The Cable

Ros-Lehtinen: Obama proposed “major concession to enemies of the Jewish state”

The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee lashed out at the Obama administration on Thursday over reports the United States offered to support a U.N. Security Council statement critical of Israeli settlements.

FP's Turtle Bay first reported on Wednesday evening that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice offered to support this draft statement, which affirms that the Security Council "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity." The United States was apparently trying to head off a vote on a stronger resolution put forth by the Palestinian Authority and supported by Lebanon, a temporary member of the Security Council.

The Palestinian Authority rejected the offer, and a vote on the stronger resolution could come as soon as Friday, Turtle Bay reported. The State Department has not yet promised to veto that resolution but has repeatedly said the Security Council is not the right venue for this issue, leading many to believe that a veto is likely.

The Obama administration's policy has long been to oppose much of Israel's ongoing settlement activity. But the revelation that the administration contemplated criticizing Israel at the U.N. has many members of Congress incensed, especially Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

"Support for this anti-Israel statement is a major concession to enemies of the Jewish State and other free democracies. It telegraphs that the U.S. can be bullied into abandoning critical democratic allies and core U.S. principles," she said in a statement on Thursday.

"Pretending that criticism of Israel is OK if it comes in a ‘Presidential Statement' instead of a resolution isn't leadership, it's unacceptable. Twisting and turning and tying yourself in knots to avoid using our veto to defend our allies and interests isn't leadership, it's unacceptable. The administration should change course, stand unequivocally with Israel, and publicly pledge to block any anti-Israel UN Security Council action," she said.

Quick congressional criticism of the administration based on the report isn't limited to Republicans.

"This is too clever by half," said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY). "Instead of doing the correct and principled thing and vetoing an inappropriate and wrong resolution, they now have opened the door to more and more anti-Israeli efforts coming to the floor of the U.N. The correct venue for discussions about settlements and the other aspects of a peace plan is at the negotiating table. Period."

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee ranking Democrat, agreed.

"Compromising our support for Israel at the U.N. is not an option. The United States must veto the U.N. resolution on settlements to make clear we will not support such a blatant attempt to derail the peace process," she said.

The Cable

Gates: Iraq will face problems if U.S. troops withdraw

In testimony on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the United States has an interest in keeping troops in Iraq beyond 2011, citing the security problems that the Iraqi government would face in the event of a complete U.S. withdrawal.

Under questioning from Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Gates said that the U.S. government still plans to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of the year, as was agreed under the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, leaving only about 150 Defense Department personnel at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Hunter, however, continued to press Gates for his personal opinion on the matter.

"How can we maintain all of these gains that we've made through so much effort if we only have 150 people there and we don't have any military there whatsoever," Hunter asked. "We'd have more military in Western European countries at that point than we'd have in Iraq, one of the most central states, as everybody knows, in the Middle East?"

Gates responded that not only was it in the U.S. interest to keep more troops in country, but that the Iraqis need more American troops there as well.

"The truth of the matter is, the Iraqis are going to have some problems that they're going to have to deal with if we are not there in some numbers," Gates testified. "They will not be able to do the kind of job in intelligence fusion. They won't be able to protect their own airspace. They will have problems with logistics and maintenance."

Gates won't be around in 2012; he's pledged to leave office sometime this year. But he told Congress that the U.S. government will honor its commitment to completely withdraw from Iraq in 2011, even if he personally doesn't think it's a good idea for either country.

"It's their country. It's a sovereign country," Gates said. "This is the agreement that was signed by President Bush and the Iraqi government, and we will abide by the agreement unless the Iraqis ask us to have additional people there."

AFP/Getty Images