U.S. Senate
U.S. SenateIsrael news photo

More than 75 percent of the U.S. Senate has followed the House of Representatives in sending a bipartisan message of support for Israel to the State Department.

The letter, signed by 76 senators, (39 Democrats and 37 Republicans) was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, indirectly slamming the Obama administration's treatment of Israel. A similar letter was sent by 333 U.S. Representatives.

The letter urged Clinton to “do everything possible to ensure that the recent tensions between the U.S. and Israeli administrations over the untimely announcement of future housing construction... do not derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S-Israeli relations.”

The reference was to an Israeli government announcement, inadvertently made during a visit to the region last month by Vice President Joe Biden, that a three-year-old housing project in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood was approved for step four of a seven-step process. The announcement was seen as an embarrassment to the Obama administration and infuriated both Biden and the White House. It sparked an immediate condemnation by the vice president, which he then repeated later in the week during a speech at Tel Aviv University, and subsequent censures by other Obama administration officials as well.

The letter to Clinton noted that “in a reversal of 16 years of policy, Palestinian leaders are refusing to enter into direct negotiations with Israel. Instead they have put forward a growing list of unprecedented preconditions. By contrast, Israel's prime minister has stated categorically that he is eager to begin unconditional peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Direct negotiations are in the interest of all parties involved – including the United States.”

Backed by AIPAC, the letter also noted that “our government and the Government of Israel will not always agree on particular issues in the peace process. But such differences are best resolved amicably and in a manner that befits longstanding strategic allies.”

Lead signatories were U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Johnny Isakson, who circulated the letter among their colleagues. Among the others were New York Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, as well as senior Democratic Senator Robert Menendez and Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin. Also signing the document was Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Senators John McCain and Scott Brown.