NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Senate resolution.
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Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) introduced the resolution in the House.

Congress Opposes Palestinian Statehood Outside Negotiations, Calls on PA to Return to Talks

Both houses of Congress have overwhelmingly passed resolutions calling on the administration to lead opposition to Palestinian efforts to seek statehood via the U.N. and urging the Palestinians to return to direct talks with Israel. They also warn of repercussions for U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), including a suspension of American aid, if a new Palestinian government includes an unreformed Hamas and if the PA continues to pursue statehood outside the negotiation process.

At the end of June, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution
(S. Res. 185) with 89 co-sponsors opposing Palestinian efforts to undermine the peace process. The House followed suit a week later, passing a corresponding resolution (H. Res. 268) by a vote of 407-6. More than 80 percent of the House—357 Members—co-sponsored the resolution. The Senate resolution was introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Robert Casey (D-PA), John Thune (R-SD), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Jim Risch (R-ID). The House resolution was introduced by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

Unhelpful Palestinian Actions

The resolutions recently passed by the Senate and House follow the persistent refusal by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to engage in negotiations with Israel, and in the wake of ongoing Palestinian efforts to pursue a unilateral path by seeking U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state. To achieve this goal, the Palestinians intend to request a U.N. Security Council resolution in September recommending that the U.N. General Assembly recognize Palestinian statehood and admit the Palestinian state as a full U.N. member state. Also, the Palestinians have said they may attempt to upgrade from permanent observer mission to a non-member state at the General Assembly.

In a major blow to the peace process, Abbas in May signed a reconciliation agreement with the terrorist group Hamas. This deal is designed to allow the Palestinians to form a government backed by both Fatah and Hamas, without requiring Hamas to accept the principles of the Quartet (the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia)—recognizing Israel, rejecting violence and endorsing previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

American Reaction

The United States has publicly criticized the Palestinian approach and has been actively working to convince the Palestinians to abandon their campaign in favor of direct talks with Israel. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that "unilateral efforts at the United Nations are not helpful and undermine trust," while President Obama has called the Palestinian campaign to prematurely achieve statehood at the U.N. in violation of previous agreements with Israel a "mistake."

Congress has strongly supported the administration's opposition to the recent Palestinian actions. In December, the House unanimously passed a resolution calling on the PA leadership to return to direct talks with Israel and to stop circumventing the peace process through the U.N. The most recent Senate and House resolutions reiterate the need to block the Palestinian U.N. campaign—including, if necessary, via a U.S. Security Council veto.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) praised the Senate's passage of the resolution. "If peace talks are to be fruitful, the Palestinians cannot bring to the negotiating table a terrorist organization that rejects Israel's right to exist," he said. "A fair beginning to good-faith talks also means the Palestinians cannot simply stop by the negotiating table on their way to the United Nations to seek recognition as a state."

In the debate leading up to the vote on the House resolution, Majority Leader Eric Cantor stated that "by threatening to sidestep the principles of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is beginning to dismantle the framework of future peace process agreements." BACK TO TOP