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Obama Administration Uses Veto Power for First Time at the United Nations Against…The Palestinians! *UPDATED*

February 18, 2011

Well, needless to say, this is an issue where I respectfully disagree with President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice. The fact is, the settlements are illegal and the Palestinians should have the right to request some accountability, even if only symbolic. The illegal expansion has been going on for decades and there is a reason for that.

The U.S. argument that the resolution, which basically is a reiteration of US policy, “hurts” the peace process is just another excuse out of many to provide cover for Israel’s intransigence. Perhaps one of the reasons Israel continues building illegal settlements despite our “concern” is because it knows it will never have to be held accountable in any meaningful way?

Another interesting thing is that while the US and the world have long held that the settlements beyond the ’67 borders are illegal, for the last 10 years or so the U.S. has shied away from using the word “illegal” when discussing them. Instead, they use words like “unhelpful,” “unfortunate,” “obstacles.” Words have meaning and if the U.S. position on settlements has really changed (they continually claim it hasn’t) then they need to come out and say that the U.S. no longer deems them illegal. But the government won’t do that because we want to have our cake and eat it too- we want to claim we oppose the settlements ((because we know under international law they clearly are illegal)) all the while enabling their continuation due to political pressure here at home.

From Haaretz:

The United States on Friday voted against a United Nations Security Council draft resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlements as illegal. The veto by the U.S., a permanent council member, prevented the resolution from being adopted.

The other 14 Security Council members voted in favor of the draft resolution. But the U.S., as one of five permanent council members with the power to block any action by the Security Council, struck it down.

The resolution had nearly 120 co-sponsors, exclusively Arab and other non-aligned nations.

The Obama administration’s veto is certain to anger Arab countries and Palestinian supporters around the world.

The U.S. opposes new Israeli settlements but says taking the issue to the UN will only complicate efforts to resume stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on a two-state solution.

Palestinians say continued settlement building flouts the internationally-backed peace plan that will permit them to create a viable, contiguous state on the land after a treaty with Israel to end its occupation and 62 years of conflict.

As usual, we are the only member blocking the resolution from passing.

This is a great message to be sending to the Arab world right about now.

I’m just wondering, what rights, exactly, do the Palestinians have? They don’t have the right to peaceful assembly or protest, they don’t have any legal protections when Israel’s security service takes their children into custody, holding them for weeks in an undisclosed location for “interrogation” (some as young as 10) to deter their Palestinian parents from protesting the Occupation, they certainly don’t have the right to self defense and they don’t have the right to have their concerns addressed in any international forum because it is always labeled as “unhelpful” or “anti-Israel” or an attempt to “delegitimize.”

Also, at this stage, the idea that the resolution hurts the peace process is preposterous. What hurts the peace process is illegal settlements expanding every day in order to change the facts on the ground in Israel’s favor. What hurts the peace process is the understandable belief on the part of the Palestinian people and the Arab world, that the U.S. is incapable of being an honest broker in this process.

I don’t know if these reports are true, but some are saying Obama threatened consequences/repercussions for the Palestinian Authority if they went through with bringing the resolution to the Security Council. So, let me get this straight- Israel building illegal settlements = no consequences from the U.S. but the Palestinians drafting a resolution condemning illegal settlements = major consequences from the U.S.? That’s fair.

And remember, this isn’t some abstract concept that is only about land. More often then not, when settlements go up, it means that the Palestinians living on the land have to be forcibly removed, their homes bulldozed and they are rendered homeless. Sometimes the MSM forgets to mention that when they discuss the settlement issue. When people’s homes are bulldozed, their personal effects destroyed and they are publicly humiliated, it creates an environment that is ripe for extremism, which certainly isn’t good for Israel’s security. It’s interesting how when we talk about our commitment to Israel’s security we don’t talk about these most basic things.

This is a human rights issue.

UPDATE: During a conference call yesterday this is what Ambassador Rice said about the legality of the settlements:

…the United States has not characterized settlement activity as illegal since, I believe, 1980…

Well then, the two state solution is dead. Sorry Palestinians, international law doesn’t apply to you.

