WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives passed a scathing rebuke Thursday night to a United Nations Security Council resolution the Obama administration allowed through last month that condemned Israeli settlements as illegal.
House Resolution 11 declared the UN motion a “one-sided” effort that is an obstacle to peace, placing disproportionate blame on Israel for the continuation of the conflict and discouraging Palestinians from engaging in direct, bilateral negotiations.
Passed by a vote of 342-80, the measure puts the lower chamber of Congress firmly against President Barack Obama’s decision to withhold the US veto power from shielding Israel against the censure.
The UN resolution 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 captured after the 1967 Six Day War, including East Jerusalem.
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 an Israeli official warned would provide “a tailwind for terror.”
The House resolution condemned that provision, saying it “effectively lends legitimacy to efforts by the Palestinian Authority to impose its own solution through international organizations and through unjustified boycotts or divestment campaigns against Israel.”
Introduced by California Rep. Ed Royce (R) and New York Rep. Elliot Engel (D), the top two members of the House Foreign Affairs committee, the resolution was co-sponsored 105 other House members, including 31 Democrats.
Using the same language that’s included in a complimentary Senate resolution introduced Wednesday, the House measure called for the Security Council resolution to be “repealed or fundamentally altered.”
The House motion says its condemnation of the UN vote promotes the longstanding US support for a two-state solution, which it described as a “democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a demilitarized, democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security.”
The powerful pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC lauded the resolution’s passage, which it had recently encouraged its activists to urge their representatives to support.
The looming vote set off a fierce debate on the House floor throughout the day. Illinois Rep. Luis Guitierez opposed HR11, saying that as America prepares to inaugurate a “strongman” president, it was acquiescing to the “strongman” government of Israel.
Other members spoke strongly in support of castigating the UN vote.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was “stunned” by Obama’s decision to let it pass, while Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida repudiated the motion that, he said, “characterizes Jews praying at the Western Wall as violating international law while it ignores Palestinian terrorism, incitement to violence, and payments to families of terrorists.”
The measure is likely to be followed by a similar resolution in the Senate, as well as other legislation designed to defund the United Nations over the vote.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he would introduce such an initiative in December, as the measure was set to pass, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz spoke on the Senate floor earlier Thursday in favor of that proposal.