22 February 2011

U.S. vetoes its own policy

The United States, we are led to believe, is opposed to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. If this is indeed the case, we are left wondering why it vetoed a UN resolution last Friday that would have condemned illegal settlements beyond the Green Line and demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building. American opposition to the resolution was underlined by President Obama spending an hour on the phone with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, on Thursday urging him to block the resolution. Needless to say, he failed.

The U.S. was alone its veto. The 14 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution, reflecting the broad support for the Palestinian-backed draft which had about 130 co-sponsors.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice insisted the United States did not want the veto to be "misunderstood" as support for continued Israeli settlement construction. "For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region," she said. "Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace."

If that is truly the American position, then Ambassador Rice needn't worry that Obama's humiliating plea to Abbas and the American veto will be misunderstood. They will be clearly understood for what they are: another example of the Israeli tail wagging the American dog.

One might be sympathetic to Obama. Israel probably has more influence in Congress on this issue than he does. Rallied by the Israeli lobby, House leaders from both parties had been putting pressure on Obama for weeks to veto the resolution. So it is understandable that Obama genuflects to Israel. Nonetheless, it is sad to see the president embarrass himself, and it is even sadder to see American foreign policy driven more by donors than diplomats.

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