So according to the U.S., international law should be selectively interpreted and applied based on domestic politics, at different points of time. The settlements were illegal prior to 1980 then they suddenly became illegal after 1980? I’m sure that has nothing to do with lobbying from AIPAC etc. right? As we saw at the Security Council, the entire world, except the U.S. and Israel (and maybe Kyrzygstan) believe the settlements are in fact illegal. So once again, the US and Israel stand alone in our selective interpretation of international law. No wonder Israel keeps building settlements, the only nation that matters to Israel (the U.S.) is saying Israel has no legal obligation to stop building them. And if the settlements are NOT illegal under international law, then in effect there is no de jure occupation, because the occupation is based on international law and the 1967 boundaries. But the US is essentially saying that we don’t recognize that and as a result, that means that Israel has every right to be building in  East Jerusalem because, hey, there’s no occupation and settlements are legal! If that’s the case, then the U.S. is also saying that any Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem are invalid and the only way they will get even an inch of East Jerusalem (and they likely won’t get even that) is if the Israelis feel like “giving” them some of their legal land.

See where this is going? Read in this light, it all makes sense now. The Palestine Papers fill in the gaps- Despite alleged overly-generous concessions from the Palestinians on almost every issue including East Jerusalem, the US and Israel still said “nope, sorry, not enough.” And why? Because the US and Israel have no intention of accepting a plan that includes East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state because, well, those settlements are legal!

UPDATE II: Bibi Netanyahu told Barack Obama he “deeply appreciates” the U.S. veto of the anti-settlement resolution. Well, that makes it all worth it!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Thain permalink
    February 18, 2011 8:07 pm

    Frustrating. Disgraceful. Self-defeating.

    This admin. is starting to look like a pandering paper tiger. Bibi has run circles around Obama and made him look like an ass.

    I just saw Hillary is calling the settlements “illegitimate”- so we can’t use the word “illegal” anymore because it will make the I-Lobby cry?

    The Arab world doesn’t accept the US as an objective party in this because we are not.

    So when other countries violate international law we’ll afford them the same treatment? Nah!

  2. tiffy permalink
    February 18, 2011 9:20 pm

    The reality is Obama would definitely be a one term president if he voted in favor. No one group has more power in US than the Jewish.

    • Tovah permalink
      February 18, 2011 9:33 pm

      There are a lot of groups that have tremendous influence, not just”the Jewish.”

      The Israel lobby is very inclusive and is made up of more than Jews- a lot of far right Christians are some of Israel’s most knee-jerk supporters, albeit for totally self-serving reasons.

      I will say though that I wish the liberal members of the Jewish community would step up to the plate and support this administrations efforts to secure a lasting peace. Blindly supporting Israel’s dangerous, far-right policies is not being loyal, it’s bring a cowardly, negative influence on an important ally. Israel is driving towards a cliff and the US just stepped on the gas.

  3. Steve permalink
    February 19, 2011 8:59 am

    From the AP:

    he veto was applauded by Jewish organizations and Israel’s supporters in Congress.

    Rep. Howard Berman called it “a bold demonstration” of U.S. support for Israel and for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

    Lets be honest, my fellow Jews talk about support for Mideast peace but what they really mean is the exact opposite- total approval of continued, illegal Israeli expansion. How sad that we’ve become complicit in the racism and total disregard for human rights that has dogged us throughout history.

    The complicity of the Jewish community cannot be understated and anyone who believes in Jewish values, particularly liberal Jewish values (like myself) should be really concerned.

    It’s time that the US MSM stop dividing the world up into two groups- those that are pro-Israel and those who aren’t. They seem to think knee-jerk supporters of everything Israel does equals support. The question should be asked, who cares about Israel. Those of us who are parents don’t want our kids to drive drunk because we know their actions could end up hurting them. But we can still support them. Friends of Israel need to realize that friendship and support means speaking hard truths and telling Israel that their actions are harming their short and long-terms security.

  4. Steve permalink
    February 19, 2011 9:00 am

    One more thing- Berman’s statement is the perfect summary of how ridiculous and hypocritical the Likudnik Congress is- there is no peace process so long as Congress continues to throw it’s support behind Netanyahu’s refusenik policies.

    There IS NO peace process and Berman knows it.

    • February 19, 2011 10:05 am

      I’m beyond disgusted.

      In fact, I am considering a blog hiatus because I really don’t agree with almost anything this administration is doing foreign policy-wise, so if I hold true to my beliefs that means I will be in the constant position of criticizing the administration, something which seems a bit ironic on a blog devoted to the Secy of State.

      I’m not even looking forward to Clinton’s appearance on Amanpour tomorrow because I don’t want to watch her bend and weave and rationalize our policy towards Israel because it’s totally self-defeating and ridiculously hypocritical and biased.

