WASHINGTON (JTA) — One of President-elect Donald Trump’s closest congressional allies proposed removing all references to two states from a congressional bid to condemn an anti-settlements U.N. Security Council resolution.
The three-sentence amendment offered Wednesday by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to the resolution introduced earlier this week by Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the committee’s top Democrat, simply called for the removal of all paragraphs from the resolution that mention two states.
The amendment was voted down in the House’s Rules Committee later Wednesday.
The amendment by King, a Tea Party Republican who was among the first and most enthusiastic backers of Trump during the primaries campaign, is the latest shot in an emerging battle between the GOP’s conservative wing and the party establishment. The former has retreated from the party’s support since 2002 for a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians, while the latter continues to defer to the mainstream pro-Israel community’s embrace of a two-state outcome.
A query to King went unanswered, as have requests for comment on the two-state issue to the Trump transition team.
The Republican Party at its convention over the summer removed from its platform language endorsing a two-state solution and conservatives have been pressing hard for its removal as U.S. policy. Democrats still strongly endorse an outcome of Israel existing alongside a state of Palestine as the endgame for peace talks.
The Republican Party’s congressional leadership backs the Royce-Engel resolution, thus the rush for a vote. A competing resolution introduced this week by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., another Tea Partier who is close to Trump, does not mention the two-state solution. Royce is likely to bury the Ross resolution in the committee he chairs.
In the Senate, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., introduced a resolution Wednesday similar to the Royce-Engel measure, also emphasizing a two-state outcome while condemning last month’s Security Council resolution.
Unusually, co-sponsoring the Rubio-Cardin resolution are Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader. Party leaders rarely co-sponsor nonbinding resolutions. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which backs both resolutions, is lobbying hard for broad support.
McConnell in a statement signaled Republican fury with the Obama administration for allowing through the Security Council resolution in its final days.
“The decision taken by the President to abstain from this vote — to fail to act on behalf of an ally — represents a failure of leadership and judgment,” McConnell said.
The Obama administration’s abstention was the first time it allowed through a Security Council resolution opposed by Israel. President Barack Obama’s predecessors withheld vetoes on Israel-critical resolutions on multiple occasions.