House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) are pressing forward with their effort to urge President Obama to veto a resolution at the U.N. Security Council that would declare any post-1967 Israeli settlements, including East Jerusalem, illegal.
The House leaders led a letter to Obama last month, along with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), ranking member Howard Berman (D-Calif.), incoming Middle East subcommittee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and ranking member Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), asking Obama to “pledge in response to this letter to veto any U.N. Security Council resolution that criticizes Israel regarding final status issues.”
Reports emerged Wednesday night that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice offered to back a non-binding statement denying the “legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity” in order to avoid having to veto the Paletinian Authority’s measure.
“As we wrote to the President last month, the Palestinian leadership’s decision to reject the difficult but vital responsibility of making peace with Israel through direct negotiations, and instead to advocate for anti-Israel measures by the United Nations Security Council is counterproductive and unacceptable,” Cantor and Hoyer said in a joint statement Thursday.
The leaders noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for direct talks “anytime and anywhere, without preconditions.”
“Instead of negotiating directly with Israel to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict, Palestinian leaders continue to seek to circumvent the negotiating process by advocating anti-Israel measures at the U.N. Security Council, U.N. General Assembly, and U.N. Human Rights Council,” Cantor and Hoyer wrote.
“The U.S. should not condone or reward this behavior by supporting their resolutions,” they said. “We strongly urge the Administration to veto this resolution and to uphold our longstanding commitment to Israel’s security.”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner was grilled by reporters at Thursday’s press briefing about whether a presidential statement would be offered, but remained mum on the status of that possibility.
“What I can tell you is that private diplomatic discussions are ongoing in New York, and I’m not going to get into the details of those discussions,” Toner said.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was one of several lawmakers in both parties upset with the reports. In a statement Thursday she said that the gesture “is a major concession to enemies of the Jewish state and other free democracies.”
“It telegraphs that the U.S. can be bullied into abandoning critical democratic allies and core U.S. principles,” she added.