WASHINGTON (JTA) — An overwhelming majority of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter urging President Barack Obama to reject any actions by the United Nations that are biased against Israel.
The letter undersigned by 394 House Republicans and Democrats — more than 90 percent of the 435 representatives — was sent to Obama on Thursday amid reports that the Palestinian Authority might revive a draft resolution against Israel’s policies in the West Bank, similar to the one vetoed in 2011 at the Security Council by the United States.
Rival pro-Israel groups praised the letter, with the older lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, emphasizing the letter’s placing much of the burden of returning to negotiations on Palestinians, and J Street, a liberal group, noting that the letter does not appear to preclude U.S.-led bids to revive the talks.
The U.S. should “maintain its indispensable role of mediator” by closely coordinating its moves with “our democratic ally Israel” and by refusing “to support counterproductive efforts aimed at imposing a solution,” read the letter, initiated by Democrat Nita Lowey of New York and Republican Kay Granger of Texas, the two top lawmakers on the foreign operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.
It also said the signatories were “deeply troubled by reports that one-sided initiatives may arise at the UN in the coming months concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such efforts dangerously hinder the prospects for resuming direct negotiations.”
In a recent interview, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki expressed hope that Obama would let the Security Council vote on a resolution against Israel because the U.S. president is about to leave office.
“We share your frustration with the lack of significant progress toward a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” the letter to Obama reads, but “only the parties themselves can agree to end their conflict through a negotiated resolution.”
AIPAC in its statement emphasized what the letter opposed — unilateral moves by the Palestinians. “With this letter, an overwhelming bipartisan House majority has now urged the President to oppose and, if necessary, veto any such one-sided UN Security Council resolution,” it said.
J Street emphasized what the letter did not oppose — U.S.-led efforts to revive the talks. It did not include an explicit call for “direct talks,” J Street noted, a term which is seen as code for precluding any U.S.-initiated action.
The letter, J Street said, affirmed “long-standing US opposition to one-sided UN action, while not ruling out productive and balanced UN action such as the UN Security Council Resolutions on the conflict that Republican and Democratic administrations alike have often supported over the course of decades.”
Lowey said she favored direct talks, although the term is not in the letter.
“It’s very clear you can’t impose a solution,” she told JTA, saying UN initiatives set the process back. “I believe strongly that these approaches are counterproductive, they make it more difficult for the next administration.”
Lowey said a prominent U.S. role also was key. “To get to a two-state solution, the US should maintain its role as mediator,” she said.
The White House hasn’t yet received the lawmakers’ letter and declined to comment on it, the Wall Street Journal reported.