- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 8, 2017

With President Obama on his way out of office, the Democratic Party’s chilly relationship with Israel is showing signs of a thaw.

More than 100 House and Senate Democrats have broken with the White House by signing onto resolutions disapproving of the Obama administration for its refusal to veto a U.N. measure condemning Israeli settlements, including building in east Jerusalem.

The willingness by Democrats to defy Mr. Obama comes as what may be the party’s most visible show of support for Israel in eight years.

The House resolution passed Friday by a vote of 342-80, with 109 Democrats joining 233 Republicans in backing the measure calling for the repeal of the “one-sided and anti-IsraelU.N. resolution. Another 76 Democrats voted against it and four voted “present.”

Fifteen Senate Democrats, along with 32 Senate Republicans, have co-sponsored so far a similar nonbinding resolution sponsored by Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, and Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.

The Democratic support comes even though the congressional resolutions have been accompanied by heated criticism of the Obama administration over its decision against using the U.S. veto, primarily by Republicans.

“Despite the administration’s policy of abandoning our trusted ally Israel, the United States Congress must stand with our ally Israel,” said Rep. Edward R. Royce, California Republican, who sponsored the House resolution.

The House resolution’s lead Democratic sponsor, Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York, began his floor remarks Friday by drawing attention to the measure’s Democratic support.

“I’m proud to be the lead co-sponsor and glad to say that more than 30 Democrats, representing a broad cross-section of our party, have signed on as co-sponsors of this bipartisan resolution,” Mr. Engel said.

At the same time, it may be too soon to break out the Manischewitz. Among the Democrats voting against the House resolution were big names such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a leading candidate to head the Democratic National Committee.

Democratic foes of the House resolution denounced it as an attempt to embarrass Mr. Obama and defended his record on U.S.-Israeli relations.

“Today Republicans were more interested in attacking President Obama in his last weeks as President,” said Mr. Ellison in a statement to The Washington Post. “A two-state solution has been the longstanding bipartisan, international consensus, and I believe it is the only way to truly achieve peace. This resolution makes that goal less achievable, and that is why I cannot support it.”

House Resolution 11 “includes reckless and divisive charges regarding the recent United Nations Security Council resolution, designed, it would appear, solely to embarrass the outgoing administration,” said Rep. David E. Price, North Carolina Democrat, during the floor debate.

The U.N. Security Council voted 14-0 in favor of the resolution denouncing Israeli settlements as illegal.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., abstained from the Dec. 23 vote — reversing longstanding U.S. policy to veto such resolutions as unhelpful despite America’s own official opposition. Ms. Power made a blistering speech at the Security Council against Israeli actions as contrary to the peace process, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry did the same a few days later.

Four Republicans voted against the House resolution, but not for the same reasons. A number of House and Senate Republicans have called for defunding the U.N. until Resolution 2334 is repealed, but the House resolution took no position on suspending funds.

For example, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, introduced a bill Friday that would block the annual $3 billion contribution to the U.N. pending a repeal.” Unlike the resolution we voted on today, my bill has teeth and shows actual support for Israel,” he said.

Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky, New York Democrat, voted against the House resolution, saying it would jeopardize prospects for peace in the Middle East by weakening support for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

“A two-state solution is the only way Israel can continue as both a democratic and a Jewish state, living in the peace and security that has eluded her from the very beginning,” Ms. Schakowsky said. “The building of settlements is an obstacle to achieving that goal.”

The House and Senate measures come prior to a 70-nation gathering Jan. 15 in Paris aimed at promoting Middle East peace, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned may result in another anti-Israel resolution.

“I think it is important to remind the body that this is very concerning, given the backdrop of the Paris conference on the 15th of this month and the very real concern that the President could take further steps at the U.N.,” said Mr. Royce.

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