After last Thursday’s State Department Press Conference in which spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that the US would not support Jordan’s proposed UN Security Council resolution calling for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, it appeared for a few brief minutes that the issue had been put to rest. On Friday, however, Foreign Policy Magazine reported that Kerry had privately told EU representatives that his current goal is only to delay the Security Council vote until after the Israeli elections in March, so as not to “strengthen the hands of Israeli hardliners who oppose the peace process.”
The text of the resolution proposed last week began by ignoring the Palestinian Authority’s two rejections of comprehensive peace agreements, in 2000 and in 2008, and putting all of the blame for the current state of affairs on Israel:
Reaffirming the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and recalling its resolutions 446 (1979), 452(1979) and 465 (1980), determining, inter alia, that the the policies and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the MiddleEast . . . .
It then went on to call for Israel’s demographic destruction through returning so-called Palestinian refugees into Israel, by referencing UN Resolution 194 (III), as well as to call for a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem and for the unrestricted opening of Gaza’s borders. Amendments currently being proposed appear only to be making it more slanted against Israel.
Any language in text of the resolution pertaining to negotiations is clearly no more than a pretense. Abbas has made plain repeatedly, through his statements as well as his behavior, that he will “never give up an ounce of Palestinians’ demands.” As the proposal calls for Israeli withdrawal within a specified time frame, moreover, there is no reason for Palestinians to actually negotiate or to concede anything at all; all they must do is wait for the allotted time to expire and then demand Israeli withdrawal. This proposal merely rewards Palestinians for their past and continuing intransigence. As long as the proposed resolution includes this type of demand for Israeli withdrawal regardless of Palestinian actions and regardless of whether the Palestinians make any progress on issues from accepting the Jewish state to implementing a functional government, there is no alternative draft or amendment process that could possibly make it acceptable.
And yet, even while stating that it did “not support” this particular draft, the State Department left open the possibility of supporting another resolution in the future. In Thursday’s State Department Press Conference, Jen Psaki’s statements were entirely consistent with the leaked message reported by Foreign Policy, that is, that the State Department is merely trying to delay until a more opportune time (with emphasis added):
QUESTION [from Said Arikat]: Now if you are – if you say that you are in agreement with the UN resolution pertaining to Israel and pertaining to the occupation and all these things, why would you oppose a call to end the occupation? . . . Why is that objectionable?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s not exactly what I said or what I’ve ever said. But I think what we’ve been clear about, to Brad’s earlier question, is that there are – without speculating what it may be, there are many different options here and many different ideas and potential proposals out there. So we have historically supported proposals in the past, and we’re not ruling out that option. I’m just talking about this specific resolution.
. . . .
QUESTION: If this thing comes up in January when the Security Council changes – on January 1 many members will come, and I think that the – whatever Palestinian proposal is submitted at the time is likely to gain a great deal of support, including probably your allies, France and Britain and others. Are you willing to sort of oppose all European allies on this issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s highly speculative and hypothetical, Said. I think, one, as I mentioned before, the Palestinians are not pushing for a vote right now. I don’t know where they’ll be in January. As you may know, there are some UN Security Council resolutions that are put forward and voted on within 24 hours and some draft resolutions that are discussed for months. We don’t know what the path forward will be in this case.
QUESTION: I just want to be clear. With – is the Secretary – he’s spoken about looking at different options and he’s open to talking about the – but would he prefer that none of this happens before the Israeli election? Does he believe that this should be done after the election?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Secretary doesn’t think that it’s – and he spoke to this yesterday, that there should be a – any steps that interfere with. Now there are many ways, forms that could take, and I’m not going to spell that out more specifically for you. He does believe and we do believe that if you do some kind of terms of reference in a Security Council resolution, that would be not what we would consider a unilateral step in the conventional sense of the term. So that’s not, obviously, where we are at this point. But he is discussing a range of options with the parties.
So, she’s not ruling out the possibility of supporting another resolution in the future. She’s not willing to say that Kerry would oppose France and Britain if they supported a resolution, and the main concern right now is that they should not take any steps that would “interfere with” the upcoming Israeli election. Unfortunately, Psaki’s statements were entirely consistent with Kerry’s reported comments to the EU.
It’s worth noting, as well, that artificially postponing a major vote at the UN, with the intent of benefiting a specific political party or parties, could also be construed as being the very definition of interference in Israel’s upcoming election. President Obama has made plain that he would like to see a more left-wing government in power in Israel, and managing the timing of this vote in this manner could easily be construed as another attempt to manipulate the Israeli public.
In contrast to the State Department, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer show us what a strong and clear statement ought to look like. In a joint letter from the two Senators to Secretary Kerry, they write:
There are multiple efforts in the United Nations Security Council to set parameters for final status negotiations, effectively imposing terms on our ally Israel in matters that are vital to its security and national interests. We strongly urge you to make clear to all parties that the United States strongly opposes, and if need be will veto, any effort to bypass direct negotiations and impose peace terms on Israel through the United Nations. A failure to decisively announce that we will veto any resolution from the United Nations that dictates the peace process runs counter to decades of American foreign policy and only gives momentum to these counterproductive proposals.
A similar bipartisan statement came from members of the House of Representatives, as well.
While high-ranking Democratic and Republican Senators and Representatives can agree that a decisive announcement of an intent to veto any effort to bypass negotiations is called for, John Kerry obfuscates and plays politics with Israel’s safety and security. The State Department spokeswoman’s comments are entirely vague and disingenuous, leaving the door open to further attacks on our supposed ally, once the danger of lending support to its current Prime Minister is resolved.
But yet again, Palestinians can’t miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The punchline of the whole saga, is that while Kerry’s delays seem calculated to help the Palestinians by allowing the vote to come up at what would be a more opportune time for them, they have now stated that they refuse to accept any delay and will continue to attempt to move the vote forward. I can’t wait to see what happens next.