U.S. Senate Leaders Back Bipartisan Bid Condemning Anti-settlements UN Vote

Resolution backed by McConnell, Schumer echoes statement by Netanyahu warning of another possible initiative on Israeli-Palestinian conflict before Obama leaves office.

Palestinian UN envoy Riyad H. Mansour greets Spanish envoy Roman Oyarzun Marchesi, president of the Security Council for December, ahead of the December 23, 2016, vote on Israeli settlements.
Manuel Elias, AFP / UN

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) backed on Wednesday a bipartisan move in the U.S. Senate to condemn a recently passed United Nations Security Council resolution critical of Israeli settlements.

The two leaders are among a group of 20 senators who cosponsored the Senate resolution, introduced earlier in the day by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla) and Ben Cardin (D-Md). The motion calls on the UN to repeal Resolution 2334 adopted two weeks ago by the Security Council.

The Senate resolution includes a clause demanding that the United States would "ensure that no action is taken at the Paris Conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that imposes an agreement or parameters on the parties." The summit in Paris, slated for January 15, 2017, will be attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but is boycotted by Israel.

The clause echoes a statement made Tuesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he said Israel is worried decisions made at the Paris summit would be adopted by the Security Council on January 17, just three days before U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office. At a Foreign Ministry conference in Jerusalem he told Israeli ambassadors that the "danger" of another Security Council resolution concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has yet to pass.

In addition to condemning the UN vote, the Rubio-Cardin Senate resolution reaffirms U.S. policy "to continue to seek a sustainable, just, and secure two-state solution to resolve" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and calls on the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump to create the necessary conditions to resume bilateral negotiations between the parties.

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While this language is common for bipartisan resolutions, it should be noted that the Republican Party removed any reference to the two-state solution from its platform during its National Convention in July, and that last March Rubio declared that the conditions for a two-state solution "don't exist."

In a statement explaining his support for the bid, Schumer stressed that it "reaffirms that peace must come through direct negotiations in order to achieve a sustainable two-state solution."

Opposing the Rubio-Cardin resolution, Americans for Peace Now urged its members to contact their senators and ask them not to back it. "While this resolution purports to be about defending Israel and supporting peace, it is really about quashing legitimate criticism of Israeli actions and changing longstanding U.S. policy to support settlements," the group said in an e-mail to supporters. The American Jewish Committee called on Congress to "support the bipartisan legislation rejecting the damaging anti-Israel" UN resolution.

Meanwhile at the House of Representatives, Republicans were reportedly working on legislation aimed at defunding the UN over the Security Council vote. The exact nature of the proposed sanctions was unclear and was expected to take form on Monday at a meeting of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, Buzzfeed News reported.

A fifth of the UN budget comes from American funding. Threats to reduce or completely halt it were also made by Republican senators such as Ted Cruz (R-Tx) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) following the anti-settlements UN resolution.

While Trump has strongly criticized the Obama administration for not vetoing the UN resolution and also lashed out against the UN on Twitter, he has not offered clear support for proposals to alter funding to the organization. Trump has promised that after taking office on January 20 "things will be different" at the UN, but he has yet to provide details as to how.