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Will the USA Back its Own Position on Israeli Settlements at the Security Council?

Pretty much everyone agrees that the Israeli government’s decision to resume the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem is harmful to the prospects of a negotiated peace agreement. Or, to use the words of Hillary Clinton: it “undermines peace efforts to achieve the two state-solution” and “contradicts the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of Jerusalem.”

The thing is, even these harsh words from a staunch Israeli ally were not enough to dissuade the Netanyahu government from lifting a freeze on new settlement construction. So, the Palestinian observer mission at the UN began circulating a carefully drafted resolution (below) condemning the new settlement activity. Today, that resolution was formally submitted to the Security Council.

The big question now is what will the Americans do?  The resolution is clearly in line with the stated Obama administration position on the issue; deploying its traditional Israel-defending veto would be tantamount to undermining its own stated policy.  On the other hand, all other attempts to convince Israel to halt new settlement construction have failed.  Maybe voting for the resolution (or at the very least, letting it pass) would send the message more clearly that these settlements are totally inimical to the prospects for peace.

A number of American foreign policy luminaries–including several longtime allies of Israel–are urging President Obama to vote for the Security Council resolution. Via Steve Clemons, here is an excerpt of their letter to President Obama:

While a UNSC resolution will not resolve the issue of settlements or prevent further Israeli construction activity in the Occupied Territory, it is an appropriate venue for addressing these issues and for putting all sides on notice that the continued flouting of international legality will not be treated with impunity. Nor would such a resolution be incompatible with or challenge the need for future negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues, and it would in no way deviate from our strong commitment to Israel’s security.

If the proposed resolution is consistent with existing and established US policies, then deploying a veto would severely undermine US credibility and interests, placing us firmly outside of the international consensus, and further diminishing our ability to mediate this conflict.

The ball is in President Obama’s court. It seems to me the United States has no choice but to support a resolution that: 1) Clearly represents of the American position on new settlement construction. 2) Moves an issue forward that is currently stuck in place. (Hillary Clinton’s harsh words were summarily ignored by Netanyahu.) 3) Is broadly in the interests of peace, not to mention international law.

These next few days at the Council should be very interesting, to say the least.

Here’s the text of the draft resolution:

Palestine Resolution


  • Jacob AG

    The U.S. has already allowed several UN resolutions condemning Israel for its settlement policy to pass, but none has ever accomplished anything. How would this be different from Security Council Resolutions 446, 452, and 465, for example (don’t hold your breath–the U.S. isn’t going to vote for this)? At most it will be allowed to pass, and the only thing that will change is that the world will become just a tiny bit more hostile to Israel (as if that were what’s needed!).

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