AIPAC looks to push Congress on opposition to UN resolution
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AIPAC looks to push Congress on opposition to UN resolution

Rebuking the Obama administration's non-veto, powerful lobby asks people to encourage their representatives to come out against the move

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

American Jewish Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach speaks on December 28, 2016, as people take part in a protest calling on the US to 'defund the UN,' in the wake of the December 23 Israeli settlement vote in front of the UN Mission to the United Nations in New York. (AFP/Kena Betancur)
American Jewish Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach speaks on December 28, 2016, as people take part in a protest calling on the US to 'defund the UN,' in the wake of the December 23 Israeli settlement vote in front of the UN Mission to the United Nations in New York. (AFP/Kena Betancur)

WASHINGTON — The powerful pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC is calling on people to pressure members of Congress to speak out against the US decision to allow a measure critical of Israeli settlement building to pass the United Nations Security Council last week.

An online form from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee asks individuals to thank their federal representatives if they’ve spoken in opposition, or if they haven’t, to encourage them to do so, saying the UN measure “hinders the peace process.”

Ahead of the December 23 vote, AIPAC circulated a list of Washington lawmakers who opposed the deal. After the measure passed, the group said it was “deeply disturbed by the failure of the Obama administration to exercise its veto to prevent a destructive, one-sided, anti-Israel resolution.”

More than 100 Members of Congress have issued statements opposing the resolution, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The form, AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman said, is “a way for our activists to urge Members of Congress to register their opposition to the destructive resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council.”

UN Resolution 2334 says the settlement enterprise “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law” and calls for a complete end to all construction in areas Israel gained after the 1967 Six Day War.

The city of Ma'ale Adumim, one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The city of Ma’ale Adumim, one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

It also calls on all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967” — language that Israel fears will lead to a surge in boycott and sanctions efforts, and that Israeli officials have warned will provide “a tailwind for terror.”

The text was approved 14-0 with the United States abstaining, leading to furious denunciations from Jerusalem against the countries that pushed for and supported the measure — and against Washington for withholding its veto.

The move was also denounced by a host of American Jewish organizations, Republican lawmakers and even some members of US President Barack Obama’s own Democratic Party, including party whip Steny Hoyer.

In the form, titled “Support a Two-State Solution: Support Direct Negotiations, Not Imposed Solutions,” AIPAC alleges the resolution “hinders the peace process by seeking to impose a solution on the Israelis and Palestinians instead of supporting an agreement reached through direct, bilateral negotiations.”

Among the criticisms of the measure that have been voiced is the argument it will harden the Palestinian belief that they can circumvent negotiations and gain an internationally recognized state without its leaders making the painful compromises necessary for peace.

Others have said that by declaring settlements illegal, Israel has lost one of its main bargaining chips in the negotiations, as it is now codified in a Security Council resolution that Israel has no claim to the land it is expected to relinquish.

AIPAC launched the measure Thursday, one day after US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a highly anticipated speech laying out his “comprehensive vision” for resolving the conflict.

US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on Middle East peace at the U.S. Department of State on December 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images/AFP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on Middle East peace at the U.S. Department of State on December 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images/AFP)

In his address, Kerry lambasted the settlements as a fundamental obstacle to achieving the coveted two-state outcome. He accused the Israeli government of approving West Bank settlement construction projects that were “strategically placed in locations that make two states impossible” and said “the status quo is leading toward one state, or perpetual occupation.”

AIPAC quickly fired back and said Kerry’s speech was “a failed attempt to defend the indefensible,” referring to the administration’s unwillingness to exercise its veto power last week.

The secretary, AIPAC said, “placed overwhelming, disproportionate blame for the failure to advance peace on our ally, Israel, while neglecting numerous Israeli peace offers and Palestinian refusal to resume direct talks.”

“Any potential, positive contribution from this speech was foreclosed by the Obama administration’s shameful refusal to veto the destructive, anti-Israel UNSC resolution,” it added.

“By abstaining, and thereby allowing the resolution to pass, the outgoing administration not only betrayed a democratic ally and abandoned a forty-year understanding, but it also made the goal of peace more elusive by undermining direct talks, reinterpreting UN Security Council Resolution 242, and providing the recalcitrant Palestinian leadership with further incentive not to compromise or negotiate.”

Resolution 242 was passed through the international body after the 1967 war and refers to the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” but indicates any Israeli withdrawal from areas it captured should be based on negotiations.

It calls on a “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” The absence of “the territories” or “all territories” in that provision signaled that an exact return to the previous borders was not a prerequisite for peace and legitimized the basis of mutually agreed upon land swaps that have been a basis of negotiations since the 1993 Oslo Accords.

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