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Israel and Palestine

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Obama Administration Vetoes Controversial Israel Resolution Only after Congressional Pressure

February 18th 2011

Israel Topics - Obama Netanyahu Abbas1

The U.S. vetoed a controversial Palestinian Authority resolution at the United Nations Security Council as pressure on the administration mounted in the House of Representatives. A letter urging Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to stand up against the resolution condemning Israel quickly racked up signatures in the House on February 19.

Reps. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) circulated the letter, which had been signed by at least 110 members, making the rounds beginning on the afternoon of February 18 and again later on February 19. The members responded to reports that a presidential statement condemning Israeli settlements could be issued in response to a resolution that would declare any post-1967 Israeli settlements, including East Jerusalem, illegal.

"It should not be the practice of the U.S. to be conducting backdoor deals, of any sort, that weaken the strategic interests of any ally — let alone one of our closest allies," the letter states. "We strongly urge you to make it clear that the U.S. will oppose any U.N. efforts to pressure Israel on the 'settlements' issue."

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.

The lawmakers cautioned that such "unprecedented steps" at the U.N. would "mark a disconcerting change in U.S. foreign policy" and send "harmful signals" to allies.

"As members of Congress, we urge administration officials to remain steadfast in support of Israel, veto the upcoming Security Council resolution and otherwise reject any related statement against Israel at the U.N.," the letter to Clinton states. "We look forward to your immediate reply to this time-sensitive situation."

The letter came on the same day that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) renewed their effort to secure a veto of the resolution, which the U.S. can do as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

“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 on February 18.

Bridget Johnson writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted.

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