Actually, Secretary Clinton, New York is the place to say no to Israeli impunity

The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote, possibly this month, on a resolution reaffirming that Israel’s 150 settlements in the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem “are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

settlers at un

One would reasonably expect the Obama Administration to support this resolution as the president himself “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” as stated in his June 2009 address in Cairo to the Muslim world.

But instead, the Obama Administration is threatening to use its veto in the Security Council once again to protect Israel from abiding by international law. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that “New York is not the place to resolve the longstanding conflict and outstanding issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has launched a petition drive to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice in which U.S. citizens beg to differ with this assessment. The petition argues that “As the Obama Administration appears to be supporting human rights in Tunisia and Egypt and their citizens’ demands for freedom, the United States will lose credibility if it vetoes a UN resolution that supports those same rights for Palestinians.”

The US Campaign is more than three-quarters toward its goal of 10,000 signatures, which, if reached before the vote, will be hand-delivered to the U.S. Mission to the UN. Signatures can be added to the petition here.

If the Obama Administration were to veto this Security Council resolution, then it would represent a nadir in its Israel/Palestine policymaking and a complete climb down from its initial approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

President Obama—like all presidents since Jimmy Carter—have configured their policies toward Israel’s settlements within the parameters of a 1978 State Department legal memo that concluded they are “inconsistent with international law.” Presidents have differed in the degree to which they have tolerated or tacitly supported Israel’s ongoing settlement construction, yet the State Department’s basic premise that they are illegal is still official U.S. policy.

Upon assuming office, the Obama Administration, rather unexpectedly, offered up unrelenting criticism of Israel’s ongoing settlement construction and virtually demanded its halt as a precondition to set the right tone for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In May 2009, Clinton made clear that Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements—not some settlements, not outposts, no ‘natural growth’ exceptions.”

However, faced with Israel’s intransigence and unwilling to turn up the pressure against it by cutting military aid, Obama’s early principled position on Israeli settlements foundered. The beginning of his climb down was evident during the September 2009 UN General Assembly meeting when the president declared, “Simply put it is past time to talk about starting negotiations—it is time to move forward” with or without Israel freezing settlement construction.

As recently revealed in the Palestine Papers, Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell and his team of negotiators thereafter began a crude and ignominious effort to arm-twist Palestinian negotiators into resuming negotiations on the basis of a transparently flawed partial Israeli settlement “moratorium.”

In September 2009, David Hale, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, laid out to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat the Obama Administration’s new take-it-or-leave-it approach. Meeting minutes cite Hale as stating, “Our reaction is that obviously it is no surprise you are unhappy if the settlement package has imperfections (in this case [East] Jerusalem)—but if you want a perfect settlements package you just won’t get it. Even if partial, this package will be meaningful, it will restrain the activity—there will be less of it. Otherwise we can all just go home.”

Mitchell, in October 2009, explained that Israel would never agree to a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem. According to the minutes, “the Israelis will not go for it. He [Mitchell] said you have to deal with the world as it is, not as you would like it—for that reason the best he can get is ‘restraint.’”

Another year ensued before Palestinian negotiators were brow-beaten into returning to the negotiating table as Israel continued to colonize land designated for a future Palestinian state under the guise of its partial “moratorium.” Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, convened under White House auspices amidst much fanfare in September 2010, broke down less than a month later after Israel refused to extend even its sham “moratorium.”

Ironically, Mitchell himself acknowledged the Obama Administration’s self-defeating approach to Israel’s settlements. According to meeting minutes from the Palestine Papers, he recognized “that an Israeli renewal of activity after the initial ['moratorium'] period would spell the end of negotiations…He said the Palestinians may be assuming the worst, which may be justified given the history, but we don’t know what things will be like in 12 months.” Unfortunately, now it is obvious that Palestinians were right to expect the worst in bad faith negotiations by Israel.

After negotiations broke down, the Obama Administration tried bribing Israel into extending the “moratorium” in exchange for additional F-35 fighter jets and promised diplomatic support in the UN, but to no avail. Bereft of a strategy to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, the United States is now trying to maintain its exclusive leadership of the failed “peace process” by undermining Palestinian efforts to bring their case directly to the international community.

