Supporting Israel

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 21, 2011
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Foreign Affairs

Mr. BROWN of Ohio. Earlier this week, I met with leaders in the Ohio Jewish community about events that could happen as the United Nations General Assembly convenes in the Presiding Officer's city, New York. One of the leaders and a dear friend of mine and a dear friend of Israel's told me these are tough times for Israel, some of the toughest ever. She took a deep breath, gathered her thoughts, and said, ``Until your neighbors accept you, it will always be a tough time.''

Israel is accustomed to living in a tough neighborhood, but in recent months that has grown tougher. Confrontation with Israel is a new centerpiece of Turkish foreign policy. Leaders in Egypt question Egypt's commitment to its peace treaty with Israel. Hezbollah has consolidated its political hold on the Lebanese Government. Iran is probably consistently the largest threat to peace in the Middle East as they defiantly continue their unmistakable march to nuclear capability.

In the coming days, the next step in an escalation against Israel will take place should the Palestinians seek recognition as a state from the United Nations. Instead of negotiating directly with Israel, as the Palestinians have often committed to do as far back as the Oslo agreement, they are about to seek to exclude Israel from any role in deciding issues that are critical to achieving a permanent peace. That must not occur. This action could set back the peace process for decades to come. The Obama administration is assiduously attempting to stop this dangerous move.

Today, as it has done in the past, Congress must stand firm with Israel. It must oppose any Palestinian action at the U.N. which would circumvent its commitment to negotiate. Our support for Israel must be united. We must speak with one voice--Democrat and Republican, House and Senate, Congress and the administration. The administration has said it will veto a Security Council resolution that would recognize a Palestinian state, and it must do that.

The U.N. rules for admission require that any applicant before the U.N. be ``peace loving'' and ``willing and able to carry out the obligations of the U.N. charter.'' The U.N. charter calls for ``faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person.'' It calls on members to ``practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors.'' The PA is not there yet.

U.N. membership and statehood itself is not a gift. It is not a right. It is earned. There is a responsible path for the Palestinians. Direct negotiations with Israel are the only way to produce a Palestinian state and the only way to achieve a lasting peace, just as direct negotiations produced peace between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has called for direct talks to begin immediately, as have President Obama and so many of our colleagues. Why should the Palestinians be rewarded by the U.N. for refusing to negotiate with Israel?

If the Palestinians have elected to pursue confrontation over negotiation with Israel, we must rethink our efforts to support the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority. Today, the Senate foreign operations subcommittee, of which I am a member, will be marking up the international affairs appropriations bill, which happens to be the same day the PA is considering making its plea at the United Nations. The bill is strong on holding the PA accountable should it attempt such a misguided maneuver. We cannot reward unilateral acts. We cannot reward bad behavior borne of a clear rejection of the only proven path to peace.

Many of my colleagues and I understand that a great number of Palestinians want what we all want in this country--in New York and Ohio and across our country--and what people want in Israel: a better life for their children, a life of peace and prosperity between and among peoples.

I am confident the administration will veto any Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state, but there are other options and possibilities before the U.N., such as seeking recognition from the General Assembly as a nonmember state. While it is a different name and comes by different procedures, it doesn't solve the Palestinians' fundamental problems of avoiding the tough negotiations and the internal consensus-building that are essential for peacemaking to succeed. That is why U.S. leadership is so important at this critical time. That is why we must all speak with one voice and stand firm in an unbreakable bond with our ally Israel. Until we hold those who seek to destroy Israel accountable, it will always be a tough time for our closest ally.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.