Congress is heading into the last days of its lame duck session and the agenda is packed with major legislation to deal with — but there’s always time to slip in a pro-Israel resolution before legislators leave the city.
The resolution, H. Res-1734, which passed Wednesday without a vote, is a response to what Israel and the U.S. administration view as a rapidly growing threat — the possible unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. Recent decisions by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay to recognize Palestinian statehood helped drive home the message that such a declaration could be imminent, if peace talks fail.
The driving force behind the resolution is California Rep. Howard Berman, the outgoing chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, who pushed the resolution through the committee and to the floor at lightning speed. On board was an impressive bipartisan slate, representing the strong base of support pro-Israel resolutions automatically enjoy in Congress.
The resolution states that Congress “reaffirms its strong opposition to any attempt to establish a Palestinian state outside the negotiating process” and calls on the administration to actively oppose any attempt to declare a Palestinian state through the United Nations.
The resolution is non-binding and does not carry any practical significance. It does, however, send a strong signal to the administration that Congress expects it to take action in international bodies to block attempts to declare a Palestinian state unilaterally.
Jewish groups had been pushing the White House for several months to make clear it will veto a resolution declaring a Palestinian state if it reaches the UN Security Council.
It is not clear however that pressure is needed. In her December 10 speech at the Saban Forum, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated: “Unilateral efforts at the United Nations are not helpful and undermine trust.” Administration officials have stressed this point many times.
For Jewish groups, the Berman resolution served as a great opportunity to rally the base. AIPAC called on its supporters to urge their representatives to support the resolution. On the other end of the Jewish political map, Americans for Peace Now sent out letters to House staffers arguing that the Berman resolution is incomplete since it lacks any reference to Israeli unilateral actions such as settlement expansion. APN did not take a position for against the resolution. J Street took a similar approach and said the resolution “continues a pattern in which overly one-sided resolutions are introduced and moved to the floor of the House without an adequate opportunity for debate, discussion and modification by the Members.”
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Congress: Still Opposed to a Palestinian Statehood Declaration