A week after the Senate approved a similar proposal; the US House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly backed the idea of suspending aid to the Palestinian Authority if it continues to refuse a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They also rejected Palestinian pursuit of statehood through the United Nations.
The vote was 407-6 for the nonbinding resolution that also called on the Obama administration to consider suspending aid to the Palestinian Authority in light of the deal between the government and Hamas - considered a terrorist group by Israel and the US.
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The resolution said the goal was two states "a democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a viable, democratic Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition."
The House had debated the measure on Wednesday but postponed the vote to ensure lawmakers had a chance to vote. Republicans and Democrats signaled their strong support for Israel and a resumption of direct negotiations that collapsed last fall.
US Congress (Reuters)
"We stand by Israel as our most valued ally. It is time for the Palestinian Authority to accept a peaceful solution to this conflict," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said he strongly believed that to ensure "the long-term viability of the Jewish democratic state, peace must be negotiated. It cannot and will not be imposed from outside."
The administration has said the Palestinian push for a UN vote on its statehood this fall has not helped the peace process, a point echoed by lawmakers.
"What, exactly, would UN General Assembly recognition of a Palestinian state do for the Palestinians? Absolutely nothing," said Rep. Howard Berman of California, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee. "It would be seen by Israel and many others as an act of bad faith, creating yet another obstacle to successful talks."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the committee, raised the prospect of cutting off aid.
"Continuing to provide assistance to the Palestinians - assistance amounting to $2.5 billion in the last 5 years alone - is certainly not the answer," she said.
Separately, Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee, sent a letter to her colleagues urging them to condemn an international flotilla to break Israel's sea blockade of the Gaza Strip.
She called it a "political endeavor that will do little more than raise tensions and set back the peace process."
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to this report
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