Tony Karon writes:
It was always going to be a struggle for the U.S. to dissuade its Arab allies from going ahead with a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. But last week’s “people power” rebellion in Tunisia has made Washington’s effort to lobby against the plan more difficult. Tunisia has given the autocratic leaders of countries such as Egypt and Jordan more reason to fear their own people. For those regimes, symbolically challenging unconditional U.S. support for Israel is a low-cost gesture that will play well on restive streets.
Going ahead with the resolution, which was discussed on Wednesday at the Security Council and demands an immediate halt to all Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, is, of course, a vote of no-confidence in U.S. peacemaking efforts. And it creates a headache for the Obama Administration over whether to invoke the U.S. veto — as Washington has traditionally done on Council resolutions critical of Israel. The twist this time: the substance of the resolution largely echoes the Administration’s own stated positions.
Washington had hoped that signaling its intention to veto such a resolution would force the Palestinians and their Arab backers to hold it back. But they went ahead and placed it on the Council’s agenda (a vote is unlikely for a few more weeks), putting the U.S. on the spot. After all, the Obama Administration has demanded that Israel end settlement construction to allow peace talks to go forward. After a 10-month partial moratorium expired last September, Israel resumed vigorous construction, and has resisted pressure from Washington for any further freeze. U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said on Wednesday that the U.S. opposed bringing the settlement issue to the Council “because such action moves us no closer to a goal of a negotiated final settlement” and could even undermine progress toward it. But that argument is unlikely to convince most of the international community, given the obvious stalemate in the peace process — there are no negotiations under way, and the Palestinians have refused to restart them until Israel halts its settlement construction. Initial responses at the Security Council reflect unanimous international support for the demand that Israel stop building settlements. If a vote were held today, the U.S. would be the only possible nay.
President Obama famously offered Israel a “package” (in return for a freeze on settlement building limited both in time and space) which included a guarantee that the USA would not fail to veto UNSC resolutions unfavorable to Israel. Israel rejected the offer. Obama is therefore not merely FREE to VOTE IN FAVOR of the resolution but OBLIGATED TO DO SO since the resolution merely asks Israel to do what the USA already asked Israel to do.
If Obama vetoes this resolution, his offer to Israel will be seen as a sham and his request to Israel to cease building will also be seen as a sham.
We’ll see how strong the Lobby still is, won’t we? Who is the government of the USA, anyway?
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly states that transfer of population to occupied territory is illegal under international law. Despite this, about 500,000 Israeli settlers live illegally on occupied Palestinian land with the support of Israel’s government. Israeli settlements sever Palestinian communities, damage Palestinian livelihood and violate Palestinian rights. President Obama should support the draft UN Security Council resolution reaffirming the illegality of Israeli settlements and standing against the construction of future settlements. Sign a petition urging him to do so at http://www.aaper.org/notosettlements.