Lawmakers: White House wrongly offered to compromise support for Israel

Lawmakers from both political parties are upset over reports that the Obama administration lent its support to a United Nations Security Council statement that would have criticized Israel.

Reports emerged Wednesday night that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice offered to back a non-binding statement denying the "legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity" in order to avoid having to veto a stronger measure put forth by the Palestinian Authority calling the settlements illegal.

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Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Thursday that the gesture "is a major concession to enemies of the Jewish state and other free democracies."

"It telegraphs that the U.S. can be bullied into abandoning critical democratic allies and core U.S. principles," she added. 

The rebuke from Capitol Hill comes at a time when Israelis continue to worry about the direction of Obama administration's policy toward the Jewish state and the broader Middle East, especially in the wake of unrest across the Muslim world that has already unseated Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), the ranking member of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, joined with Ros-Lehtinen.

"Compromising our support for Israel at the United Nations is not an option," she said in a statement Wednesday night. "The United States must veto the U.N. resolution on settlements to make clear we will not support such a blatant attempt to derail the peace process."

Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) also released statements urging a veto.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, which first reported the proposed deal, the Palestinians rejected the U.S. offer and plan to go forward with the measure condemning as illegal all Israeli settlements in Palestinian-claimed territory captured during the 1967 Six Day War. That area includes East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as a capital of their own state.

Ros-Lehtinen was one of a group of five bipartisan lawmakers, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who signed a letter to President Obama last month urging his administration to veto the resolution.

"The U.S. should not condone or reward this behavior by supporting [the Palestinians'] resolutions," Cantor and Hoyer said in a rare joint statement Thursday. "We strongly urge the administration to veto this resolution and to uphold our longstanding commitment to Israel’s security."

The Obama administration has opposed Israel's settlement policy and has not vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution in the two-plus years it has been in power.

Obama reportedly called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, asking him to prevent a vote on the resolution. The U.S. is expected to veto the measure if it comes before the Security Council.

-- This post was updated at 2:09 p.m. and 4:01 p.m.