Former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe as well as Political-Military Affairs and former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Burt has joined the open letter I have helped organize asking President Obama to support the pending resolution at the United Nations Security Council condemning expanding Israeli settlements in Occupied Territories.
Within the UNSC, Russia has emerged as a heavyweight supporter of the Palestinian initiative. Thus far, the US Department of State has not indicated a position on the resolution itself and whether it will support, abstain, or veto the resolution.
Department of State Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both expressed reservations about the UN Security Council being the “venue” for deliberation of this issue.
One prominent neoconservative friend of mine wrote this note to me this morning:
Perhaps you might want to organize UN condemnation of this?
Or is that not such a high priority for you as winning international condemnation of Israel for building apartments for Jewish families in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem?
All best, XXXXX
My friend is correct that Ahmadinejad’s statements are disgusting and reprehensible — and really do deserve push back.
If I had the time to push replay on some of my activities recently, I would have built in more support and a very large salute to the work of US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice who was unwilling to abide by a UN Committee vote that dropped language on sexual orientation being dropped from a resolution on extrajudicial killings.
Ambassador Rice took this to the floor of the United Nations and got the language that Saudi Arabia had worked hard to remove restored. Her work was tremendous — and I wish I had organized such an open letter supporting her position.
That said, even though I believe that there are serious areas of underperformance by both Israel’s and Palestine’s political leadership in securing a better and more stable future for both of their peoples — the expansion of illegal settlements is adding to the toxicity of the situation. Israel wants to feel that it has unconditional support from the United States no matter what options it chooses — no matter whether it sets a temperature that is conducive to peace talks or not. I don’t believe in that kind of unconditional relationship. There are responsibilities that Israel has — as well as Palestine — in getting to a new stable equilibrium in their relations.
The consequences of failing at peace talks used to be minor and something that the US and its allies could absorb, but not any longer. The costs of failure are having larger echo effects throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and even globally. Israel and Palestine are, in my view, need to be shoved forward on a constructive track. Thus far, President Obama who outlined early on his administration and in two UN General Assembly speeches a vision for Palestine-Israel that was quite commendable has been timid in moving this game forward.
So, to my friend who wrote the note, the notion that settlement expansion is minor when compared to other atrocious issues is a non-sequitur. I disagree with Hillary Clinton’s framing that this ultimately must be an arrangement depending on Israel’s and Palestine’s political leadership to come to terms with each other. Their mutual incapability, weakness, and irresponsibility with their mutual interests has been long demanding more involvement and direction from key stakeholders.
Settlement expansion is, as interpreted by the US government — Israel’s closest friend and ally — illegal. We need to fix that. We need a deal on borders and security, as WINEP’s David Makovsky and others have been arguing. I think that some of Makovsky’s formula for land swaps needs tweaking (here is interactive map) — but it’s an important contribution that could lead the debate out of the endless convulsions over illegal settlement growth.
There is a way forward on borders and security that would obviate the need for such UN Resolutions. So, to my friend and his associates — why don’t we collectively find a way to put Makovsky’s and other such proposals into a working discussion with serious political leaders in Israel, Palestine, and across the region?
— Steve Clemons