Columns

First Resolutions of New Congress Backing Israel Get Strong Bipartisan Support

WASHINGTON — Bipartisan resolutions condemning the recent United Nations Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements — and the refusal of the Obama administration to veto it — have quickly gained top support.

The House and Senate efforts aren’t the only bills concerning the Jewish State to be introduced at the very beginning of the 115th Congress.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and committee member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) today introduced a resolution objecting to the UNSC action “and to all efforts that undermine direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a secure and peaceful settlement.”

It calls the veto “inconsistent with long-standing United States policy and makes direct negotiations more, not less, challenging,” and calls for the resolution “to be repealed or fundamentally altered so that it is no longer one-sided and allows all final status issues toward a two-state solution to be resolved through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties.”

It also “demands that the United States ensure that no action is taken at the Paris Conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict scheduled for January 15, 2017, that imposes an agreement or parameters on the parties.”

Co-sponsors are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.).

“Since the days of ‘Zionism is racism,’ the U.N. has been a fervently anti-Israel body and, unfortunately, that bias has never diminished. Knowing this, past administrations – both Democrat and Republican – have protected Israel from the vagaries of this biased institution,” Schumer said. “Unfortunately, by abstaining on United Nations Resolutions 2334, this administration has not followed in that path.”

A House vote is scheduled for Thursday on a similar resolution introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.).

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in a joint statement announcing the vote that the lower chamber “will not abstain from its responsibility and will vote on a bipartisan resolution reaffirming our longstanding policy in the region and support of Israel.”

And House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement today that he’s on board — particularly in the hope that “strong, bipartisan support for this House resolution will send a message to deter any last-ditch efforts that might further undermine Israel’s position, particularly with regard to the conference to be held in Paris later this month.”

Hoyer noted that before the Dec. 23 abstention at the UNSC by the United States, he had “urged” President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to use the country’s veto power, but instead the administration “sent the wrong signal to our ally Israel, to Israel’s enemies, and to the world.”

“I will be supporting the bipartisan House Resolution expressing opposition to the December 23 abstention vote for this reason and because I believe Congress must continue to stand in solidarity with Israel as it faces an unprecedented onslaught of terror and delegitimization,” he added. “…Perhaps most concerning, this abstention allowed for the passage of a resolution that defines the eastern part of Jerusalem – and with it the Western Wall, Jews’ most sacred place of prayer – as a settlement area and not, as recognized by the United States Congress, part of Israel’s capital.

“Support for Israel in this country has always been bipartisan, and it will surely remain so in the future.”

On Tuesday, Sen. Moran introduced a resolution to “express the sense of the Senate that we stand in support of Israel and disapprove of the UN’s actions.”

And Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rubio introduced the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act to spur movement on 1995’s Jerusalem Embassy and Relocation Act, which required the U.S. Embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv.

Each president since then has used a security waiver every six month to prevent relocating the embassy to Jerusalem.

Heller said the bill “honors an important promise America made more than two decades ago but has yet to fulfill.”

“While administrations come and go, the lasting strength of our partnership with one of our strongest allies in the Middle East continues to endure,” the senator added. “My legislation is a testament to that. I’d like to thank Senators Rubio and Cruz for their support for this legislation and look forward to working with the new administration to turn this bill into law.”

State Department press secretary John Kirby said today that “moving the embassy to Jerusalem is not a good idea.”

“It’s not constructive to the overall peace process. It could actually put some of our people and some of our troops, those that work at the embassy, in harm’s way and needlessly so,” Kirby said. “So we don’t support that move. We stand by the policy that we’ve been supporting now and if the next administration wants to move forward, that’s certainly their prerogative.”

“But under President Obama, and he’s still president of the United States, we don’t support that and we at the State Department here wouldn’t support efforts to move in that direction while we’re still in office.”