Cantor, Hoyer lead push for Obama pledge to veto Palestinian resolution

Key House leaders sent a letter to President Obama on Thursday evening urging that the U.S. veto a resolution at the U.N. Security Council that would declare any post-1967 Israeli settlements, including East Jerusalem, illegal.

The letter comes as the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League push the resolution at the council. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed opposition to the measure a week ago, stressing that the Israelis and Palestinians should work out their differences at the negotiating table. But Clinton didn't commit to an administration veto, which the U.S. could do as one of five permanent members on the Security Council.

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), along with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), ranking member Howard Berman (D-Calif.), incoming Middle East subcommittee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and ranking member Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), asked Obama to "pledge in response to this letter to veto any U.N. Security Council resolution that criticizes Israel regarding final status issues."

"Instead of negotiating directly with Israel to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict, Palestinian leaders continue to seek to circumvent the negotiating process by advocating anti-Israel measures by the U.N. Security Council, U.N. General Assembly and U.N. Human Rights Council," the letter states. "In fact, Palestinian leaders are currently seeking consideration of a Security Council resolution that would condemn Israel for the aforementioned housing construction and demand that Israel cease all such activity.

"Mr. President, the passage of this resolution would simply isolate Israel and embolden the Palestinians to focus on further such pyrrhic victories, immeasurably setting back prospects for achieving real peace."

The lawmakers also called the resolution "without merit" and characterized the United Nations action as "counterproductive" to the peace process.

They asked Obama to pressure the Palestinians to return "immediately and unconditionally" to direct talks with Israel and not push such measures in international forums, plus "declare that Palestinian failure to take these steps would have significant negative consequences for United States policy toward the Palestinians."

Ackerman blasted the group J Street this week after it came out with a statement urging Obama not to veto the resolution "that closely tracks longstanding American policy and that appropriately condemns Israeli settlement policy."

"After learning of J Street's current public call for the Obama administration to not veto a prospective U.N. Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and — critically — would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I've come to the conclusion that J Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated," Ackerman said in a press release.