The U.S. informed Arab governments Tuesday 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.It is nice to see that the UN Security Council can now safely ignore uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Libya, and Iran and put the priorities back where they properly belong: on some family living in Ma'ale Adumim who want to add a bathroom to their house.
But the Palestinian's rejected the American offer following a meeting late Wednesdy of Arab representatives and said it is planning to press for a vote on its resolution Friday, according officials familar with the issue. The decision to reject the American offer raised the prospects that the Obama adminstration may cast its first ever veto in the U.N. Security Council.
Still, the U.S. offer signaled a renewed willingness to seek a way out of the current impasse, even if it requires breaking with its key ally and joining others in the council in sending a strong message to Israel to stop its construction of new settlements. The Palestinian delegation, along with the council's Arab member Lebanon, have asked the council's president this evening to schedule a meeting on Friday. But it remained unclear whether the Palestinian move today is simply a negotiating tactic aimed at extracting a better deal from the United States.
Omri Ceren at Commentary acerbically writes:
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.(That J. E. Dyer link is indeed must-read, but I don't think I'll have a chance to blog about it.)
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? Strategic administration leaks about the Egypt crisis have already signaled a renewed chill in the U.S.-Israeli relationship. U.S. backing for a UN resolution wouldn’t detonate the alliance — military-to-military ties are too strong for that — but it would be the end of cooperation between this White House and this Israeli government, a government that a militarily and now diplomatically besieged Israeli public would rally behind.
And that’s before we get to how our UN mission, representing the world’s only hyperpower, seems to believe that “bargaining” means “getting progressively closer to the other side’s position.” We’re negotiating with the likes of Libya and the Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon over whether we should protect one of our last Middle East allies against a biased UN lynch mob. It’s almost difficult to believe that the Iranians, per J.E. Dyer’s must-read post, are at this very moment literally sailing their way into regional hegemony.
An email correspondent, who is not a fan of Israeli settlements, has an interesting perspective:
As I see this resolution, at WORST it REITERATES the US position, namely that it "does not accept the legitimacy of CONTINUED Israeli settlement activity." This is problematic for the Arabs in multiple ways. First, it does NOT declare pre-existing settlements as illegitimate, only "continued" activity. Second, it offers no actionable items. Third, it would invalidate Palestinian attempts at recognition either of statehood or borders, both of which at least some of their leadership hope to accomplish or at least use as leverage. This resolution would accomplish nothing for the Arabs. If they were to accept it as binding, they would be insane.
The real idiocy here is that the Obama Administration proposed it. The only result of this asinine proposal is that relations between Israel and the US will become further strained and America will be seen as an even worse friend of its only ally in the region, having just abandoned another, Egypt. The Arab nations almost certainly laughed the US representative right out of the room. The Palestinians may even feel offended by this resolution. This administration clearly just doesn't get it.