Congress Prepares to Counter Obama Admin’s Anti-Israel Push at U.N.

Republicans break with Democrats over efforts to coerce Israel into flawed peace plan

President Obama delivers his final address at the UN / AP
President Obama delivers his final address at the UN / AP
September 21, 2016

Congress is laying the groundwork to counter Obama administration efforts to censure Israel at the United Nations, according to lawmakers and senior congressional sources who told the Washington Free Beacon that leading Republican senators have broken with Democrats due to their efforts to coerce Israel into accepting a flawed peace plan with the Palestinians.

On the heels of President Obama’s address at the U.N., in which he called Israel an occupying force, top Republicans are refusing to support a letter backed by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the nation’s most powerful pro-Israel lobbying shop, because the letter pressures Israel into accepting a flawed peace plan with the Palestinians.

The administration's anti-Israel efforts at the U.N. are expected to come in late November as the administration carries out its remaining days in office.

Senior congressional sources who spoke to the Free Beacon disclosed that administration officials have been laying the groundwork to break with decades of U.S. policy by backing a U.N. resolution chastising Israel. The U.S. government has historically vetoed any such action, but sources say the administration has been "creeping" in the opposite direction for some time.

Democrats and Republicans have expressed fear about this possibility for some time, but have failed to agree upon the proper course to stop the administration from allowing an anti-Israel measure to receive U.N. approval.

"As President Obama meets with heads of state at the United Nations this week, he and his advisors must stop feeding speculation that he will support U.N. action that will undermine Israel and destroy any incentive Palestinian leaders have to negotiate directly with Israel in good faith," Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon. "President Obama must not simply oppose such a U.N. resolution. He must not only vow to veto such a resolution. He must deny the resolution any oxygen by warning every U.N. Security Council member that a vote in favor of it will severely damage its relations with the United States."

"This is the type of tough and principled diplomacy we used to see at the United Nations from U.N. ambassadors of both parties," Cotton said. "It's long past time that we saw some from this president."

AIPAC has been pressuring lawmakers to support a letter pushing the Obama administration to more aggressively promote peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

While 88 senators from both parties have lent their names to the missive, top Republicans have balked, citing concerns that AIPAC and its allies are attempting to force Israel into accepting a peace deal that endangers its security and safety.

"After President Obama slammed Israel’s control of its own territory as an occupation at the United Nations today, I think we need to be all the more careful about reinforcing that unfortunate narrative by trying to forcibly impose the two-state solution as the only resolution to the Palestinian issue," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), one of four GOP senators to oppose the letter, told the Free Beacon.  "Israel is a sovereign nation—nobody wants Middle East peace more than Israel—and the choice of whether or not to adopt a two-state solution should be made voluntarily without U.S. coercion.  So I remain united with my colleagues in their strong expressions of support for Israel, but opposed to that specific phrasing in the letter."

Lawmakers such as Cruz opposed specific language in the AIPAC-backed letter blaming both parties equally for the stall in peace talks. These lawmakers and senior congressional sources told the Free Beacon that it is not the United States’s place to impose a solution on the Jewish state.

"While I share my colleagues’ aim to stand with Israel, I am concerned that the United Nations treats Israelis and Palestinians as equivalent partners—there is simply no comparison," Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), another opponent of the AIPAC letter, said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon. "Israel has worked toward peace but Palestinian leaders still incite violence."

"Israel is committed to freedom and Hamas uses civilians as human shields. Too often the United Nations pretends that there is some kind of moral equivalence between these two parties and, until that stops, the U.N. will not broker any solution for our ally Israel that Americans can support," Sasse said.

Sources who spoke to the Free Beacon disclosed that the Israeli Embassy is not "overjoyed" by the letter AIPAC and its allies are promoting, adding fuel to longstanding claims that the U.S. pro-Israel group is isolating its Republicans allies in attempts to appease a Democratic party that is becoming increasingly more hostile to the Jewish state.

There have been "whispers the Israeli embassy was not overjoyed by the AIPAC letter," said one senior congressional aide.

Congressional opponents of the missive "looked at this letter as basically begging the president and playing nice with him when he’s actually throwing away decades of U.S. policy stance that we’re going to veto" any U.N. measure deemed anti-Israel in nature, the congressional source explained. "[Obama’s] been creeping this way for many years"

Another senior congressional source with knowledge of AIPAC’s lobbying efforts on behalf of the letter told the Free Beacon that the pro-Israel group is isolating its best GOP friends on Capitol Hill.

"AIPAC's struggle to balance the desire to be pro-Israel with the need to be bipartisan is nothing new. Unfortunately, the group's answer has been to consistently move the goal posts so far left to the point that their definition of ]pro-Israel] includes Elizabeth Warren and Tim Kaine but not Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, or Ted Cruz," the source said.

"Those of us who actually care about the safety and security of Israel are left asking ourselves why we need an organization that blames both sides for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and describes U.N. efforts to bully Israel into unilateral concessions as ‘well-intentioned,’" the source said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), another opponent of the administration’s anti-Israel efforts at the U.N., told the Free Beacon in a statement that U.S. officials are pursuing a wrongheaded policy at the U.N.

"The fact that U.S. senators must plead with an American president to not abandon Israel at the United Nations is a disturbing sign of how much the Obama Administration has undermined our alliance with Israel," Rubio said. "I join my colleagues in hoping President Obama does not break from our country’s longstanding tradition of supporting Israel at the U.N., but I reject any notion that Israel is at fault in the current impasse with the Palestinians."

"Israel does not currently have a viable partner for peace," Rubio added. "Palestinian leaders continue to incite violence against innocent Israelis even as they seek to elevate their cause at the U.N. It is Palestinian leaders, not Israeli leaders, who stand in the way of the peace all Israelis and Palestinians deserve. The U.N. has long been a platform for anti-Semitism and hostility toward Israel, and anyone trying to use the U.N. to resolve this conflict is not making a good faith effort to achieve peace, and not pushing a solution that deserves U.S. support."

An AIPAC official declined to comment on the objections raised by these senators and sources.

Published under: Israel