I recently expressed the hope that the US would support the upcoming UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement on the West Bank. Now this just in from US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg:
We have made very clear that we do not think the Security Council is the right place to engage on these issues…We have had some success, at least for the moment, in not having that arise there. And we will continue to employ the tools that we have to make sure that continues to not happen.
Sad, but all too predictable. Let’s let MJ Rosenberg explain the wrong-headedness of it all:
Opposition to Israeli settlements is perhaps the only issue on which the entire Arab and Muslim world is united. Iraqis and Afghanis, Syrians and Egyptians, Indonesians and Pakistanis don’t agree on much, but they do agree on that. They also agree that the U.S. policy on settlements demonstrates flagrant disregard for human rights in the Muslim world (at least when Israel is the human rights violator).
Accordingly, a U.S. decision to support the condemnation of settlements would send a clear message to the Arab and Muslim world that we understand what is happening in the Middle East and that we share at least some of its peoples’ concerns.
And on the point that the UN is “not the right place to engage on these issues?”
Very impressive. The United States has had no success whatsoever in getting the Netanyahu government to stop expanding settlements — to stop evicting Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem to make way for ultra-Orthodox settlers — and no success in getting Israel to crack down on settler violence, but we have had “some success” in keeping the issue out of the United Nations.
Queasy about using the UN to try and stop the Israeli settlement juggernaut? It’s time to get over it. A long list of former US officials, prominent policy writers academics and religious figures have already written a letter to Obama urging him not to block the resolution. J Street has also stated it “cannot support a U.S. veto of a Resolution that closely tracks long-standing American policy and that appropriately condemns Israeli settlement policy.”
To join these voices of sanity, please click here.
UPDATE (2/17/11): The US is now trying to avoid a showdown by putting forward its tepid own resolution. The Palestinians have rejected the American offer and said it is planning to press for a vote on its resolution on Friday.
It’s looking more and more like the Obama adminstration will soon cast its first ever veto in the UN Security Council.
I’m totally with you on this, Brant. I sent the message on to lots of my friends/political colleagues. I so admire the positions you have taken and the actions you are advocating!
Sadly, the US has vetoed the resolution. What a deeply disturbing action by the United States.
Why the veto matters: (1) It is anti-democratic, (2) its perpetuates the status quo (ie settlement expansion) and (3) increases the likelihood of violent conflict
120 members of the United Nations co-sponsored this resolution. 14 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council voted in favour of the resolution and yet the United States of America vetoed this. This is a disgraceful abuse of power by the US and will lead to an exacerbation of the conflict and further loss of life.
In the very least the United States could have abstained. To veto such a resolution only highlights the anti-democratic nature of the veto (given there is no two-thirds majority override or even 75% or 93.33% override [ie 14:1 vote]) and the inability of the US to see that Israel’s getting facts on the ground only serves expansionist aims of a Greater Israel. A Greater Israel only undermines the security of citizens in the region rather than improve security.
If the year was 1993 or 2003 there might have been hope for a two state solution with minimal conflict. But the year is 2011. For 43 years the international community has called on Israel to leave territories conquered during the 1967 war (albeit with the United States draggings its heels). Palestinians have tried armed resistance to bring about change; and have tried nonviolent resistance. If things don’t change soon people will grow impatient and there will be a return to violent resistance.
Despite this settler numbers continue to expand. There are more than half a million Israeli settlers within Palestinian territory. Israeli officials still publicly at least live in a parrallel universe, where they say that the UN Security Council should be calling “upon the Palestinian leadership, in a clear and resolute voice, to immediately return to the negotiating table.” (UN News Center, 18 February 2011)) Instead what we need is for Israel to commit to the principle of a two state solution as agreed in 1993 and work towards such a plan. Colonising the West Bank undermines the two state solution and the veto by the United States is a sign of appeasement which sends the wrong message to Israel and the international community.
Why does the PLO publicly refuse to negotiate at present?
The reasons for Palestinians refusing to publicly negotiate at present is their concern that if they are seen publicly negotiating this sends out an international image of normalcy and things are being worked out. Whereas what the Palestinians are trying to highlight is by not negotiating (publicly at least) is that things are not being worked out. The Israeli practice of settlement expansion continues regardless of negotiations as it is official Israeli policy. In contrast there is no officially sanctioned Palestinian violent resistance in the West Bank and has not been for years (despite the Israel authorities using violence to take further land). So Israel cannot use violence from Palestinians in the West Bank as an excuse.
See also: Josh Ruebner, “The top-ten reasons for skepticism of Israeli-Palestinian talks”, Mondoweiss, 26 August 2010.