Its absurd threat to veto the upcoming Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlements demonstrates U.S. contempt for international law and its inability to be a credible “honest broker” for Israeli-Palestinian peace. U.S. citizens should demand better from our country’s diplomacy.

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of nearly 350 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality. He is a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.

About Josh Ruebner

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service. He is author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace (Verso Books).
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Settlers/Colonists, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

{ 28 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. fuster says:

    “The US Campaign is more than three-quarters toward its goal of 10,000 signatures”

    not collecting more than 7,500 signatures from a nation of 300,000,000
    (what’s that 25 / million?) isn’t very impressive.

    could be that people in America don’t view the UN resolution as being the way to go.
    could be that the right-wing Israeli’s and their obnoxious government aren’t the only obstacle to peace and justice and that the Obama administration wasn’t frustrated by the Israeli alone.

    • annie says:

      not collecting more than 7,500 signatures from a nation of 300,000,000
      (what’s that 25 / million?) isn’t very impressive.

      could be that people in America don’t view the UN resolution as being the way to go.

      you might have a point had all 300,000,000 been presented with the petition or even had an awareness about what was happening in the occupied territory. since the post was written the petition already has over 750 more signatures. 8266 signers at this point so your ‘not collecting more than’ is out of date. it’s a relatively new petition and i’m certain if it was around long enough it would gather many more than 10,000. the UN position is in line w/our stated US policy which i assume very much reflects the will of most americans.

    • Cliff says:

      what an obtuse thing to say

      as if 300m americans are all well-versed in M.E. politics AND are concerned as well

      give me a break ‘fuster’

      • annie says:

        fuster has ‘rather strong’ hunches. i take them at least this seriously.

      • fuster says:

        Cliff

        I’ll give you all the breaks in the world.

        How many of the 300 million Americans know enough about things to be allowed an opinion?

        10,000,000????

        or

        10,000?????

        • annie says:

          you didn’t answer my question fuster. what don’t you like about the resolution? care to give a couple good reasons why the US should veto a resolution that is in perfect sync w/it’s (alleged) stated goals wrt the illegal settlements.

          or do we just play lip service to our alleged policies while bending over for israel everytime?

        • annie says:

          ribbit:

          10,000,000????

          or

          10,000?????

          could you please link to a petition w/10 million signatures please? i’d like to compare this with whatever standard you’re using.

    • Avi says:

      could be that people in America don’t view the UN resolution as being the way to go.
      could be that the right-wing Israeli’s and their obnoxious government aren’t the only obstacle to peace and justice and that the Obama administration wasn’t frustrated by the Israeli alone.

      Could, could, could.

      Have you any definitive answers?

      I’ll give you a few:
      1. The American people don’t know, because the American people aren’t told by the watchdogs of democracy, the press. If the UN is “not the way to go”, then perhaps you could come up with some brilliant ideas that haven’t been tried thus far.

      2. The allegation that the “right wing” government in Israel is the obstacle is laughable given the simple fact that both right and left governments in Israel have been stonewalling the peace process for 20 years. Ehud Barak and Israeli reporters admitted that in 2000, Barak had no intention of making any fair or reasonable offers to the Palestinians.

      3. The Wikileaks cables show that the Palestinian negotiations team was making great concessions that Israel rejected so as to maintain the status quo.

      Like I said earlier, you are a troll.

    • talknic says:

      fuster February 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm

      No one marching FOR war on Iraq was far more impressive…

      could be that people in America don’t view the UN resolution as being the way to go.

      Could be 300,000,000 includes a lot of children and a lot of folk who have not yet heard there is a petition.

      You’ll be volunteering to inform some or just shoot your fat mouth off?

  2. straightline says:

    This is very illuminating:

    Mitchell, in October 2009, explained that Israel would never agree to a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem. According to the minutes, “the Israelis will not go for it. He [Mitchell] said you have to deal with the world as it is, not as you would like it—for that reason the best he can get is ‘restraint.’”

