The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) reacted to the United Nations vote today that upgraded the Palestinians to nonmember observer status. NJDC Chair Marc R. Stanley said:
The leadership of the National Jewish Democratic Council is deeply concerned by today’s vote in the United Nations that upgraded the Palestinians’ status. While the ramifications of today’s vote will continue to unfold as time moves on, NJDC shares the Obama Administration’s and Israeli government’s views that actions through the Israel-obsessed UN are no substitute for direct negotiations and are ultimately counterproductive to the peace process. While the result of today’s vote proved inevitable, tremendous credit is due to the Obama Administration for making a clear case against the resolution and reiterating that the path to peace runs through direct negotiations.
In the weeks since his reelection—and the four years of his presidency—President Obama and his Administration have vocally stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself. The President and senior members of his Administration unequivocally and personally condemned Hamas’ rocket attacks, while the Iron Dome missile defense system—President Obama’s signature contribution to Israel’s defense—saved countless Israeli lives and elicited praise and thanks from Israeli leaders.
Now, the Obama Administration has taken yet another firm stance at the UN to support Israel’s legitimacy. Those who cried ‘wolf’ about an alleged radical change in the U.S.-Israel relationship during President Obama’s second term need to do some serious reflecting on the events of November 2012 and give the reelected pro-Israel President of the United States the thanks and respect that he is due.
After the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice delivered a forceful and impassioned explanation regarding America’s vote against the status upgrade:
For decades, the United States has worked to help achieve a comprehensive end to the long and tragic Arab-Israeli conflict. We have always been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve: two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.
That remains our goal, and we therefore measure any proposed action against that clear yardstick: will it bring the parties closer to peace or push them further apart? Will it help Israelis and Palestinians return to negotiations or hinder their efforts to reach a mutually acceptable agreement? Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it….
[W]e have long been clear that the only way to establish such a Palestinian state and resolve all permanent-status issues is through the crucial, if painful, work of direct negotiations between the parties. This is not just a bedrock commitment of the United States. Israel and the Palestinians have repeatedly affirmed their own obligations under existing agreements to resolve all issues through direct negotiations, which have been endorsed frequently by the international community. The United States agrees-strongly.
Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade. And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded….
We will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies or treaties that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated, including Palestinian statehood. And, we will continue to stand up to every effort that seeks to delegitimize Israel or undermine its security.
Progress toward a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall. Nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground.
Other key Democratic leaders weighed in on the UN vote.
Secretary Hillary Clinton stated at the Brookings Institution:
Just today, in fact, a number of EU member states are likely to take a different position from us on a measure at the UN General Assembly granting observer-state status to the Palestinian Authority. The United States opposes the resolution, which we believe will do nothing to advance the peace and the two-state solution we all want to see. At the same time, however, we and our European partners agree on the most fundamental issues and share a common objective: two states living side by side in peace and security.
NJDC’s Honorary Co-Chair Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) said:
While not unexpected, I am deeply disappointed by the vote in the United Nation’s General Assembly to change the Palestinian Authority’s status from ‘observer entity’ to ‘non-member observer state.’ This most recent political posturing by the Palestinian Authority is counterproductive. A permanent and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including designation of a Palestinian State, can only be achieved through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. I strongly encourage the Palestinians to move beyond such procrastination and return to the negotiating table so that the peace process can get back on track.
Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said in a statement:
We are committed to using every means at our disposal to ensure that this UN 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. These unhelpful 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 stand united in preventing this from happening, and will do everything in our power to block the Palestinians from using the International Criminal Court and other international bodies to assert Palestinian claims against Israel.
This unilateral approach by the Palestinian Authority to gaining sovereignty is provocative, reckless and threatens to inflame passions throughout the region. The day after the resolution, nothing will have changed, including America’s unwavering support for Israel during this period of political turbulence in the Middle East. We will not stand idly by and allow the Palestinians to evade the peace process by pressing their political cause through alternate means and we will not provide financial support, or political support in the form of offices in the U.S., if the Palestinians aren’t serious about pursuing real peace through real negotiations. The choice is theirs.’
Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY):
Today’s political theater at the United Nations is a harmful distraction from achieving true peace and stability between Israel and Palestine. The only credible path for a two-state solution is through the negotiating table. The United States has made clear to the Palestinians and to others around the world that we stand with our ally Israel at this time of grave risk and insecurity. I urge Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to do everything in his power to block the Palestinians from access to the International Criminal Court.
Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said:
With U.N. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice’s vote against this measure, the Obama Administration once again demonstrated the United States’ unwavering commitment to our ally Israel and the urgency of a negotiated peace. Now, as always, the U.S. rejects any attempt at Palestinian statehood outside of direct, bilateral negotiations with the Israelis.
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday, this was an ‘unfortunate and counterproductive resolution at the United Nations General Assembly.’ As we have said for years, and as Ambassador Rice reiterated, real peace will only be found once the Israelis and the Palestinians come together to find a way to live side by side. Statements and resolutions from the UN, or anyone else, will not make it so.
In the wake of this month’s rocket attacks from Gaza and the fragile calm of a cease-fire agreement, it is more important than ever that the Palestinians return to the negotiating table in order to move toward a real and lasting peace in the Middle East.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) tweeted:
The path to peace for Palestinians should be at a negotiating table with Israel, not in a building in the East 40s in New York City.
He also released a statement:
The Palestinian bid for non-member state observer status at the United Nations General Assembly is simply unacceptable. The path to peace is at a negotiating table with Israel, not in a building in the East 40s in New York City. I will oppose giving U.S. taxpayer funding to any specialized U.N. agency that admits a full Palestinian state through its U.N. bid. I also oppose any Palestinian effort to use its enhanced status to gain membership in other international bodies, specifically the International Criminal Court, as a means to de-legitimize Israel.
Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) said:
I would like to see a two-state solution where a state of Palestine would live peacefully next to the state of Israel. But, this is not the way to get there. In fact, making Palestine a “nonmember observer state” outside of bilateral negotiations with Israel places the cart before the horse and eliminates the incentives for the Palestinians to engage in any type of dialogue with Israel.
Indeed, the international community has its incentives for the Palestinians totally backwards. Hamas shoots thousands of rockets at Israel and gets visits and legitimization from the international community. The Palestinian Authority is unwilling to engage in dialogue to reach a compromise with Israel and becomes a non-member observer state. Rewarding these actions is like putting the car in reverse and stepping on the gas.
This is not the way to get the parties to the table to negotiate a two-state solution. Rather, it is the way to get both sides to harden their positions. I want to see peace in the Middle East, but sadly we’re not going to get there like this.’
Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said:
Today’s vote at the United Nations will unfortunately do nothing to advance the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians or to create two secure states. My longstanding belief is that peace and security will never be achieved unilaterally, but only through committed two-party negotiations. Only direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations can result in a viable two-state solution - with an independent Palestinian state established with adequate and agreed upon security guarantees for Israel. I truly hope that we can soon return to good faith, bilateral negotiations. I commend President Obama and Ambassador Rice for their thoughtful opposition to today’s misguided approach to peace-building.
Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) said:
Today’s decision by the United Nations General Assembly to grant enhanced status to the Palestinian Authority is a mistake that will set back - not hasten - prospects for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. A genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through a negotiated settlement between the parties themselves. Rather than engaging in these direct negotiations, it is disturbing that the Palestinians have chosen instead to undertake unilateral measures through international organizations. It is in our interest and that of Israel to support the Palestinian Authority’s ability to provide basic services through economic and security assistance, but that is predicated on the willingness of the Palestinian Authority to negotiate directly with Israel. I have encouraged the Administration to use all diplomatic tools at their disposal, monetary or otherwise, to make our opposition to such unilateral steps clear, and to encourage the Palestinian Authority to return to direct meaningful negotiations with Israel.
Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY):
Today’s U.N. vote to recognize a virtual Palestinian state undermines true peace with Israel, when only through direct negotiations with Israel can the Palestinians achieve a fully-recognized state with agreed-upon borders. It’s especially appalling that this unilateral, backdoor attempt at statehood comes just days after hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza towards Israeli cities - terrorist attacks that the Palestinian Authority failed to stop before bringing its people to the brink of war. We must stand up to reject violence and terrorism and support only a mutual agreement to statehood through direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. I strongly oppose today’s vote and urge my colleagues to do the same.
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