A group of congressmen are rallying behind Israel as reports indicate that the White House may embrace a France-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution that would "meddle" in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R., Colo.) and Rep. David McKinley (R., W. Va.) are circulating a resolution in Congress condemning any attempt by the Obama administration to reverse longstanding U.S. policy backing direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
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The Security Council resolution that is expected to be considered this month endorses Palestinian positions on the terms of a final settlement, including dividing Jerusalem and the removal of all Israeli security forces from the West Bank.
"Whereas it has been the longstanding policy of the United States under both Democratic and Republican administrations and Congresses that a United Nations mandate to force a final status agreement to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is not appropriate … It is the sense of the United States House of Representatives that any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must come from direct bilateral negotiations without preconditions and without interference from the United Nations," the resolution says.
Lamborn and McKinley hope that the resolution will counter reports that President Obama will back the United Nations’ attempt to impose a two-state solution on Israel. The pair is appealing to every member of Congress to persuade Obama to maintain past U.S. policy, and the letter expresses skepticism that the UN Security Council is an appropriate forum for brokering peace.
"Rumors that the United States is moving closer to supporting such a UNSC resolution are disturbing. The UNSC has a poor track record of advancing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and a more intensive role for the UN in the Peace Process is likely to cause more problems than it will solve," the letter says.
It also points out that if Obama abandons Israel at the UN it will be a departure from the foreign policy views of his own appointees. The letter quotes former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s opposition to such a move.
"Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton herself was quoted as saying ‘The only way of getting a lasting solution is through direct negotiations between the parties, and the route to that lies in Jerusalem and Ramallah, not in New York,’" the letter says. "A change in American policy that supports terms of a peace agreement dictated by outside actors would make an acceptable and durable agreement more challenging to secure."
Obama’s relationship with Israel has frayed after the nation reelected conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
McKinley told the Washington Free Beacon that the resolution is vital to preserving Israeli sovereignty against the hostility of critics at the UN. Although the resolution is non-binding, getting enough congressional support could encourage Obama to reevaluate his approach to the issue.
"There is a potential President Obama would go to the United Nations to impose a two-state solution on Israel. The U.S. should not force this decision from afar—we should let Israel work directly with the Palestinians," he said.
A Hill staffer familiar with the issue said any potential resolution would "run counter to the Oslo Accords," a 1993 deal brokered by Bill Clinton that laid out the framework of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The Palestinians have asked the General Assembly to get involved in negotiations, but those proposals have not been fruitful because of America's pledged veto in the Security Council. The Palestinians shifted their focus to the Security Council in December after "Secretary Kerry refused to say whether [America] would veto such a resolution," according to the staffer.
"[A UN] resolution would definitely not be helpful for negotiations because it would put pressure only on Israel," he said.
A Lamborn spokesman was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
The letter garnered support from pro-Israel groups, including the Emergency Committee for Israel.
"When President Carter supported a UN Security Council attack on Israel, legendary Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called it ‘joining the jackals,’" said ECI executive director Noah Pollak. "It would be a shameful moment in Obama’s presidency if he repeated Carter’s mistake. Unlike Israel, the Palestinians have refused to talk peace for the entirety of Obama’s presidency—yet he has blamed Israel, and now may attempt to punish Israel for something it hasn’t done."