    Imagine if someone said to the Israelis: “Palestinians will never agree to renounce the right of return. You have to deal with the world as it is.” It seems that Israel has become “the world” in Mitchell’s mind. The problem is that Israel has never had anyone say “No” to its ongoing expansion – and have the capability to mean it. In other words might (and control of US politics) is right.

    • seafoid says:

      I think that was pre January 25.

      The world is different now. Israel is going to get left behind if it doesn’t shape up. It is the Middle East that is going to grow, not the US.

    • sherbrsi says:

      “the Israelis will not go for it. He [Mitchell] said you have to deal with the world as it is, not as you would like it

      Astoundingly ignorant statement. If Mitchell truly believes that, he (and every other participant of the “peace process”) should simply pack up and call it day.

    • Koshiro says:

      Might makes right. Social darwinism in its purest form.

  3. pabelmont says:

    10,000 is too small to impress anyone. The Egyptians put 1,000,000 in Tahrir Square. THAT IS WHAT IS NEEDED.

    The whole USA peace community must act on this (that is, if there even IS a peace community in the USA, a hedonistic land if ever there was one).

    Does ANYONE HERE understand
    “Facebook agitation” ??
    Not me, but someone must. GET THIS THINK GOING IN A MODERN WAY.

  4. seafoid says:

    This is a disaster for Israel and for the IDF.

    link to haaretz.com

    “In the absence of institutions which will define Egypt’s foreign policy at any point in the near future, the safest thing for the army is to continue on the path delineated by Mubarak. ”

    I just saw a pig take off

  5. fuster says:

    annie, I don’t think that you’ve correctly understood.

    The 10,000,000 number isn’t about signatures, but is instead a question to Cliff asking him the number of Americans who aren’t too ignorant to have an opinion about I/P.

    10,000,000 is a great many signatures for a petition. Although 10,000 is not.
    About 40 years ago, a petition calling for the diapering of carriage horses in NYC got about 10,000

    • annie says:

      again:

      you didn’t answer my question fuster. what don’t you like about the resolution? care to give a couple good reasons why the US should veto a resolution that is in perfect sync w/it’s (alleged) stated goals wrt the illegal settlements.

      or do we just play lip service to our alleged policies while bending over for israel everytime?

  6. seafoid says:

    Israeli impunity is self defeating. The Middle East economy is going to grow massively over the next decade and Israel is not going to be part of it because Israel has done nothing to build any meaningful links in the region in 63 years. Look at what Turkey is doing (thanks to the morons at AIPAC for the info)

    Turkey Increases Its Trade Ties with Iran

    Turkey has increased its diplomatic and military ties with Iran.
    Turkey and Iran will triple their bilateral trade to $30 billion over the next five years, Ha’aretz reported Monday. “There is a political determination in the two countries to develop relations further,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. Turkish State Minister Cevdet Yilmaz also set a target of $30 billion in trade volume. Trade between the two nations rose to $10.7 billion last year from about $1 billion in 2000. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department last week blacklisted six individuals and five business entities in Iran and Turkey for providing materials and support to Iran’s ballistic missile development efforts.

  7. fuster says:

    seafoid,

    Israel
    pop 7,500,000
    GDP $217.1 billion (2010 est.)

    Turkey
    pop 75,000,000
    GDP $1.119 Trillion[2] (2010)

    Iran
    pop. 74,000,000
    GDP $863.5 billion (2010 est.)

    so far, Israel hasn’t fallen too far behind.

  8. Hostage says:

    Fuster,

    GDP is simply a sum of all expenditures in the country. GDP = Consumption + Investment + Government Purchases. + Net Exports.
    But Public debt in Israel = 77.7% of GDP. So, when government purchases are made through deficit spending, the GDP increases. But that is nothing to cheer about.

    link to indexmundi.com

  9. VR says:

    I think when you look at international bodies you have to carefully examine who is in control of these institutions. As an addition to this observation of the UN and US activity, one should look at a couple of other institutions of financial dimension, the World Bank and the IMF.

