TEL AVIV – Eighty-eight U.S. senators on Tuesday released a bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama urging him to uphold the U.S. policy of vetoing any one-sided United Nations resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ahead of Obama’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York.
The letter, initiated by Senators Kristen Gillibrand and Mike Rounds and consigned by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), insists that the only way to resolve the conflict is through “direct negotiations that lead to a sustainable two-state solution,” and that “peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations,” echoing remarks made by both Netanyahu and Obama.
The signatories contend that while the U.S. must remain “an indispensable trusted mediator between the parties,” nevertheless it “must continue to insist that neither we nor any other outsider substitute for the parties to the conflict.”
The letter warns that the international community “should avoid taking action that would harm the prospects for meaningful progress.”
“Even well-intentioned initiatives at the United Nations risk locking the parties into positions that will make it more difficult to return to the negotiating table and make the compromises necessary for peace,” the senators wrote.
A two-state solution as the result of direct negotiations between the parties “would provide Israel with greater security and strengthen regional stability. We remain optimistic that, under the right circumstances, Israelis and Palestinians can successfully resume productive negotiations toward this goal,” the letter said.
Senator Ted Cruz, however, refused to sign the letter on the basis of his objection to the senators’ assumption that the two-state solution is the “only” way to resolve the conflict.
Noting that while he supports the letter’s goal of pressing Obama to “oppose any anti-Israel activities at the United Nations Security Council,” the idea that the two-state solution is the be all and end all makes it “impossible for me to sign.”
“This matter is an internal one for Israel to decide, and it is not the place of the United States – or the United Nations – to impose a solution on a sovereign nation. I join all of our colleagues in praying for peace and security for our great ally Israel,” he said in a statement released Monday night.
The letter was penned in response to fears that the commander-in-chief would at some point during the remainder of his term consider foregoing the U.S. veto in the event of a Security Council vote on an anti-Israel resolution.
Dennis Ross, a former senior U.S. official who worked on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said on Sunday that Obama was more likely to opt for a UNSC resolution if Donald Trump were to be elected president.
“I suspect that if Trump wins, the president would be more inclined to go for a Security Council resolution to try to do something that binds, creates standards for the future that the next president couldn’t undo,” Ross said at a conference on the future of Zionism and the U.S.-Israel relationship.
However, in the event that Hillary Clinton wins, Obama “would be more sensitive to her concerns as to whether this helps or hurt her,” he said.
Ross, who served as special assistant to Obama for two years and was special adviser to Clinton for one, said that Obama “would like to do something, leave some kind of legacy.”
Obama and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet in New York on Wednesday during the United Nations General Assembly, to discuss the conflict as well as the recently agreed U.S. military aid deal.