asking the question: what can we do to keep the two-state solution alive?  And they’re generating ideas,” a senior US official told Reuters in March.

“One of the ideas that they are talking about” is outlining a two-state plan in a UN Security Council resolution for a future US president to consider or for Israel and the PA to hash out if they ever resume the direct peace talks that failed in 2014, a US official said under anonymity.

Kerry-Livni-Erekat-Mid-East-peace talks

Former Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (left), US Secretary of State John Kerry (middle), and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat (right) address reporters after the resumption of the Mid-East peace talks in July.  Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians began on July 29, 2013.  Peace talks broke down entirely when the Palestinian Authority and Hamas (a terrorist organization) agreed to form a unity government on April 23, 2014.

On the heel of these new ideas and “deeply troubling” reports “that one-sided initiatives may arise at the UN in coming months concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” six leading US representatives, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), composed the letter.

The document presses Obama to stop the Palestinians from avoiding “the direct negotiation process” through unilateral measures, Deutch said Wednesday.

Of the 435 representatives, 394 signed the letter, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Speaking before the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on Wednesday, Ros-Lehtinen further urged Assistant Secretary of State Anne W. Patterson to “state unequivocally [that we] will not introduce, we will not support, that we will block, that we will veto any resolution at the UN Security Council that seeks to impose a two-state solution on Israel or that offers some artificial timeline for negotiations.”

“This absence of an American voice saying that we will veto gives wind beneath the wings of the Palestinians to continue this unilateral statehood scheme,” Ros-Lehtinen said Wednesday.

“Such efforts dangerously hinder the prospects for resuming direct negotiations,” the legislators wrote.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United States Congress on March 3, 2015.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United States Congress on March 3, 2015.  (GPO Photo by Amos Ben Gershom)

Congress urges the US administration to “maintain its indispensable role of mediator,” which requires blocking “counterproductive efforts aimed at imposing a solution” for one of the two sides, thereby creating additional problems.

“It is only at the negotiating table, and not at the UN, that the parties can resolve their complicated differences,” the congressmen told the president.  “Your continued commitment to long-standing US policy to veto one-sided UN Security Council resolutions remains fundamentally critical.”

“We share your frustration with the lack of significant progress toward a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” the letter adds, “[but] only the parties themselves can agree to end their conflict through a negotiated resolution.”

Presidential candidates Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all expressed caution as well about unilateral measures in the UN.

Clinton recently told New York Jewish Week that the “United Nations is not the venue” for acquiring peace for Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Senator Cruz has stated that “if the Palestinians try to push through a United Nations resolution to unilaterally declare Palestinian statehood, America will veto that resolution.”  

Trump has called a UN-imposed solution “a disaster and a catastrophe for Israel” that will “reward Palestinian terrorism.

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