The following resolution, introduced by 120 co-sponsors, is currently pending the UN Security Council:
Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.
On its face its not a particularly controversial claim. It more or less echoes long-held US policy on Israeli settlements. But of course when it comes to the UN, nothing is ever that simple.
What makes this situation a bit more interesting is that it is not only the usual suspects who are urging Obama to support the resolution. A letter signed by former US officials, prominent policy writers, academics and religious figures has just been released, calling upon the US to cast a yes vote.
At this critical juncture, how the US chooses to cast its vote on a settlements resolution will have a defining effect on our standing as a broker in Middle East peace. But the impact of this vote will be felt well beyond the arena of Israeli-Palestinian deal-making – our seriousness as a guarantor of international law and international legitimacy is at stake.
America’s credibility in a crucial region of the world is on the line – a region in which hundreds of thousands of our troops are deployed and where we face the greatest threats and challenges to our security. This vote is an American national security interest vote par excellence. We urge you to do the right thing.
To be sure, the signators are not easily dismissible: they include former US Trade Representative and Council on Foreign Relations Chair Carla Hills, journalist and former New Republic editor Peter Beinart, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering, former Assistant Secretary of State James Dobbins, former Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pastor, former US Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci and former US Ambassador to Israel Edward “Ned” Walker, among others.
It’s easy to be cynical about the UN, but it will still be interesting to see how this saga plays out. As Alex Spillius recently pointed out in The Telegraph, it may be Obama’s last chance to present himself as a fair dealer in this region.
If history is any indication, the final vote on this resolution will not be forthcoming any time soon. We can surely expect months of wordsmithing and back room dealing, and public posturing. Still, it certainly seems that there’s a bit more riding on this particular UN resolution than usual.
Stay tuned on this one.