More than half of all U.S. House members signed the Dec 21 letter (BELOW). In addition to the members listed above, Eric Cantor (R-VA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Robert Brady (D-PA), Robert J. Dold, (R-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Robert Turner (R-NY), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA), Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Steve Israel (D-NY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Jim Jordan (R-OH), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), were amongst the signers as well...BUT Senate pushed the letter off...for now!
President Obama meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the White House.
A bi-partisan majority of congressional members sent a letter to U.S. President Barak Obama late last week. In the letter, the members insist that the time has come for this U.S. government to hold the Arab Palestinian leadership responsiblefor their bald refusal to comply with repeated requests from the United States government to refrain from seeking an enhanced status at the United Nations General Assembly, as is required of the Arabs under the Oslo Agreements under which it is bound.
The PLO pledged in the Oslo Agreements that it would take no unilateral actions to change the status of the disputed territories and Gaza.
Congressional leadership that has long been involved in working with Israel and the Arab Palestinians in attempts to resolve the Middle East conflict, such as U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee, U.S. Reps. Edward R. Royce (R-CA) and Eliot L. Engel (D-NY, Chairman-designate and Ranking Member-designate, respectively, of the Committee, along with more than 230 other members of Congress, signed and sent the letter to the President on Friday, December 21.
The letter informed the President that “we believe the United Statesmust react strongly to the ‘Palestinian’ leadership’s failure to uphold its obligations,” and explained that in order to send a clear message of U.S. disapproval, the Arab leaders must learn that their actions are not “cost-free,” and, “at a minimum, they result in setbacks to U.S.-’Palestinian’ relations.”
Congressional members suggested that the minimal steps the U.S. should take at this time would be to close the PLO office in Washington, D.C. and to call on the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem – who is, illogically, responsible for relations with the Arab Palestinians but not Jewish or Arab Israelis– back to Washington for consultations.
The congressional letter to President Obama points out the necessity for the U.S. government to ensure that the UNGA vote on November 29 “does not serve as a precedent for elevating the status of the PLO in other UN bodies or international forums.”
Should the PLO attempt to force its hand by seeking membership in those other UN institutions, the congressional members told President Obama that, “we should do everything possible to make sure that does not happen, including by reaffirming our commitment to maintaining and enforcing U.S. laws that require withholding U.S. contributions from any international forum that grants membership to the PLO.”
The PLO envoy in Washington, Maen Aerikat,told the Palestinian News Agency Ma’an, that the congressional letter “is an attempt by Congress to undermine the U.S. administration in any possible role it is planning to play in Palestinian affairs.”
In addition to pointing out that “punitive measures won’t pay off. If they were effective we would have already changed our mind,” Aerikat railed at Israel, suggesting it was behind the congressional effort. He said, “It is a political decision, a decision on the part of the Israeli government to escalate things against the Palestinian people at home and here…the U.S. is their other front.”
In a letter circulated to members of Congress by the PLO Envoy on December 14, Aerikat sought to dissuade Congress from responding to the PA provocation. Aerikat makes several points in his letter, one of which should qualify for the Chutzpah Hall of Fame. Perhaps he forgot that the action taken by Congress was in response to the decision by his colleagues to spurn dialogue and negotation, and instead to take unilateral action by introducing a one-sided resolution at the U.N. This is what Aerikat wrote:
Engagement and dialogue is the only way to express the views of Congress. Biased and one-sided resolutions cannot contribute to an atmosphere that is conducive for a political resolution to the conflict.
Not all Jews supported the congressional effort. In the interview with Ma’an, Aerikat appreciatively listed both J Street and Americans for Peace Now as organizations that oppose the initiative to punish the Arab Palestinians for violating the Oslo Accords by seeking unilateral changes through the UN vote. Although not mentioned by the PLO Envoy, the Union for Reform Judaism has also actively lobbied against congressional efforts to shutter the PLO Office.
More than half of all U.S. House members signed the Dec 21 letter. In addition to the members listed above, Eric Cantor (R-VA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Robert Brady (D-PA), Robert J. Dold, (R-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Robert Turner (R-NY), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA), Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Steve Israel (D-NY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Jim Jordan (R-OH), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), were amongst the signers as well.
A Majority of Members of Congress Sign Ros-Lehtinen Letter Urging Consequences for Palestinians, UN over Unilateral Statehood Push
Friday, December 21, 2012
Washington, DC-- U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, together with U.S. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee, U.S. Reps. Edward R. Royce (R-CA) and Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Chairman-designate and Ranking Member–designate, respectively, of the Committee, and over 235 other bipartisan Members of Congress sent the following letter to President Obama today:
December 21, 2012
The President The White House Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Your Administration discouraged the Palestinian leadership from pursuing non-member state observer status at the United Nations and took a firm stance in both voting “no” and encouraging other nations to do the same, and we appreciate those efforts.
We are deeply disappointed and upset that the Palestinian leadership rebuffed the entreaties of your Administration and the Congress and insisted on pursuing this distinctly unhelpful initiative. This Palestinian action violated both the letter and spirit of the Oslo Accords, and it opened the door for expanded Palestinian efforts to attack, isolate, and delegitimize Israel in a variety of international forums—a threat which, even if unrealized, would hang over Israel’s head during any future negotiation or any effort by the Israeli government to defend its citizens from terrorism.
This is a truly unfortunate outcome. History has shown that direct talks are the only means for resolving disputes between Israel and its neighbors. Direct talks were the path that brought peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Jordan. Direct talks also led to the Oslo agreements between Israel and the PLO, and the PLO pledged in Oslo that it would take no unilateral action to change the status of the West Bank and Gaza.
Now PLO Chairman Abbas has violated that signed agreement. Accordingly, we believe the United States must respond strongly to the Palestinian leadership’s failure to uphold its obligations. First, we must send a clear message of disapproval, beyond our negative vote, with Chairman Abbas and the PLO’s decision to seek a UN status upgrade at the General Assembly. One important way of expressing U.S. disapproval would be to send the message that such actions are not cost-free and that, at a minimum, they result in setbacks to U.S.-Palestinian relations. We can do this by closing the PLO office in Washington, D.C. We can also call our Consul-General in Jerusalem home for consultations. We urge you to take these steps.
Second, we stand ready to work with you and commit to using every means at our disposal to ensure that this General Assembly vote does not serve as a precedent for elevating the status of the PLO in other UN bodies or international forums. Over the past year, Palestinian leaders have indicated an intention to apply for full membership in the International Criminal Court and over a dozen other international institutions in order to assert Palestinian claims against Israel. Such efforts would not only unfairly target our Israeli ally, but would devastate efforts to resume the peace process and do possibly irreparable harm to those international institutions. We should do everything possible to make sure that does not happen, including by reaffirming our commitment to maintaining and enforcing U.S. laws that require withholding U.S. contributions from any international forum that grants membership to the PLO.
Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to your response.