High-ranking members of the Democratic Party, who have in the past week harshly criticized the Obama administration for its refusal to veto an anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations Security Council, doubled down on their criticisms after hearing Secretary of State John Kerry’s Wednesday speech criticizing Israeli settlement activity.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D – N.Y.), who will be the Senate Minority Leader when the chamber’s new term is inaugurated next week, warned that “Secretary Kerry, in his speech and action at the U.N., has emboldened extremists on both sides.”
Like Schumer, Sen. Ben Cardin (D – Md.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had urged the administration to veto the resolution, which he said “does nothing to move forward the shared goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security.” Cardin said after Kerry’s speech that he would “explore congressional action that can mitigate the negative implications” of the abstention.
Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D – N.Y.), Cardin’s counterpart on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, characterized Kerry’s speech as both “gratuitous” and “wrong.” “There doesn’t seem any purpose to this other than to embarrass Israel,” Engel stated. “It just pained me to watch it.”
Even Democratic senators who agreed with the administration’s concerns about Israeli actions have distanced themselves from the administration’s actions this week. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Thursday that the abstention was so likely to have angered Israeli leaders that it “may actually be counterproductive to the sort of goals and precepts of Kerry’s speech yesterday.” Murphy, who is also on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pointed out that the UN is “just fundamentally not a fair forum for the Israelis.” And Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) expressed some agreement with Kerry’s arguments in a statement after the speech, but also pointed out that he had signed a bipartisan letter in September demanding that the administration veto one-sided United Nations resolutions.
Other Democratic members of Congress who criticized the UN resolution included Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Bob Casey (D–Pa.), and Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).
Kerry’s speech also came in for criticism from Republicans. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Kerry’s remarks were “at best a pointless tirade in the waning days of an outgoing administration. At worst, it was another dangerous outburst that will further Israel’s diplomatic isolation and embolden its enemies.” And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), also a Foreign Relations Committee member, said that Kerry’s speech, and America’s failure to protect Israel in the UN, harmed national interests. “When we fail to take a stand against those that seek to deny Israel’s right to exist or try to question the Jewish history of Jerusalem, we hurt not just Israel but our own credibility,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
These reactions demonstrate the strong bipartisan support Israel enjoys. During this past year, both the House of Representatives and the Senate overwhelmingly urged the administration to veto one-sided anti-Israel UN resolutions.
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