      It’s a human rights issue and I don’t know how someone who stands so firm on human rights can continue to ignore the oppression and abuse of the Palestinians.

      Click on that link I embedded in my post about how Israel abducts little kids to torment their parents- there’s a video at the link. They keep these kids in undisclosed locations, their parents don’t know where they are, they have no attorney present while they are “interrogated” and they are psychologically and in some cases physically abused. This is a clear violation of Geneva. What does the US say? Nothing. What does the MSM say? Nothing. How can anyone talk about the rights of women and children and then ignore THIS, just because it’s Israel doing the abusing?!?

      I’m done.

      • SirJohn permalink
        February 19, 2011 10:40 am

        I know you and I don’t always agree but I applaud your willingness to stand by your beliefs. That said, your mistake in my view was believing that Obama and Hillary Clinton would be anything other than Israel’s poodle. Hillary Clinton kissed Arafat’s wife as First Lady and Jews went nuts. Other than that, Hillary has done nothing and said nothing that shows any meaningful commitment to Palestinian rights. She spent her time as Senator of NY pandering to the most extreme, pro-settlement factions of the Jewish community. She went to Israel and said the separation barrier was just fine and necessary for Israel’s security despite the fact that it annexed 45% of the West Bank. Had the wall been built solely on Israeli land then one could perhaps argue it was for security, but it wasn’t. Hillary knew that. Hillary will say and do whatever it takes to get elected and she knew if she wanted to be Senator from NY and eventually POTUS then she better pander to the Jewish community, which in large part does not support a two state solution if it means ending Israel’s apartheid policies and land grabs.

        Obama now is no different. His speech in Cairo did more harm than good because he told the Arab world he would respect them and he has done nothing of the sort. He has pandered to the Lobby and filled the WH with Lobby stooges like Dennis Ross, Shapiro etc. So has Hillary. There’s not a single person that these people talk to that are pro-Palestinian rights. Everyone has been given a stamp of approval by the Lobby and most of them are Jewish. They are about as objective on Mideast peace as Fox News is objective about politics.

        That link to the story about Israeli security taking Palestinian children into custody to terrorize their parents- that was something that apartheid South Africa did to silence anti-apartheid activists.

        Stacy- you should start another blog- I don’t always agree with you but you are smart and a great writer. You clearly care about things. Don’t waste your time pandering to this administration when they are simply Bush Lite.

        Just my two cents.

  5. Thain permalink
    February 19, 2011 11:02 am

    Israeli activist Joseph Dana reported that peaceful Palestinian protesters in Bil’in were attacked yesterday by Israeli forces with rubber bullets, tear gas and get this- water cannons hooked up to sewage water.

    Where is the MSM? Would one of the Israeli apologists who frequent this site please explain why 1. that is being ignored by the MSM and 2. why is it being ignored by the State dept. and WH while at the same time they express “grave concern” about attacks on peaceful protesters in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen etc?

    Nice double standard. Have you noticed that rock throwing is only considered violence if Palestinian kids do it, even if they are doing it in response to being attacked by gas, rubber bullets and batons etc? Interesting isn’t it? Anyone?

    But there are still some that claim “oh the MSM is so critical of Israel!” Yeah, right. About 99.9% if Americans have no CLUE what goes on in the Occupied Territories and the MSM helps make sure that Americans stay clueless. Why is that? There’s only one reason- they are biased in favor of Israel. The last time Bibi was in the US he said he met with members of Congress, the heads of major Jewish organizations and the heads of media organizations- media organizations? When the premier of China or the German Chancellor comes to the US do they meet behind closed doors with the heads of media organizations?


    • February 19, 2011 12:50 pm

      I agree with you, @Thain, overall. I just don’t know what our Administration is actually doing to stop the brutality in the Middle East, outside of Palestine/Israel either. Saying we are gravely concerned is not meaningful. We are now seeing situations that make Egypt’s former regime appear restrained. Seriously.

      I would like to see threat of sanctions. Doesn’t killing one’s own people while they are peacefully demonstrating, sleeping, trying to provide health care, or mourn one’s dead deserve a threat of sanctions? What is the purpose of the UN if not to confront situations like this?

