When a veto isn’t enough

The US should be commended its vote last week. But the negatives far outweigh the positives here.

By
February 23, 2011 23:31
3 minute read.
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice 311 Ap. (photo credit: AP)

Last week, after the US exercised its veto as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and blocked an Arab-sponsored resolution that would have condemned Israel yet again, a collective sigh of relief was heard in Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, this sentiment was premature.

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In her statement in the Security Council, US Ambassador Susan Rice made it clear that she was vetoing the resolution on technical grounds alone, not because of its problematic content. This does not bode well for our relationship with America in the months and years ahead.

Let me be clear – President Barack Obama should be commended for the veto itself. This vote upholds an important US tradition of defending Israel in the all-too-often biased UN, and we thank our American allies for this.

However, the negatives far outweigh the positives here, and the precedents set by Rice’s statement have set preconditions for the next round of talks that greatly damage our negotiating position.

In her speech, Rice strongly rejected “the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.”

She didn’t stop there. She went on to say that the building of Israeli communities corrodes “hopes for peace and stability in the region... violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties and threatens the prospects for peace.”

There are two main problems with her statement. The first is that her harsh language ignores signed international agreements between us and the Palestinians and, more importantly, years of understandings with various American administrations.

The Oslo Accords clearly state that settlements should be left for the final-status talks. Furthermore, president George W. Bush’s 2005 letter to prime minister Ariel Sharon had put in writing what had been implicit US policy, supporting defensible borders for Israel and recognizing that the main population centers in Judea and Samaria will remain under its sovereignty.

Secondly, it has been proven time and again that there is no correlation between settlement construction and advances in the peace process. Some of the biggest socalled successes took place while Israel continued to build in its historic homeland.

Both Oslo agreements were signed, Wye was negotiated, Camp David took place and Annapolis was convened – all without settlements acting as a roadblock.

In fact, the only time there was a construction freeze was last year, during which time the Palestinians refused to come to the negotiating table.

There is obviously either a deliberate change under way in US policy toward the conflict, or a very deep misunderstanding of these complex issues within the Obama administration. If the latter is the case, I call upon President Obama to immediately visit our region so he can better learn about the situation that we are facing.

SO WHERE does this leave us? At some point in the not-too-distant future, the US administration is going to decide it is once again time to make a major push aimed at resolving this conflict. When that day comes, we will find that the starting point is more similar to the Palestinians’ than it is to ours. It will be the duty of any responsible government, and especially one led by the Likud, to tell our American friends that this stance is simply not acceptable. It is not in Israel’s or America’s best interest.

The events of the past few weeks should serve as a wake-up call to our American friends. It is now abundantly clear to all that Israel is the only stable and democratic US ally in the Middle East. It is imperative that this realization lead to a serious review of US policy, and a reversal of the worrying trends we have witnessed over the past two years.

Our relationship with the American people has always transcended administrations and political parties. We can only hope that this strong connection, coupled with an astute analysis of the constantly shifting events in our region, will lead to a speedy reevaluation of US policy that will restrengthen our relationship.

The writer is deputy speaker of the Knesset and chairman of World Likud.


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