WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi this past Wednesday pulled her co-sponsorship of a bipartisan resolution on the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, because Republican House leaders refused to include language in the statement calling on all sides to minimize civilian casualties.
For the past week, Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives have been working on a resolution. Both sides have submitted at least four drafts.
Staffers for both Republican and Democrat members told the Forward last week that Pelosi, a California Democrat, and House Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, had agreed on language for a resolution reaffirming America’s support for Israel and condemning Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. The measure, a spokeswoman for Pelosi said, did include language similar to that in a parallel Senate resolution, which called for minimizing civilian casualties. Both sides agreed to bring the resolution to a vote July 13, said Pelosi’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Crider.
But the vote was postponed. The Republican leadership, according to sources familiar with the process, objected to the language pertaining to civilian casualties and had it stricken from the draft resolution. Pelosi insisted that such language accompany a clause in the resolution that condemns Hamas and Hezbollah for “cynically exploiting civilian population as shields” by hiding weapons in private homes and mosques. The sentence she proposed stated that the House is urging all sides to take “every possible precaution to prevent civilian casualties.”
The House Republican leadership refused, according to sources familiar with the process. The argument was that such language would create a moral equivalence between Israel, which attempts to avoid harming civilians, and the Palestinian and Lebanese terrorist groups, which target civilians. Requests for a comment from Boehner’s office, shortly before press time, were not answered.
As of midday Wednesday, 15 Israeli civilians and 240 Lebanese civilians had been killed in the weeklong conflict.
When the House Republican leadership refused to include Pelosi’s sentence, she decided to withdraw her co-sponsorship, though she still plans to vote for it. The resolution was expected to pass this week with overwhelming support.
Pelosi’s spokeswoman told the Forward that the minority leader refused to co-sponsor a resolution that she didn’t co-author. The spokeswoman accused the House Republican leadership of playing partisan politics with a matter over which there is broad consensus on Capitol Hill.
Boehner is still the Republican co-sponsor of the measure. California’s Tom Lantos, the ranking Democratic member of the House International Relations Committee, co-sponsored it for the Democrats. The only implied recognition of civilian casualties on the Lebanese side was a clause that expresses “condolences to all the families of innocent victims of recent violence.”
On Monday The Senate passed a similar resolution, including a clause that “urges all sides to protect civilian life and infrastructure.” The resolution was briefly held in the Senate because at least two Republicans objected to a sentence urging the president “to continue fully supporting Israel as Israel exercises its right of self defense in Lebanon and Gaza.”