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Ros-Lehtinen: Obama proposed “major concession to enemies of the Jewish state”

The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee lashed out at the Obama administration on Thursday over reports the United States offered to support a U.N. Security Council statement critical of Israeli settlements. FP’s Turtle Bay first reported on Wednesday evening that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice offered to support this draft ...

The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee lashed out at the Obama administration on Thursday over reports the United States offered to support a U.N. Security Council statement critical of Israeli settlements.

FP's Turtle Bay first reported on Wednesday evening that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice offered to support this draft statement, which affirms that the Security Council "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity." The United States was apparently trying to head off a vote on a stronger resolution put forth by the Palestinian Authority and supported by Lebanon, a temporary member of the Security Council.

The Palestinian Authority rejected the offer, and a vote on the stronger resolution could come as soon as Friday, Turtle Bay reported. The State Department has not yet promised to veto that resolution but has repeatedly said the Security Council is not the right venue for this issue, leading many to believe that a veto is likely.

The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee lashed out at the Obama administration on Thursday over reports the United States offered to support a U.N. Security Council statement critical of Israeli settlements.

FP’s Turtle Bay first reported on Wednesday evening that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice offered to support this draft statement, which affirms that the Security Council "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity." The United States was apparently trying to head off a vote on a stronger resolution put forth by the Palestinian Authority and supported by Lebanon, a temporary member of the Security Council.

The Palestinian Authority rejected the offer, and a vote on the stronger resolution could come as soon as Friday, Turtle Bay reported. The State Department has not yet promised to veto that resolution but has repeatedly said the Security Council is not the right venue for this issue, leading many to believe that a veto is likely.

The Obama administration’s policy has long been to oppose much of Israel’s ongoing settlement activity. But the revelation that the administration contemplated criticizing Israel at the U.N. has many members of Congress incensed, especially Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

"Support for this anti-Israel statement 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 said in a statement on Thursday.

"Pretending that criticism of Israel is OK if it comes in a ‘Presidential Statement’ instead of a resolution isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable. Twisting and turning and tying yourself in knots to avoid using our veto to defend our allies and interests isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable. The administration should change course, stand unequivocally with Israel, and publicly pledge to block any anti-Israel UN Security Council action," she said.

Quick congressional criticism of the administration based on the report isn’t limited to Republicans.

"This is too clever by half," said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY). "Instead of doing the correct and principled thing and vetoing an inappropriate and wrong resolution, they now have opened the door to more and more anti-Israeli efforts coming to the floor of the U.N. The correct venue for discussions about settlements and the other aspects of a peace plan is at the negotiating table. Period."

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee ranking Democrat, agreed.

"Compromising our support for Israel at the U.N. is not an option. 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," she said.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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