WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bipartisan slate of 88 senators urged President Barack Obama to veto any “one-sided” U.N. Security Council resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We urge you to continue longstanding U.S. policy and make it clear that you will veto any one-sided UNSC resolution that may be offered in the coming months,” said the letter sent Monday and spearheaded by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D.
Israeli officials in recent months have expressed concern that Obama would use his final months in office to advance his vision of a final-status arrangement. One avenue for such a bid would be the Security Council. The letter was sent a day before Obama was set to address the U.N. General Assembly.
“Any such resolution, whether focused on settlements or other final status issues, will ultimately make it more difficult for Israelis and Palestinians to resolve the conflict,” said the letter, which was backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The Obama administration has vetoed or otherwise prevented throughout its two terms all Security Council resolutions on the Israeli-Arab conflict not favored by Israel, a record unmatched by its predecessors.
While the focus of the letter was on preventing “one-sided” resolutions, the signatories signaled their lack of enthusiasm for any U.S.- or U.N.-led initiatives at this point.
“At this delicate stage the international community should both provide hope to the parties and avoid taking action that would harm the prospects for meaningful progress,” it said. “Even well-intentioned initiatives at the United Nations (UN) risk locking the parties into positions that will make it more difficult to return to the negotiating table and make the compromises necessary for peace.”
Among the 12 senators who did not sign were four who sought their parties’ nomination for the presidency this year: Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky on the Republican side, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats.
Cruz in a statement said he rejected the language in the letter’s opening that “the only way to resolve the conflicts between the two is through direct negotiations that lead to a sustainable two-state solution with a future state of Palestine living in peace and security with Israel.”
“I support the spirit” of the letter, Cruz said.
“Unfortunately, the language in the opening paragraph declaring the ‘two-state solution’ as the ‘only’ resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians undermines this well-intentioned effort and makes it impossible for me to sign. This matter is an internal one for Israel to decide, and it is not the place of the United States – or the United Nations – to impose a solution on a sovereign nation.”
Rubio in a statement suggested that the letter did not emphasize enough that the Palestinians were at fault for the impasse.
“I join my colleagues in hoping President Obama does not break from our country’s longstanding tradition of supporting Israel at the U.N., but I reject any notion that Israel is at fault in the current impasse with the Palestinians,” Rubio said. “Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East and has made good faith efforts to pursue peace.”