  6. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    February 19, 2011 12:19 pm

    The President of the American Psychiatric Assocoation has invited Desmond Tutu to be the Keynote speaker at our annual meeting in May. Guess what? There’s been a huge uproar about this, full page ads in professional journals, planned protests, etc because — you guessed it — Tutu is pro-Palestinian and has likened Israel to an apartheid state. Desmond Tutu, an “anti-Semite.” The scales had already fallen from my eyes, thanks to stacy, Thain, and others but if I had still been in denial, this would have shaken me awake.

    • February 19, 2011 1:01 pm

      Although it is impolitic to say, I am guessing that the uproar is being fueled in large part by the Jewish community, although not entirely.

      The fact is, American Jews are about to help Israel sink under the weight of its own contradictions. The tremendous contribution to international human rights and liberal values (as Steve notes above) by the American (and world) Jewish community is being undermined by their support of Israel’s increasing racism and oppression of the Palestinians. And if a two state solution doesn’t come to fruition, and it is increasingly looking like that it will not, don’t think for a minute that when Israel becomes a full-fledged apartheid state that the U.S. will suddenly go “ok, we can’t support this anymore.” No, what will happen is that anyone who calls it what it is will be labeled “anti-Israel” and “anti-Semite” because we have repeatedly shown that the ordinary rules and international law don’t apply to Israel.

      I think we all can appreciate Jewish history and the horrific suffering, genocide and oppression that occurred, but nothing justifies what is currently taking place in the Occupied Territories- but it couldn’t take place unless diaspora Jews supported it. And yes, Christian Zionists also play a large role (see Mike Huckabee and John Hagee).

      We have this discussion at Shabbat dinner quite frequently and it usually ends with someone (*cough* mother-in-law *cough*) getting irrevocably offended. It’s like people have been brainwashed with misinformation. It’s like people are in denial about how unsafe Israel will REALLY be when two states are no longer possible because there are too many settlements to create a contiguous state. Also, it’s just fueling resentment against Israel- watching families get thrown out of their homes and watching their children screaming as it’s happening (not in the MSM of course, but on Israeli and Palestinian blogs) certainly doesn’t leave one with a warm fuzzy feeling about the Middle East’s only democracy.

      The greatest threat to Israel’s security is lies within. Many Israelis understand this. The question is, when will we?

    • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
      February 19, 2011 3:31 pm

      What you said.

  7. Kim permalink
    March 8, 2011 4:03 am

    I just love how the person writing this does not have to give one shred of proof for anything said, and how accusations and rumor are just thrown out without any kind of back up. There is more to this issue than the simpleton that wrote this piece of crap has bothered to go into.

    While I agree the US should not Veto every single censure on Israel, I also believe the Israeli’s have justification for some of their actions. The Arab nations want Israel to cease to exist, and they want to take back all the land inhabited by Israel at this point. Has Israel been a ‘good neighbor’? Of course not, but neither have any of the nations surrounding Israel. If your neighbor’s dog kills your cat and bites your child, you don’t tend to be on best of terms with them. The same is true with Israel and it’s neighbors. All parties involved are wrong on some level, and it would take long term good will gestures by ALL parties to resolve these issues.

    • March 8, 2011 6:54 am

      Then why don’t you point out what is factually incorrect?

      Nowhere did I claim that Israel isn’t treated unfairly by some Arab states, nor did I claim Israel doesn’t have the right to defend itself, but the post was specifically about the U.S. use of it’s veto power to kill a resolution condemning illegal settlements – the resolution is largely in line with U.S. policy. This resolution doesn’t claim Israel doesn’t have the right to exist, it’s narrowly tailored to deal with the issue of settlements.

      Also, perhaps you aren’t aware that the entire Arab League agreed to normalize relations with Israel (diplomatic, economic etc.) if Israel would allow a Palestinian state on the legally recognized 1967 borders- were you aware of that? Israel turned down the offer, preferring instead to continue to illegally expand it’s borders.

      You certainly have a right to your opinion, but why don’t you deal with what I actually said, instead of trotting out worn out talking points that would seem to address issues that I didn’t even raise in my post.

      I can always tell when people don’t know the facts because they respond to every criticism by claiming “but the Arab countries don’t think Israel has the right to exist and wants to wipe them off the face of the earth” while conveniently ignoring repeated efforts by Arab states to normalize relations. Do some Arab states and more significantly, Arab organizations (Hezbollah, for example) wrongly perpetrate violence against Israel? Yes, but again, none of that goes to the subject matter of this post.

  8. February 22, 2013 4:18 pm

    The states just wants to help. That’s what I think.

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