House debates Israel resolution but delays vote

The measure was raised in anticipation of an effort by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state, just months after the PA joined in a coalition government with Hamas, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization. Israel has said such a close association with Hamas will make a peaceful co-existence impossible, as Hamas has continued to call for the destruction of Israel.

Leaders from both parties spoke out against the PA's plans on the House floor Wednesday.

"We call today on Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to renounce the path they have said in planning to announce statehood in the upcoming United Nations session," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said.  "By threatening to sidestep the principles of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is beginning to dismantle the framework of future peace process agreements."

Cantor said the resolution calls on the PA to "return to the negotiating table" with Israel, and denounce the violence that Hamas has condoned. He also said the U.S. must continue to defend Israel, which he held up as the model for statehood in the Middle East.

"Israel has stood by America in its fight against extremist ideology," Cantor said. "Madame Speaker, we stand by Israel as our most valued ally, in a region in need of more who respect freedom of speech and the free assembly of people, a region that, frankly, must follow the example set by Israel in its work and promotion of human progress."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) echoed Cantor's remarks, and stressed that peace cannot be imposed from the outside, and must instead relay on a bilateral settlement.

"That is why I strongly oppose Palestinian efforts to impose this solution to the conflict at the United Nations, as well as Palestinian efforts to unilaterally declare statehood," Hoyer said.

"I'm concerned that at a unilateral declaration will only encourage both sides to dig in and put a lasting negotiation of peace further at risk," he added. "By passing this resolution, the House will make it clear that it agrees that a real peace can only come through negotiations between the two sides, and that peace will only last if both sides buy into it."

By unanimous consent, the House on Wednesday did approve H.R. 515, the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said Belarus is known as the last dictatorship of Europe, as Belarus' officials have restricted free speech and held fraudulent elections last December.