Clinton Silent on U.S. Plan to Join U.N. Condemnation of Israel

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday would neither confirm nor deny whether the U.S. will join in a U.N. condemnation of Israel that gets around the tricky business of breaking from U.S. practice of vetoing resolutions against the Mideast ally.

The end-run around the Security Council's resolution process would be in the form of a non-binding U.N. Security Council presidential statement that condemns Israel for continuing to build settlements in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to claim as a future capital.

Presidential statements have repeatedly been used by the Security Council to criticize Israel as it negotiates with Palestinians on a two-state solution. Brazil is serving as president of the council for the month of February.

Speaking Thursday on Capitol Hill, Clinton said "a lot of rumors" are flying around, but she wouldn't get into specifics about a statement, which could follow Friday's scheduled vote at the international body.

But Clinton also didn't bat down the speculation.

"Our focus on doing what is best to advance negotiations between parties that will lead to a two-state solution. And we have consistently said that the U.N. Security Council and resolutions that would come before the Security Council are not the right vehicle to advance that goal," she said.

"So we're working with our partners in the Security Council, with our partners in the region to find a consensus way forward that is consistent with our overall approach," Clinton added.

Language of a presidential statement would likely be similar to a proposed resolution offered to the council by the Palestinians. It expresses the Security Council's "strong opposition to any unilateral actions by any party, which cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community, and reaffirms, that it does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, which is a serious obstacle to the peace process."

President Obama reportedly called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday to persuade the Palestinians to withdraw the resolution. Israeli press said that the request fell on deaf ears.

Foreign Policy magazine was first to report that U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is considering signing on to the presidential statement as a means to prevent the resolution's harshly worded condemnation. Rice cast the move as a compromise measure, but it would still be a sharp departure from decades of U.S. policy on Israel.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and five other senior members of Congress from both sides of the aisle wrote President Obama last month to urge the administration to veto the resolution on Israel and hold Palestinian leadership accountable for its actions that undermine opportunities for peace and security.

Ros-Lehtinen said Thursday that she had not received a response, but called support for the presidential statement "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."

"Offering to criticize our closest ally at the U.N. isn't leadership, it's unacceptable," she said. "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."

House Democratic and Republican Party second-in-commands, Reps. Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Steny Hoyer, D-Md., both of whom were signatories the Ros-Lehtinen letter to the president, also issued a statement saying Palestinian leaders are playing games by continuing "to seek to circumvent the negotiating process by advocating anti-Israel measures at the U.N. Security Council, U.N. General Assembly and U.N. Human Rights Council. The U.S. should not condone or reward this behavior by supporting their resolutions."

Fox News' Chris Stirewalt contributed to this report.