The House of Representatives could pass a watered-down and toothless version of a resolution supporting a negotiated two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue in the coming weeks.
The resolution, H.Res.326, was reported by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and placed on the House calendar on October 17. Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation of Middle East Peace, noted that “in theory it can now be brought to the floor for a vote via regular order”, meaning that it would need only a simple majority to pass.
Most non-binding resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian issue are brought to the floor for a vote under a procedure known as “suspension of the rules”, which limits debate and prohibits amendments from being offered while requiring a two-thirds super majority.
This parliamentary procedure reflects the fact that most congressional initiatives relating to Israeli-Palestinian issues enjoy broad bipartisan support. H.Res.326, however, does not. While the resolution enjoys widespread support within the Democratic caucus–193 Democrats have sponsored it, including Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who passed away this month–not a single Republican has signed on. And the Democrats currently do not have enough support to guarantee passage of the resolution.
This leaves the Democrats in a precarious situation. Absent additional explicit Democratic support, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) can either bring the resolution for a vote and risk the embarrassment of it being defeated or table it. Either way, the Democratic Party is in danger of demonstrating that it cannot muster support for even an anodyne two-state resolution, further exposing the hollowness of this policy option.
And it is clear that Republicans will not assist the Democrats in resolving their conundrum. Instead, a group of GOP Representatives, led by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a hyperbolic and far-fetched dissenting view of the resolution in the committee report.
In it, McCaul and 13 colleagues allege that the resolution is designed to “score points against the President” and “cut the Administration’s peace process off at the knees, ensuring that any political proposal released by the Administration already has the black mark of a rebuke by the House of Representatives.”
This would be the case only if the Trump administration’s oft-delayed proposal explicitly abandons prior US support for attenuated Palestinian statehood in favor of perpetual Israeli military occupation over the West Bank and Gaza Strip and/or Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank.
These GOP Representatives also excoriate the Democratic Party for its alleged capitulation to “their Socialist flank to thwart substantive legislation that would take meaningful actions to address peace in the region.”
Rather than passing “a partisan political messaging tool”, these Members of Congress urge the Democratic Party instead to bring to a vote H.R.336, a bill which encourages states to pass unconstitutional laws denying contracts to individuals, nonprofit organizations, and businesses boycotting for Palestinian rights.
But is the text of the resolution as menacing as these GOP Representatives portray it to be? Hardly.
The furthest the original text of the resolution, introduced by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), went toward making a bold statement was the rather uncontroversial observation that the “United States has long sought a just and stable future for Palestinians, and an end to the [Israeil military] occupation, including opposing settlement activity and moves toward unilateral annexation in Palestinian territory.”
However, even this bland statement was too spicy for Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who presided over a committee mark-up of the resolution in July which stripped out any reference to opposing Israeli occupation.
The amended version of the resolution also diluted the statement on Israeli settlements, suggesting that the House of Representatives merely opposes Israeli “settlement expansion” rather than the entire settlement enterprise.
And for good measure, the committee tacked on a gratuitous condemnation of Palestinian efforts to pursue statehood “outside the framework of negotiations with Israel”, thereby subjugating Palestinian self-determination to Israeli acquiescence.
These amendments only made a bad resolution worse. As American Muslims for Palestine noted, the resolution also suffers from a number of other flaws, including its false equivalencies between occupier and occupied, its failure to recognize that Israel has already taken de jure and de facto steps toward annexing Palestinian land, its pigeonholing of Palestinian self-determination to limited statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip without addressing the rights of Palestinian refugees and citizens of Israel, and its disconnection from Israeli political realities in which support for Palestinian statehood simply does not exist.
Although it remains unclear if Blue and White’s Benny Gantz will succeed in forming a government and becoming Israel’s next prime minister, it is clear that both Likud and his party do not support Palestinian statehood.
Without the United States leveraging its pressure on Israel by conditioning aid to get to Palestinian statehood, as suggested by Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, H.Res.326 is yet another in a long line of congressional resolutions offering hortatory but meaningless support for a two-state resolution.
Whether H.Res.326 squeaks by, is defeated, or is tabled, it is clear that toothless two-state resolutions have long ago reached their expiration date. Democrats wanting to make a positive contribution toward Israeli-Palestinian peace must move beyond platitudes for irrelevant paradigms and embrace progressive policy alternatives based on freedom, justice, and equality.