Rice at AIPAC: US has Israel’s back at UN

US ambassador drives home Obama's message at the conference, reiterates US commitment to two-state solution.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
March 6, 2012 02:23
2 minute read.
US envoy to the UN Susan Rice [file]

US envoy to the UN Susan Rice 311 (R). (photo credit: Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

 
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Israel has no greater friend at the United Nations than the US, US Ambassador Susan Rice told a group of rabbis at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference in Washington on Monday.

During her speech, the ambassador reiterated the main message delivered by President Barack Obama at the conference the day before: That despite criticism from detractors his administration has been consistently committed to supporting the Jewish state.

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“[Obama’s] guidance to us all has been crystal clear: To strengthen and deepen America’s special relationship with Israel rooted in common interests and values,” she said.

Rice spoke about the “unshakable” relationship with Israel and the importance of tikun olam, Hebrew for “repair the world.”

The diplomat took the opportunity of speaking to a group of Jewish Americans to recite a song she first learned during her first trip to Israel with her parents as a child.

“Hineh ma tov umanaim, shevet ahim gam yahad,” she said, carefully enunciating the Hebrew words for “how good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to sit together.”

“I’ll take some lessons afterwards,” she quipped.

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Rice reminded the audience that the US vetoed the Palestinian attempt to seek statehood recognition at the UN last September. It was a decision “which won little applause,” she said, quoting Obama’s speech from Sunday.

At the same time, she said the US was committed to a two-state solution.

“We remain determined not to rest until a democratic and peaceful state of Israel lives side by side with a viable and secure Palestinian state,” Rice said. “Two states living together with peace and security.”

Israel is often isolated at the UN, where it is outnumbered by its enemies.

However, as international attention over the past year has focused on the turmoil in the Arab world and human rights violations in places such as Syria and Libya, some of the opprobrium usually directed towards Israel has abated.

That has left it with an opportunity to advance its interests at the international organization headquartered in New York.

In January, for instance, an Israeli representative was voted for the first time ever to the executive board of the United Nations Development Program, a top UN agency with a budget of about a billion dollars.

That same month the Security Council condemned attacks widely believed to have been carried out by Iran on Israeli diplomats in India and Thailand – the first it has done so in seven years.

Rice said “not one day goes by” that her team does not work together with the Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor and the Israeli delegation.

She said that the UN, in itself, was not to blame for “marginalizing or maligning” Israel. Rather, the member states should be held accountable for their policies.

“Blaming the UN when things go wrong is like blaming Madison Square Garden when the Knicks are losing,” she said, quoting one of her predecessors, the late Richard Holbrooke.

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