Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the US House of Representatives on Friday for condemning the UN Security Council’s resolution censuring Israel for its settlement activity.
“After the outrageous anti-Israel resolution at the UN, the US House of Representatives voted yesterday resoundingly to support Israel and reject this one-sided resolution,” Netanyahu said.
“Democrats and Republicans alike know that the Western Wall isn’t occupied territory,” he added.
The Senate is expected to follow the House and vote on a similar resolution this week.
Its companion measure has already received 11 Democratic co-sponsors, and is expected to pass with unanimous Republican support.
House Resolution 11 was introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-California) and ranking member Eliot Engel (D-New York). Supported by roughly 30 Democratic representatives, it passed 342-80 on Thursday afternoon.
It called on the Obama administration – which allowed the Security Council resolution to pass – to veto any similar actions in the international chamber.
In Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, “I want to thank the US House of Representatives, which reflects the tremendous support Israel enjoys among the American people.
“They voted to either repeal the resolution at the UN or change it – and that’s exactly what we intend to do,” he added.
The House resolution acknowledges America’s longstanding and bipartisan support for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, but reminds the government of its historic policy opposed to “one-sided” UN resolutions that seek to impose parameters for such a solution onto the parties.
It is this policy, the resolution asserts, that the Obama administration undermined with its latest action at the Security Council, which condemned Israel over its construction of Jewish homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The resolution against Israeli settlements was approved last month by 14 of the Security Council’s 15-member body.
The United States abstained from the vote, choosing not to utilize its permanent veto power.
The status of east Jerusalem remains a sticking point between Israelis and Palestinians, and the US has for years considered it a topic not for UN deliberations but for final-status, direct negotiations.
“The passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 undermined the longstanding position of the United States to oppose and veto United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final status issues, or are one-sided and anti-Israel, reversing decades of bipartisan agreement,” the resolution asserts, referring to US President Barack Obama’s decision to abstain from the vote.
It also argues that the UN Security Council resolution “undermines the prospect of Israelis and Palestinians resuming productive, direct negotiations, contributes to of boycott, divestment from and sanctions against Israel and represents a concerted effort to extract concessions from Israel outside of direct negotiations.”
During debate on the floor over the resolution, some Democrats protested the decision by Republican leadership to rush their version to a vote.
Several had drafts of their own which would have highlighted America’s historic opposition to Israeli settlement activity.
“We are condemning what happened because we think its unfair and unjust,” said Engel, repudiating the UN move. “The language on Jerusalem is not new, but it remains deeply offensive to Jews.”
On the other side of the aisle, some GOP members criticized the resolution for its reference to a two-state solution.
“The two-state solution has run its course,” said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a close ally of the incoming Trump administration.
The resolution adds that the US government “should oppose and veto future United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final status issues, or are one-sided and anti-Israel.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as well as the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, encouraged members to support the measure.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called on the entire House to support the resolution.
“I am stunned – I am stunned at what happened last month,” Ryan said in a statement on the floor. “This government, our government, abandoned our ally Israel when she needed us the most.”
The Israeli government fears that Obama, in his last days in office, will allow for similar measures to pass in the Security Council – including a resolution codifying international parameters for a two-state solution, which will soon be under consideration at a major conference in Paris.
However, one top foreign policy adviser to the president, Ben Rhodes, has said the administration plans to veto any such resolution.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) said the House effort “sends a warning to the nations that will gather in Paris next week to discuss the peace process that there will be repercussions if there is a move to introduce a parameters resolution.”
US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington on Friday that “Congress has every right to express their views.”
He added that US abstention “was about preserving the two-state solution, which we continue to believe is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and a democratic state – living side-by-side in peace and security with a viable and independent Palestinian state.”
In New York on Friday, Israel told the UN it would suspend a significant portion of its annual contributions to the international body’s 2017 budget.
The cut, amounting to some $6 million, is described as “an act of protest” and symbolically represents the portion of the UN budget allocated to anti-Israel bodies including the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; the Division for Palestinian Rights; the Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices; and Special Information Program on the Question of Palestine of the UN Department of Public Information.
“It is unreasonable for Israel to fund bodies that operate against us at the UN,” Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said. “The UN must end the absurd reality in which it supports bodies whose sole intent is to spread incitement and anti-Israel propaganda.”
According to Danon, “now is the time to implement real change at the UN.” He added that Israel seeks to “stop the practice where the UN is used solely as a forum for unending attacks against Israel” by encouraging structural changes.
The ambassador further explained that the suspension of Israel’s funding is “only the first in a series of steps under consideration by the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Mission in reaction to the recent Security Council resolution.”
Such steps, he said, will be undertaken once the new US administration takes office on January 20.
The Security Council anti-settlement resolution passed last month has sent Israel’s relations with the international community into turmoil.
Since the resolution passed, Netanyahu has been criticized for his aggressive response to the vote, which included accusing Washington of organizing and advancing the resolution; recalling Israel’s ambassadors to Senegal and New Zealand; summoning the ambassadors of all the UN Security Council states; and calling on ministers to curtail visits to the 14 countries that voted for the measure.Reuters contributed to this report.
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