Rumor has it that the US has agreed to language of a UN resolution that may at first sound reasonable to the average person. It condemns the violence of Israel’s enemies, and then has what seems to the uninitiated as a continuation of US policy (skipping ahead a bit here):
…According to last night’s Foreign Policy report, the U.S. told Arab governments Tuesday that if the UN resolution were withdrawn, the U.S. would support a Security Council presidential statement stating that the Council “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, which is a serious obstacle to the peace process” — with an even stronger Quartet statement to follow at its scheduled March meeting. The offer was reportedly rejected yesterday, with the Arabs asking for a Security Council vote tomorrow, with a possibility of further last-minute negotiations on an alternative…
Things are still up in the air, but just from that little bit one could almost be forgiven for asking what the big deal is in an even-handed sounding statement. The trouble is that no other part of the statement matters (the criticisms of violence on the part of Israel’s enemies) because they ignore it anyway. The Israel criticism is what matters, and is the only thing that will be repeated or noticed, and that is NOT US policy, which has for years recognized that the 1949 armistice line is outdated. Further, does “settlement activity” mean building garages on already settled land, or expansion into new territory? There is a political difference and it is not defined in the resolution. Remember that we are still arguing over language involving “territories” and “THE territories” in Resolution 242 from 43 years ago.
The UN is not the venue for this. For reasons we’ll now read about as we follow through the links:
First, Omri at Contentions: U.S. Offering to Join in Security Council Condemnation of Israel
Reports on this started leaking last night, with Bloomberg reporting that U.S. diplomats were shopping around an offer to Arab governments to get them to withdraw their UN resolution condemning Israel for settlement activity. Those reports had the U.S. trading increased pressure on Israel for a withdrawal of the Arab-backed resolution.
Apparently, that didn’t work out, or the initial reports were wrong. This just-posted Foreign Policy article says that Ambassador Susan Rice came back with an even bigger bus under which they could throw Israel, this one carrying the imprimatur of a formal UN Security Council condemnation plus an assortment of other international anti-Israel measures. That offer was, naturally, declined:
The U.S. informed Arab governments Friday that it will support a U.N. Security Council statement reaffirming that the 15-nation body “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” a move aimed at avoiding the prospect of having to veto a stronger Palestinian resolution calling the settlements illegal. But the Palestinian’s rejected the American offer. … [Rice] outlined the new U.S. offer in a closed door meeting on Tuesday with the Arab Group. … [I]n exchange for scuttling the Palestinian resolution, the United States would support the council statement, consider supporting a U.N. Security Council visit to the Middle East, the first since 1979, and commit to supporting strong language criticizing Israel’s settlement policies in a future statement by the Middle East Quartet.
In a way, this is a natural follow-up to the administration’s bumbling in Egypt, where they managed to alienate all parties in the Middle East except the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, and Iran’s assorted proxies. This gesture won’t win us any lasting goodwill from Arab elites. WikiLeaks showed that they care far more about geopolitical stability than they do about the settlements, such that the spectacle of the White House abandoning a second ally for the second week in a row would be met with worried chagrin, regardless of what they say out loud.
More to the point, and by now out of genuine curiosity: who exactly does the Obama administration envision having as a Middle East ally, say, six months from now?…[More.]
Podhoretz also comments:
…Forget for a moment what such a vote suggests about the worldview of the Obama administration at a time of potentially historic peril for Israel, not only from Iran but also from what might happen as a result of the uprisings in Arab countries. An anti-Israel vote at the U.N. with these kinds of numbers would be would be a demented political act for the Obama administration, which spent much of 2010 trying to undo the damage caused by the president’s bizarrely counterproductive temper tantrum against Bibi Netanyahu—which scuttled a year’s worth of diplomatic efforts by his own negotiator, George Mitchell.
Has Obama learned nothing, really? We’ll see. Oh, we shall see. [More.]
Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post, who thinks it’s not going to come to pass at all: U.S. ‘compromise’ offer to condemn Israel
…The U.S. and Israel were saved, in some sense, by the obtuseness and maximalist demands of Israel’s foes who declined the “compromise.” (And why should they do any differently? Why stop at just a “compromise,” when there is so much more they might gain from their friends in the White House?) But the damage is done. Once again, Israel’s foes, most especially Iran, can see the daylight between the administration and Israel. How would Israel’s opponents not be emboldened by the administration’s behavior?
And in a later post she quotes John Bolton:
…This is a classic case of negotiating for the sake of negotiating. The Obama Administration may well produce a slightly less-outrageous draft resolution than the sponsors’ original draft, but this is simply putting lipstick on a porcine being. If the United States votes for or abstains on such a resolution, it will reflect a dramatic shift in policy against Israel. If the United States vetoes such a resolution, it will be voting against a “more reasonable” text. The right approach is to say at the outset that the sponsors’ approach is fundamentally misguided, and that the only sensible US policy will be to veto. So doing may actually dissuade the sponsors from proceeding, now or in the future, or will at least shorten the period of agitation and agony. American weakness in this type of context only invites further provocation…
And the Orthodox Union which focuses on the legal issues. A snip:
…Assertions that Israeli “settlement activity” is illegal under international law are incorrect as such a position is at variance with United Nations Resolution 242.
Passed in 1967, Resolution 242 calls for Israel to return “territories” captured during its defensive war of 1967. The words “all” and “the” were proposed by those who advocated a complete return, but the U.S. and Great Britain, which opposed that view, prevailed. Even partial return of captured territories is conditioned on “termination of all claims of belligerency” and “acknowledgment of the sovereignty . . . of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” Resolution 242 does not mention the rights of non-states, such as the Palestinian Authority, Hamas or Hezbollah, the latter two of which do not accept the conditions of the resolution. (Nor do Iran and several other states in the region.) . . . .
A Security Council resolution declaring “settlement activity” as “illegitimate” is no better…
Honest Reporting has issued this: Myths & Facts of Tomorrow’s UN Security Council Settlements Vote
And then there’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today regarding reports that the United States, seeking to avoid having to decide whether to veto a pending United Nations Security Council draft resolution critical of Israel, has offered to support instead a Security Council Presidential Statement critical of Israel. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“Support for this anti-Israel statement is 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.
“Palestinian leaders refuse to negotiate directly with Israel, while Israel has made unprecedented concessions and continues to repeatedly offer to negotiate anywhere, anytime. Responsible nations should be heralding Israel’s commitment to achieving peace and security, not giving credence to the relentless campaigns by anti-democratic forces to deny that commitment.
“Offering to criticize our closest ally at the UN isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable. 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.
“The Administration should change course, stand unequivocally with Israel, and publicly pledge to block any anti-Israel UN Security Council action.”… [More.]
Update: YidWithLid: Breaking Update: Obama Tells Abbas He Will Veto Anti-Settlement Resolution