78 senators call on Obama to stand by Israel ahead of trip

More than three-fourths of the U.S. Senate have signed on to a letter urging President Obama to stand by Israel ahead of his first visit to that country as president.

The letter, spearheaded by the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), asks the president to sternly warn the Palestinians against using their new status as a United Nations observer state to take action against Israel.

It specifies that the adminsitration should make it clear to the Palestinians that their relationship with the U.S. would be jeopardized if they seek action against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

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“It is important to re-emphasize that the United States will not tolerate efforts to isolate or delegitimize Israel,” states the letter, led by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

“During your first term, you and your administration actively stood by Israel at the UN and other agencies to try to block such efforts. It is critical that you now make clear that our relationship with Palestinians will be jeopardized by seeking action against Israel at the International Criminal Court.”

The letter also calls on Obama to reiterate America's commitment to Israel's security, notably through funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system.

A second letter organized by lobbyists for the liberal group J Street called on Obama to reaffirm his administration's support for a two-state peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. Twenty-seven senators — all Democrats — signed that letter, which was led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) urging “It is essential for you to reaffirm on your upcoming trip that finding a pathway to peace remains a priority for your administration,” the letter states. “We agree with you that a peace agreement establishing two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security is necessary to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish, democratic state.”



The letters come as Obama prepares to leave for the highly symbolic first trip of his second term. He plans to use the trip to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank to reach out to young Israelis and build support for efforts to resolve the crises with Iran, Syria and the Palestinians.


Here is the full text of the Cardin-Collins letter: 

Dear Mr. President:

We applaud your decision to travel to Israel so early in your second term as president.  Your upcoming trip will offer you the opportunity to meet with the leaders of Israel’s new government and to reaffirm the unshakeable bond between our two nations. In your meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah later this month, we hope that you will reaffirm your commitment to working closely with the new government of Israel.

As you may know, in May 2011, the Senate passed S.Res.185: a resolution reaffirming the commitment of the United States to a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The bipartisan resolution was cosponsored by 90 Senators.  Palestinian efforts to bypass direct negotiations with Israel by taking unilateral steps for international recognition are, in our view, unacceptable. When you meet with Palestinian leaders, you should make clear that the pathway for peace is through unconditional direct negotiations between both the Israelis and Palestinians and that the United States vigorously opposes any Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations.

It is important to re-emphasize that the United States will not tolerate efforts to isolate or delegitimize Israel. During your first term, you and your administration actively stood by Israel at the UN and other agencies to try to block such efforts.  It is critical that you now make clear that our relationship with Palestinians will be jeopardized by seeking action against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

We encourage you to also stress the importance of the Palestinian Authority’s close security cooperation with Israel.  If peace is to be possible, the Palestinian Authority also needs to confront the recent surge in violence on the West Bank, cease all anti-Israel incitement and renounce Hamas until it unequivocally meets the three Quartet requirements.

We believe that by espousing these principles during your historic trip, you will reaffirm the United States’ commitment to enhancing Israeli security, improving the prospect for peace with the Palestinians and furthering our own interests in this troubled region of the world.

We are strongly committed to the restart of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. However, we also recognize that the violence and chaos that have sprung up in Syria, North Africa, Egypt, including insecurity along the Sinai Peninsula, and Yemen are not related to the peace process. 

As you pursue peace in the Middle East in the long-run, we hope that your agenda will identify policy solutions to address the urgent and important threats facing Israel and the United States today.  We also hope that you will reiterate the United States’ support for Israel, her right to defend herself, and the Iron Dome project.  In such a tumultuous region of the world, and during such challenging times, a strong relationship between our two countries has never been more important. Israel has challenging times ahead. Israel needs our unwavering commitment now more than ever.