US Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to lead UN Security Council meeting about Iraq in New York, September 19.
(photo credit: STATE DEPARTMENT PHOTO)
WASHINGTON -- The United States remains opposed to one-sided action on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the United Nations Security Council, the State Department said on Tuesday, faced with questions on its stance over two fresh initiatives.
Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, "firmly shut" the door on any prospective resolution the US considers biased against Israel. "Our position hasn’t changed in terms of action on this issue at the UN Security Council," he said in a Tuesday briefing with reporters.
Asked if that means the US opposes such action, Toner added: "Opposed to it."
Further clarifying the position, Edgar Vasquez, an official at the US Mission to the United Nations, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the US would not speculate on "hypothetical" UN proposals that are still in draft form.
"We continue to oppose one-sided resolutions that delegitimize Israel or undermine its security, but we are not going to speculate on hypothetical resolutions or other actions by the Security Council at this time," said Vasquez. "We will carefully consider our future engagement if and when we reach that point, and determine how to most effectively advance the objective we all share in achieving a negotiated two state solution."
At least two resolutions are currently under the pen related to the decades-old conflict: One being spearheaded by the Palestinian Authority, another by the French government.
The Palestinian draft would have the Security Council state it's opposition to Israel's settlement activity in the West Bank— a position held by each individual permanent member of the Council.
The Paris-led initiative would have the Security Council outline parameters of a two-state solution. Democrats and Republicans alike, including Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, oppose this approach and warn that imposing solutions from without would prove counterproductive.
But the White House said last year it was willing to review its policy toward the conflict at the United Nations, and it has yet to explicitly rule out such an approach. Israeli government leadership has not received assurances that the Obama administration would oppose either or both resolutions, The Jerusalem Post
learned last month.
Trepidation over the issue has apparently affected negotiations over a new decade-long US defense package to Israel.
Meanwhile, six senior representatives sent a letter last week to US President Barack Obama saying they were “deeply troubled by reports that one-sided initiatives may arise at the UN in the coming months concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Such efforts, the letter said, “dangerously hinder the prospects for resuming direct negotiations. We therefore urge you to continue to insist that it is only at the negotiating table – and not at the UN -- that the parties can resolve their complicated differences. Your continued commitment to longstanding US policy to veto one-sided UN Security Council resolutions remains fundamentally critical.”
The bipartisan letter was signed by Democrats Nita Lowey, from New York, Karen Bass from California and Ted Deutch from Florida; and Republicans Kay Granger from Texas, Christopher Smith from New Jersey And Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, from Florida.
The representatives said they shared Obama's “frustration with the lack of significant progress toward lasting peace,” and are “united in our willingness to work with you now on constructive steps” to end the surge in terrorism and foster an environment conducive to restarting negotiations.
According to the letter, the US must maintain its role as mediator, which has always upheld the following tenets:
- Close coordination with Israel;
- A refusal to support counterproductive efforts aimed at imposing a solution;
- Opposing Palestinian efforts to gain recognition of statehood status in international bodies;
- Oppose and, if need be, veto one-side Security Council resolutions;
- Work with Arab states to contribute to peace and development efforts;
- Unequivocal condemnation of terrorist organizations like Hamas until they recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terror, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
One of those congressmen, Ros-Lehtinen, questioned US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs Anne Patterson over the matter at a hearing on Wednesday. Patterson said she could not say whether the US would veto a UN resolution that has not yet been formally introduced.