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Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following remarks today while managing time on the House floor during consideration of H.Res.268. The resolution reaffirms the United States' commitment to direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as the only path to a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Madam Speaker, I believe negotiations are the only path to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For this reason, the United States Congress has every reason to be concerned about efforts by the Palestinian Authority leadership to attain recognition of statehood while bypassing the accepted negotiation process. These efforts run counter to the Palestinians’ own internationally-witnessed commitments at the 1991 Madrid conference, and under the 1993 Oslo Agreement and the 2003 Roadmap.
That is but one reason I am deeply disappointed by the Palestinian Leadership’s recent push to seek recognition of an independent state at the United Nations.
Indeed, even some Palestinian officials have acknowledged that such UN recognition of statehood gives the Palestinians nothing but an empty symbolic victory.
One thing is clear: There will be no recognition of Palestinian statehood by the Security Council, where I feel confident the United States would use its veto, just as it has in the past, to prevent passage of an unbalanced, anti-Israel resolution.
And what, exactly, would UN General Assembly recognition of a Palestinian state do for the Palestinians? Absolutely nothing. It would not solve the Palestinians’ need for recognized borders. Nor would it solve sensitive issues like the status of Jerusalem, water rights, or Palestinian refugees. It would not enhance the prospect for successful negotiations. In fact, it would be seen by Israel and many others as an act of bad faith, creating yet another obstacle to successful talks.
As President Obama said in May, “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state.”
A glance at recent history shows that he is right. Madam Speaker, in 1988, Yasser Arafat declared a state and garnered recognition from more than 100 nations; now, 23 years later, there is still no Palestinian state.
The Palestinian people don’t want a bunch of declarations of statehood. They want a state. And they should have one -- thru the only means possible for attaining one, negotiations with Israel.
I believe that Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad are committed to a peaceful resolution of their conflict with Israel, so I hope they will return to the negotiating table and abandon their flawed UN strategy.
The Congress has been very generous in its support of the Palestinian Authority’s worthy efforts to build institutions and the economy on the West Bank. In fact, I believe we are the most generous nation in the world in that regard. So I think our Palestinian friends should understand: If they persist in pursuing a unilateralist path, inevitably, and however regrettably, there will be consequences for US-Palestinian relations.
Madam Speaker, I encourage all of my colleagues to support this important pro-negotiations, pro-peace resolution.