    If the US does not tow the line there seems to be pressure applied to undo the US financially but by whom? The IMF just recently said that the dollar should be replaced as the world currency.

    IMF CALLS FOR DOLLAR ALTERNATIVE

    So, who heads the IMF? Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who wakes up every morning and muses – “getting up every morning wondering how I can be useful to Israel.” Or other statements like this –

    “I think every Jew in the diaspora, and so this is true in France, is wherever he can help Israel. That’s why it is also important that Jews take responsibility policies. Everyone does not think the same thing in the Jewish community, but I think it’s necessary. Because we can not both complain that a country like France, for example, has the past and perhaps still today, a policy too pro-Arab and do not try to influence by people who think differently, allowing them to take more responsibility. In sum, in my duties and in my everyday life, through all of my actions, I try to make my modest stone is made to build the land of Israel. “(Interview by Emille Malet, Passages No. 35, February-March 1991). ”

    Or, the World Bank, who is headed now by Robert Zoellick, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Wolfowitz left, but who is Zoellick? I can remember when he was first appointed I scratched my head and said to myself – where have I seen that name before. Then it suddenly dawned on me, PNAC, he is one of the signatories of PNAC! So Wolfowitz is one of the statements of principle signatories, and Zoellick is a contributor signatory. Look it up yourself. Suffice it to say, the movers of monetary clout are lead by Zionists (Kahn Jewish Zionist and Zoellick sympathizer).

    So threats to US dollar preference are made by the IMF which is headed by a Zionist, which has Israel as his central concern. Thereby shaking the very foundation of the dollar in the international market. The World Bank chief (former PNAC signatory), who’s organization helped to impoverish Egypt by its policy demands (as a current example) during the unrest begins to lay the blame solely on Egyptian decisions in regard to their people.

    MIDDLE EAST SITUATION “FRAGILE”

    Both of these monetary institutions work within the framework of the UN nations, they are known as UN institutions. So the next time the subject of the US vote comes up in regard to Israel, keep this in mind. The sordid web is a little bit more complicated than some think.

    • VR says:

      A further tying down point –

      The IMF and the World Bank

      “The IMF and the World Bank are institutions in the United Nations system. They share the same goal of raising living standards in their member countries. Their approaches to this goal are complementary, with the IMF focusing on macroeconomic issues and the World Bank concentrating on long-term economic development and poverty reduction.”

      Actually their goal is rising the living standards of small elite cartels in each country, creating the havoc we see, as an example in the ME region.

      IMF & WORLD BANK, WEAPONS OF WAR

      This film, though dated by years is more current than ever, because the conditions and situation in the world have grown worse, not better, since its making.

  10. “If and when the resolution comes to a vote, the United States will nevertheless likely veto it, although there is a possibility it may abstain if the resolution changes the wording of “illegal” to “illegitimate”"

    Illegal would make a legal determination, without due process. The US should veto that. It should abstain or support the wording that does not describe a legal determination.

    • Hostage says:

      Illegal would make a legal determination, without due process.

      That is nonsense. There is no such thing as an international court with compulsory jurisdiction over the actions of States. International law is the legal system of the international community of States. It consists of the conventional and customary rules that the States themselves have adopted to govern the conduct of their mutual relations. The highest UN political and judicial organs are the General Assembly and the ICJ. They have already considered the arguments made by Israel in its written and oral pleadings and advised that the settlements are illegal. The High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions and the ICRC have declared them illegal too. There were no “international courts” until the 19th century, but international law should function just fine without them. The community of nations express their opinions regarding violations, and the Security Council and/or the General Assembly are empowered to recommend sanctions or coercive enforcement actions. Secretary Clinton is simply dissimulating once again.

    • pjdude says:

      well it doesn’t take a legal expert to make the proper legal call. international law prohibits building on occupied land and moving or allowing your civilian population into occupied land. if you can’t tell that the settlements are illegal than you clearly lack the intellectual abilities to be in such a complex debate.