Posted by on December 16, 2010 in Blog

Yesterday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Howard Berman (D-CA) brought to the House floor and passed H. Res. 1765, “condemning unilateral declarations of a Palestinian state.”

There is no question that a negotiated two-state solution is preferable to unilateral declarations. But in light of Israel’s unilateral decision to expand illegal settlements on Palestinian lands which undermines the two-state solution, it is very biased and one-sided for the US House of Representatives to vote to condemn unilateral Palestinian steps towards self-determination without condemning Israeli unilateral steps to undermine it. Either both sides’ unilateral steps against a negotiated agreement are condemnable, or neither’s (assuming there is even an equivalence between seeking recognition and illegal acquisition of land).

Of course, this is hardly news, since Congress has a long history of passing one-sided resolutions that send the wrong message to the world and undermine our role as a mediator in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But what is really worth highlighting in this case was that a Congresswoman who reluctantly supported the resolution made that very point about its counterproductive nature.

Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) said: “I rise in very reluctant support of this resolution. Unfortunately, we have before us today yet another one-sided resolution regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” She noted that she is voting for it because she opposed unilateral Palestinian steps towards statehood which undermine negotiations, but then said that “this resolution ignores other facts on the ground that have led to the current breakdown in negotiations, most notably Israel’s expansion of settlements.” She described negotiations under such circumstances as “truly absurd,” and went on to describe resolutions like this one as being “clearly done for domestic political consumption” rather than to impact the conflict in a positive or constructive way. She noted that Israel’s exceptionalism as an ally should not mean that we not “speak the truth in identifying Israeli policies that are harmful to promoting peace in the region, and advancing the United States’ national interest.” She closed by suggesting that if she could rewrite the resolution, she would highlight the responsibilities not just of Palestinians, but of Israelis and the United States towards peace.

Looking beyond its passage by voice vote, members of Congress motivated by posturing for “domestic political consumption” could learn a lot from the substance of Congresswoman Capps’ remarks.