US House slams UN for Israeli settlement resolution

US House slams UN for Israeli settlement resolution
US lawmakers on Thursday passed a non-binding resolution denouncing last month’s United Nations Security Council vote against Israel's expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.
3 min read
06 January, 2017
Paul Ryan said the Obama administration abandoned Israel at its hour of need [Getty]

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution denouncing last month’s United Nations Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Lawmakers from both parties overwhelmingly supported the measure in a 342-80 vote, with the majority of Democrats, 109, voting for the resolution, while only 76 opposed it. All but four Republicans voted for the resolution.

Incensed US lawmakers - and President-elect Donald Trump - have assailed Barack Obama's outgoing administration for abstaining in the December 23 vote instead of vetoing the UN resolution that condemned Israel’s expansion of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

"I am stunned at what happened last month. This government - our government - abandoned our ally Israel when she needed us the most," House Speaker Paul Ryan told the chamber shortly before the House vote.

"It is time to repair the damage done by this misguided hit job at the UN," he added. "It's time to rebuild our partnership" with Israel.

The UN measure passed 14-0, with support from countries including the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia.

The Obama administration defended its break from the longstanding policy of shielding its closest Middle Eastern ally by arguing that settlements undermine any potential path to a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.

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Last month’s vote was the first time the Security Council passed a resolution critical of Israel during Obama’s presidency.

More UN resolutions critical of Israel went forward during the Clinton, Reagan and both Bush administrations.

The House measure, which is non-binding, calls for the UN resolution "to be repealed or fundamentally altered so that... it is no longer one-sided and anti-Israel" and allows all final status issues toward a two-state solution to be resolved through direct bilateral negotiation.

It also demands that the United States ensures that no action be taken at the Paris Conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict scheduled for January 15, that would impose an agreement on the two sides.

The French-organised talks, to be attended by around 70 countries - but not by Israeli or Palestinian representatives - are being held to reiterate international support for a two-state solution to the conflict.

A similar resolution was introduced in the US Senate, where Republican Ted Cruz on Thursday slammed Obama and his administration, saying the failure to veto the UN measure marked their attempt "to lash out... at Israel with their last breath in office."

Cruz said he will propose legislation designed to cut US funding to the United Nations unless the anti-Israel resolution is repealed or made more balanced

But some congressional Democrats insisted the Capitol Hill vote had more to do with taking a final jab at Obama than condemning his administration's lack of action.

"It's subterfuge. This is about kicking a president on the way out, one more time," fumed House Democrat Gerry Connolly, who voted no on the resolution.

Agencies contributed to this report.