WASHINGTON — Rep. Brad Sherman, the second-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a prominent pro-Israel voice in his party, told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that he expects the Obama administration to continue to support Israel at the United Nations despite administration statements that the U.S. was reevaluating its posture at the world body.
If "there's a resolution hostile to Israel, I would expect that this administration would veto it," Sherman said.
Sherman said that the Israeli position on a Palestinian state is back to being in accordance with the administration's now that Benjamin Netanyahu has walked back his campaign statement that a Palestinian state would not come about during his tenure. That statement enraged the White House and Obama officials have been saying that they will re-evaluate the practice of supporting Israel at the United Nations and vetoing U.N. resolutions backing Palestinian statehood as a result, which would constitute a significant policy change.
"For perhaps 24 hours the Israeli position varied from ours, and now 24 hours after that it looks like the Netanyahu position and the American position are close enough together that one would expect that to us, to vote for resolutions, it would be consistent with the Israeli position today," Sherman said. "Keep in mind, I don't speak Hebrew. We're trying to compare an answer made in the campaign in Hebrew and to see whether that is consistent with clarification issued after the campaign. I've been on a lot of campaigns. If we got mad at everybody who made a campaign promise that may or may not be consistent with their position, we'd be mad at a lot of people."
"The position of the Israeli government [on two states] is clear and relatively consistent with that of the Obama administration," Sherman said.
Other pro-Israel Democrats have been more reticent on this issue today. Sen. Chuck Schumer declined to comment when asked about it by The Weekly Standard, later saying through a spokesperson that "The administration has strongly defended Israel at the UN and I expect that to continue." Other pro-Israel Democrats asked by BuzzFeed News declined to comment or didn't respond to requests for comment.
Asked if the Obama administration was overreacting, Sherman said, "I think the United States needed a clarification, I think we got a clarification. I think the government position today is, according to the Israeli government, the Israeli government's position of a week ago."
Furthermore, "if Netanyahu says, 'Hey, I don't think we're going to get to a two-state solution until Ramallah changes its position, I think he's right,'" Sherman said, saying that the Palestinian side is "way far apart from a two-state solution."
Sherman blamed the perception that Israel is now becoming a more partisan issue in the U.S. on Republicans. "John Boehner sacrificed Israel when he pulled his stunt," Sherman said, referring to Boehner's invitation to Netanyahu to speak to Congress earlier this month.
Sherman also discussed the Iran negotiations, saying that "there are elements of the deal as being described that are unacceptable." Sherman earlier told Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken that he was making a "preposterous argument" that Iran would in the future be deterred by the Non-Proliferation Treaty during a committee hearing on Thursday.
Sherman suggested that Obama's taking offense at Netanyahu's statements may be a ploy to solidify support behind his Iran policy in Congress and seal the deal in the nuclear talks.
"What the president has done is he's taken offense, that may be because he's genuinely offended, but with as the additional advantage of working to solidify Democratic votes behind sustaining a veto" of bills that have been introduced in Congress that would either increase sanctions or give Congress an up-or-down vote on the deal, and that Obama has promised to veto.
"So the president's power to conduct the negotiations and to sustain a veto has been increased by the hullabaloo which includes not only the Boehner offer and the Netanyahu acceptance, but also the Obama reaction," Sherman said.
"And whether he took extra offense because it provided an extra political advantage, you should ask the White House," Sherman said.