US Jewish groups laud House condemnation of UN resolution on Israel
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US Jewish groups laud House condemnation of UN resolution on Israel

Israeli envoy joins organizations in praising move, says he looks forward to working with Trump administration 'to end bias against Israel'

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Samantha Power, center, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, votes to abstain during a UN Security Council vote on condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016 at United Nations Headquarters. (Manuel Elias/The United Nations via AP)
Samantha Power, center, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, votes to abstain during a UN Security Council vote on condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016 at United Nations Headquarters. (Manuel Elias/The United Nations via AP)

WASHINGTON — After the House of Representatives voted Thursday night to condemn the United Nations for a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, American-Jewish groups quickly praised the legislative body for denouncing the motion as both unfair to Israel and damaging to the overall cause of peace.

Within minutes of House Resolution 11 passing by a vote of 342-80, mainstream Jewish organizations issued statements lauding the rebuke to President Barack Obama’s decision to withhold the US veto last month and allow the censure to pass.

The Security Council resolution said that settlements have “no legal validity” and constitute “a flagrant violation under international law.” It also calls for a complete end to all construction in areas Israel captured after the 1967 Six Day War, including East Jerusalem.

According to the text, all such area is “occupied Palestinian territory,” including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, with the Temple Mount and Western Wall.

The House on Thursday said the resolution was a “one-sided” effort that serves as an obstacle to peace — placing disproportionate blame on Israel for the continuation of the conflict and encouraging Palestinians from engaging in direct, bilateral negotiations.

View of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, in the Old City of Jerusalem, with the Mount of Olives behind it, on September 29, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
View of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, in the Old City of Jerusalem, with the Mount of Olives behind it, on September 29, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, said it “applauds” the repudiation.

The UN resolution, AIPAC said, “both undermines the prospects of productive, bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and one-sidedly criticizes Israel.”

That was a common theme during the debate on the House earlier in the day, and the text of HR11 states it supports 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.”

It further said the US has an obligation to facilitate “direct, bilateral negotiations between both parties toward achieving a two-state solution and ending all outstanding claims.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and national chair Marvin Nathan commended the House for the resolution and this provision.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking at the ADL Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on November 6, 2014. (Courtesy ADL)
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking at the ADL Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on November 6, 2014. (Courtesy ADL)

In a statement, the Jewish civil rights group’s leaders said it helps to affirm Congress’ “commitment to ensure that all final status Israeli-Palestinian issues, including settlements, are resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.”

One Jewish advocacy group, while praising the House for passing its resolution, said Congress should consider more action if the UN does not ultimately reverse its support of the motion.

“If the UN fails to take back this incredibly malicious resolution, Congress must consider all options, including the enforcement of existing congressional statutes and other measures needed to correct the damage and prevent reoccurrence,” said Josh Block, who heads The Israel Project.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, holds up a Bible as he speaks to the UN Security Council after it passed an anti-settlement resolution, December 23, 2016 (Courtesy: UN)
Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, holds up a Bible as he speaks to the UN Security Council after it passed an anti-settlement resolution, December 23, 2016 (Courtesy: UN)

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon also praised the move, calling it “a testament to the bipartisan support for the State of Israel in the United States.”

Damon said in a statement he looked forward to “working with the new American administration to end the bias against Israel at the UN and to usher in a new era of accountability in the parliament of nations.”

Other partisan Jewish organizations, however, duked out their conflicting viewpoints on the matter.

Matt Brooks, director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Matt Brooks, director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. (Screen capture: YouTube)

“Today’s vote was an important first step to reversing the damage caused by President Obama’s actions toward Israel, most recently by not defending Israel at the United Nations,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

“The overwhelming support for this resolution shows that there is a strong commitment to fighting back against the UN’s persistent targeting of Israel.”

Meanwhile, the liberal group J Street — which supported the Obama administration’s move to allow the Security Council measure through — opposed the House resolution for what it deemed an “unfair and unhelpful depiction” of the Obama administration’s conduct at the UN, but “welcomed” the vigorous debate on the House floor, which it said “showcased the growing diversity of opinion that exists not only in Congress but across America on Israel and its future.

J Street’s allies in Congress like Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison tried to push through an amendment that would have abated some of the language to more of their liking, but that was not given a vote.

Ellison, a J Street darling who is currently running to chair the Democratic National Committee, has generated controversy for his past rhetoric and stances on Israel, including remarks that suggested US foreign policy was dictated by Israeli interests. He was among the 80 House members to vote against the resolution.

“We believe today’s debate indicates important changes in the political atmosphere on issues related to Israel in the Congress,” the organization said in a press release. “The growing space available for a diversity of approaches to supporting Israel will facilitate in the long-run pragmatic and vigorous US policy-making that helps Israelis and Palestinians to reach a two-state solution.”

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