June 26, 2015

Gillibrand, Rounds Lead Bipartisan Letter To Obama On Israel

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) today led 22 Senators in a bipartisan letter to President Obama urging him to continue to reinforce the United States' unwavering commitment to Israel. The letter encourages the administration to continue the long-standing U.S. policy of focusing on negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians as they work toward a long-term, viable solution leading to two states living side by side in peace and security.  It calls unattributed comments by U.S. officials regarding a unilateral move of U.S. peace efforts to the United Nations Security Council an unacceptable change in U.S. policy.

“At a time of increasing instability in the Middle East, with Israel’s right to exist as a nation under continual threat and denial by its neighbors, our support is as critical as at any point in history,” the Senators wrote, “We ask you to continue to support Israel’s efforts to find peace and security and to deny any Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations with Israel through counter-productive unilateral actions at the United Nations.

“We strongly believe that the only viable path to resolution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is through direct negotiations that lead to two states living side by side in peace and security. We respectfully urge your Administration to continue to maintain this long-held U.S. policy by focusing on getting the two parties back to negotiations and continue to oppose Palestinian efforts to bypass a negotiated solution and challenge Israel’s legitimacy through membership in the UN and other international bodies.”

On May 22, 2015, Obama made the following statement while addressing the congregation at Adas Israel, a prominent synagogue in Washington, D.C.: 

"It would be a moral failing on the part of the U.S. government and the American people, it would be a moral failing on my part if we did not stand up firmly, steadfastly, not just on behalf of Israel's right to exist, but its right to thrive and prosper... [T]o a young man like me, grappling with his own identity, recognizing the scars of race here in this nation, inspired by the civil rights struggle, the idea that you could be grounded in your history, as Israel was, but not be trapped by it, to be able to repair the world - that idea was liberating. The example of Israel and its values was inspiring."

In addition to Rounds and Gillibrand, the letter was signed by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), James Lankford (R-OK), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), David Perdue (R-GA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter:

June 26, 2015

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to you today in response to your welcomed recent remarks at Congregation Adas Israel reaffirming your unshakeable commitment to Israel's security. We urge you to continue to reinforce these words with United States' actions in support of Israel in the international community. As you know, Israel and the United States have a long and storied relationship dating back to President Truman’s recognition of the State of Israel on its day of independence. Since that day in 1948, the U.S. and Israel have been vital allies. At a time of increasing instability in the Middle East, with Israel’s right to exist as a nation under continual threat and denial by its neighbors, our support is as critical as at any point in history. We ask you to continue to support Israel’s efforts to find peace and security and to deny any Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations with Israel through counter-productive unilateral actions at the United Nations.

United States support for Israel at the United Nations is and has always been critical.  From support for the UN partition agreement in 1947 to U.S. leadership against the 1975 General Assembly Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism, and its eventual repeal in 1991, to more recent attempts by your Administration to block one-sided Palestinian efforts to circumvent the peace process, the United States has always stood strong in support of Israel at the UN, including through the critical use of its veto.  
 
We are, therefore, deeply concerned by previously reported and unattributed comments by U.S. officials that the U.S. might change its approach to the peace process at the United Nations Security Council.  We strongly believe that the only viable path to resolution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is through direct negotiations that lead to two states living side by side in peace and security. 
 
We respectfully urge your Administration to continue to maintain this long-held U.S. policy by focusing on getting the two parties back to negotiations and continue to oppose Palestinian efforts to bypass a negotiated solution and challenge Israel’s legitimacy through membership in the UN and other international bodies.  A unilateral move of U.S. peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians exclusively to the United Nations Security Council is an unacceptable change in U.S. policy.  Ultimately, the only path to lasting peace and security is direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.  As such, the United States has a critical role to play in facilitating these direct negotiations.  

Thank you for your serious consideration.

Sincerely,