Last Friday, as expected, the US vetoed a Palestinian Arab resolution declaring Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria to be “illegal,” after the PA refused to accept a US-drafted compromise statement that would have said the UN “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, which is a serious obstacle to the peace process.”
But the Obama administration did not want to give the world the impression that the US actually stands behind Israel. Not at all! US representative to the UN Susan Rice took pains to say, for the record and after the vote, that the US pretty much agrees with the resolution – but that this was just not the right venue:
The United States has been deeply committed to pursuing a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In that context, we have been focused on taking steps that advance the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, rather than complicating it. That includes a commitment to work in good faith with all parties to underscore our opposition to continued settlements.
Our opposition to the resolution before this Council today should therefore not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity. On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace….
While we agree with our fellow Council members—and indeed, with the wider world—about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians. We therefore regrettably have opposed this draft resolution.
As Omri Ceren points out, this little speech made sure that the US ticked off everybody.
Beyond that, Rice’s mini-tantrum at the UN was simply wrong. Israel has not supported the building of any Jewish housing outside existing boundaries of Jewish towns for years, and everyone – even the PLO, as documented in the “Palestine Papers,” and even Jimmy Carter - recognizes that major settlement blocs will continue to be a part of Israel in any peace agreement.
It was also wrong in saying that Israel’s allowing Jews to build homes in their own historic homeland violates Israel’s international commitments. The UNSC resolutions that Israel has accepted, most importantly 242, makes it clear that Israel cannot and will not give all of the lands it gained in 1967 to the Arabs.
There is also a fundamental flaw in Rice’s statement that the Jewish communities “undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability.” They have ensured that Israel is not a mere 9 miles wide at its waist, that Tel Aviv is out of Qassam rocket range from the West Bank, and that terrorism is kept at bay.
Moreover, we cannot escape the irony: At the exact same time that the Arab world is erupting in protests and violent showdowns between people yearning for freedom and their autocratic rulers who don’t hesitate to shoot their own people, to say that Jews wanting to live in the heartland of Biblical Israel is the main threat to peace in the region is ridiculous.
The PLO cannot help itself – it needs to try to keep its own issues on the front burner on the international scene because it knows that the Arab world really doesn’t care about “Palestine” as much as it pretends. But when the region is in such upheaval, to think that this is what the UN is spending its time on just shows how out of touch that organization is with what’s really going on.
The sad part is that the US allowed itself to become not just a part of the farce, but to actively encourage it.