U.S. — Israel Resolutions

1/6/2017

On December 23, 2016, the United Nations Security Council voted for Resolution 2334. It passed 14–0. The U.S. did not vote for it, and instead abstained from the vote.

The resolution essentially condemned Israeli settlement building in the territories it controls, and it condemned Palestinian violence and incitement. It admonished both parties to work for a two-state solution and not to take any steps that would preclude such a solution. Many others have written about this (see Brookings’ piece on “What’s new and what’s not in the U.N. resolution on Israeli settlements”: https://goo.gl/uleZR1), but if you’re interested, the best thing to do is read it for yourself — it’s not very long (3 pages) and can be found here: https://goo.gl/e0SrRh.

In my opinion, the U.N. resolution does not do justice to all of the issues that have prevented peace in the region over the last half-century. And the resolution is too one-sided. While it appropriately identifies settlement construction as a major obstacle to peace, it doesn’t do nearly enough to call out fundamental failures in Palestinian leadership that have also contributed to the violence and stalemate.

In response to this, the House last night considered H.Res. 11 (the Royce-Engel resolution — full text here — https://goo.gl/vfwEZO). I supported an alternative, the Price-Engel-Connolly resolution (H.Res. 23 — full text here — https://goo.gl/AnqyvZ).

Some additional context might be helpful to explain why Congress is considering these resolutions as a first order of business.

We should be aware of the fact that the U.N. is dangerously preoccupied with Israel (to the exclusion of other serious and more pressing issues: e.g. Syria) and clearly biased against her. That is of great concern to me — as are other manifestations of this bias, including the Boycott Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement. There is not enough pressure applied to the Palestinian Authority and those who have leverage with its leadership to refrain from acts of terror, incitement to terror, and the cultural context (including in textbooks) that provides part of the moral underpinning for terror to thrive.

For those reasons, among others, I support President Obama’s decision to direct his ambassador to not vote for the U.N. resolution. While it does call on the Palestinian Authority to confront terror, and while it condemns terror, incitement and provocation, it doesn’t go far enough. That is reason enough for our U.N. ambassador not to vote for it. In addition, it doesn’t provide the broader context that has resulted in the failure of the two-state solution — and a lot of that is on the failed leadership of the Palestinian Authority.

But I do agree with the statement of our U.N. ambassador that the settlement problem is putting at risk the very viability of the two-state solution. And I think that it is in our interest and in Israel’s interest for those settlements to cease if there is to be any hope for lasting peace; and that if settlement construction does not stop, a two-state solution will be unobtainable and Israel will lose the ability to be both a democratic and Jewish state. That, and the fact that the resolution — as incomplete and imperfect as it is — does not contradict existing and historic U.S. policy, justifies an abstention.

I look at this President’s decision to abstain within the context of the strong support he has provided to Israel despite disagreements along the way; the multi-billion dollar help that he and this Congress have provided to ensure that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge ($3.8 billion per year for ten years); and the fact that every President before him going back to 1967 has voted for or abstained from U.N. resolutions to which Israel objected with the purpose of ensuring that we are both helping Israel and staying true to our national values and interests (George W. Bush abstaining on Gaza and on demolition of homes; Clinton on Geneva conventions and Hebron; George H.W. Bush on deportation of Palestinian civilians; Reagan on deportation and the return Palestinians to occupied territories, etc.).

For these reasons I voted against H.Res. 11 which passed with 342 for, 80 against and 4 present, and supported H.Res. 23 which failed by a vote of 235–188.