Edwards missing from pro-Israel letter

Donna Edwards
Donna Edwards

More than 90 percent of the House of Representatives signed on to a letter urging President Barack Obama to use American veto power to block any actions by the United Nations deemed as biased against Israel. Among names that don’t appear: Rep. Donna Edwards’ (D-Md.).

The bipartisan letter, signed by 394 House Republicans and Democrats, was sent to the president on April 12 amid reports that the Palestinian Authority may revive a draft resolution at the U.N. Security Council against Israel’s policies in the West Bank. A similar measure achieved enough votes in 2011 but was vetoed by the United States. (Media reports have speculated that the Obama administration, while not voting for it, might let the resolution pass this time around.)

Edwards declined to comment on her reasons. But in a statement to WJW, her office said,

“Congresswoman Edwards’ long held belief is the need for a two-state solution that includes a peaceful and prosperous Israel and Palestinian State.”


Edwards, who is in a primary race against Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to become the Democrats candidate in the fall for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski (D), was the only local member of the House to not sign the letter. Her failure to sign other letters and back legislation deemed as supportive of Israel and critical of the Palestinian Authority has surfaced in the primary campaign. In November, she was the only member of Maryland’s congressional delegation to not sign a letter authored by Reps. Edward Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) that called on P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn Palestinian violence.

Helane Goldstein of Chevy Chase told WJW last month that she was voting for Van Hollen in part because of Edwards’ voting record on foreign affairs, in particular a vote in which more than 400 House members, including Van Hollen, backed a 2013 bill supporting sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. Edwards was one of 21 members who voted against it.

“She has played her hand dozens of times where she has showed us she’s not a supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship, because legislatively she’s been on the other side of the fence of the House,” said Goldstein.

The April 12 letter’s signatories indicated that they were “deeply troubled by reports that one-sided initiatives may arise at the U.N. in the coming months concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such efforts dangerously hinder the prospects for resuming direct negotiations.”

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC said it supported the letter and emphasized that any unilateral moves made by the Palestinians should not be supported.

“With this letter, an overwhelming bipartisan House majority has now urged the president to oppose and if necessary, veto any such one-sided UN Security Council resolution,” the organization said in a statement.

Through a spokesman, J Street, AIPAC’s dovish counterpart, said it affirmed “long-standing U.S. opposition to one-sided U.N. action, while not ruling out productive and balanced U.N. actions such as the U.N. Security Resolutions on the conflict that Republican and Democratic administrations alike have often supported over the course of decades.”

The White House declined to comment on the letter.

Despite the criticism, Edwards retains Jewish support.

Takoma Park resident Larry Rubin, a veteran of the 1960s civil rights movement, said Edwards reflects his values.

“She spent her whole life fighting for a society in which Jewish values of justice and equality become real,” said Rubin.

He contended that while Edwards “believes in the State of Israel’s right to exist,” she “has just been more forthright” on the conflict.

“Critical Jews” like himself, he said, “are afraid to speak to up.”

Mike Tabor supports Edwards for what she stands for, not because he has any problems with Van Hollen, who represents Tabor’s Takoma Park neighborhood.

“He’s been excellent,” Tabor said of Van Hollen, adding that both candidates are liberal Democrats with a similar voting record. “The difference is that Chris works as a liberal mainstream Democrat. Donna is the voice of an outside advocate.”

Edwards’ detractors continue to surface on social media. One recent tweet read, “Md Jewish voters should never vote for Donna Edwards in the senate primary. Her voting record is Anti-Israel.” Also, following an appearance Edwards had with the Baltimore Jewish Council, Kenny Friedman tweeted, “Donna Edwards would be a disaster for Israel.”

JTA News and Features contributed to this article.

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