The Obama Administration has tried to distinguish itself from its predecessor by seeking to work with the international community rather than outside of it. The problem it encounters, though, is that when it comes to Israel, the international community pulls in one direction and Congress, under pressure from pro-Israel PACs, pulls in the other.
So, in the matter of the upcoming UNSC resolution condemning Israeli settlements, the Obama administration will veto the resolution, but would very much prefer it doesn’t come to that. So, they’re making an offer to the Palestinians (at whose behest the resolution was brought and who, if they gavce the word, can easily have it withdrawn).
The offer was reported in Foreign Policy tonight: “Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, outlined the new U.S. offer in a closed door meeting on Tuesday with the Arab Group, a bloc of Arab countries from North Africa and the Middle East. In exchange for scuttling the Palestinian resolution, the United States would support the council statement, consider supporting a U.N. Security Council visit to the Middle East, the first since 1979, and commit to supporting strong language criticizing Israel’s settlement policies in a future statement by the Middle East Quartet.”
The offer as presented is rather vague. The US would “consider” supporting a UNSC visit to the Mideast (which would be symbolic and accomplish nothing) and would commit to “strong language” from the Quartet on settlements, which could mean anything.
The statement the UNSC would make instead of the resolution would have “the Security Council “express[ing] its strong opposition to any unilateral actions by any party, which cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community, and reaffirms, that it does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, which is a serious obstacle to the peace process.” The statement also condemns “all forms of violence, including rocket fire from Gaza, and stresses the need for calm and security for both peoples.”
In fact, this would be a bad compromise for the Palestinians to accept. It would mean a formal UNSC statement accepting the American language on settlements in place of the flat illegality of them, which is the UNSC position (officially, the US position as well, though no American official has actually uttered anything close to that in decades).
Thus far, the Palestinians are holding fast. They should. Currying favor with the US has proven to be a failed strategy for them. While they should not spit in the Americans’ faces (they are not in the position to do that, like Israel is), it is to their benefit to show the US that it can make something uncomfortable for them. At least they can start demonstrating that it will not help the USA cover up its hypocrisy with regard to their issue.
Whether the Palestinians will hold fast to this position remains to be seen. But the “deal” the US is offering is certainly not worth their withdrawing the resolution. There will apparently be a meeting on Friday about this. If the Americans up their offer, maybe it will be worth it, but as it stands now, they’re offering the Palestinians the price of a twenty-year old Volkswagen for a brand new BMW. If the Abbas government has any pride left, they’ll keep turning it down.