Big fight over non-binding resolution on Palestinian unilateralism

This week the House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing any unilateral Palestinian move toward statehood after a few days of fierce lobbying by both opponents and supporters.

I bet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is really worried and will change his plans immediately.

The measure, initiated by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), argues that “a true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties,” criticizes a “coordinated strategy of seeking recognition of a Palestinian state within the United Nations, in other international forums, and from a number of foreign governments” by the Palestinian Authority and calls on the Obama administration to “lead a diplomatic effort” to thwart the effort.

The resolution also “reaffirms…strong support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states, a democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a viable, democratic Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace, security, and mutual recognition.”

The lines in the debate were pretty clear and totally predictable.

The resolution was pushed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which sees a big battle over a unilateral declaration as increasingly likely in the wake of recognition by several South American countries.  Less enthusiastic was J Street, which said that while it opposes unilateral action, the nonbinding resolution addresses only the single issue of unilateralism, and therefore is unhelpful.

Americans for Peace Now told congressional offices it wasn’t taking a position on the legislation – but urged them “to speak out on the House floor and put statements into the record articulating support for Israeli-Palestinian peace, and making clear that real peace efforts require both sides to refrain from unilateral actions that undermine confidence or seek to prejudice the outcome of negotiations.”

From what I’m hearing there was a lot of pushing and shoving on Capitol Hill over a non-binding resolution demanding that the administration do pretty much what it’s already doing.

But the outcome was never in doubt; it’s hard for lawmakers not to sign on to such broad-brush, non-binding resolutions endorsed by the pro-Israel lobby. This one, like so many AIPAC-backed resolutions, was artfully constructed to avoid criticism of the administration (to keep Democrats on board) while listing a long list of Palestinian sins.

And, as AIPAC undoubtedly planned, the measure was probably welcomed by some center-left lawmakers who are always looking for ways to boost their pro-Israel credentials without actually saying anything controversial.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.