In the preliminaries for Thursday’s U.N. General Assembly vote on granting Palestine the right to be called “Palestine” at several U.N. agencies, and to gain equal footing there with the Vatican, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice delivered a fairly short speech that I could have written for her.
If I had been asked to craft a 650-word U.N. speech for Rice that would meet every requirement of an AIPAC-approved document, it would have sounded remarkably like that delivered by the ambassador. Had former U.N. ambassador John Bolton delivered the speech, there would have been more inflammatory adjectives, but 97% of the speech would have been the same. Here’s what Rice said:
For decades, the United States has worked to help achieve a comprehensive end to the long and tragic Arab-Israeli conflict. We have always been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve: two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.
That remains our goal, and we therefore measure any proposed action against that clear yardstick: will it bring the parties closer to peace or push them further apart? Will it help Israelis and Palestinians return to negotiations or hinder their efforts to reach a mutually acceptable agreement? Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it.
The backers of today’s resolution say they seek a functioning, independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel. So do we.
But we have long been clear that the only way to establish such a Palestinian state and resolve all permanent-status issues is through the crucial, if painful, work of direct negotiations between the parties. This is not just a bedrock commitment of the United States. Israel and the Palestinians have repeatedly affirmed their own obligations under existing agreements to resolve all issues through direct negotiations, which have been endorsed frequently by the international community. The United States agrees—strongly.
Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade. And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded.
The United States therefore calls upon both the parties to resume direct talks without preconditions on all the issues that divide them. And we pledge that the United States will be there to support the parties vigorously in such efforts.
The United States will continue to urge all parties to avoid any further provocative actions—in the region, in New York, or elsewhere.
We will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies or treaties that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated, including Palestinian statehood. And, we will continue to stand up to every effort that seeks to delegitimize Israel or undermine its security.
Progress toward a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall. Nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground.
For this reason, today’s vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for U.N. membership. It does not. This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.
The United States believes the current resolution should not and cannot be read as establishing terms of reference. In many respects, the resolution prejudges the very issues it says are to be resolved through negotiation, particularly with respect to territory. At the same time, it virtually ignores other core questions such as security, which must be solved for any viable agreement to be achieved.
President Obama has been clear in stating what the United States believes is a realistic basis for successful negotiations, and we will continue to base our efforts on that approach.
The recent conflict in Gaza is just the latest reminder that the absence of peace risks the presence of war. We urge those who share our hopes for peace between a sovereign Palestine and a secure Israel to join us in supporting negotiations, not encouraging further distractions. There simply are no short cuts.
Long after the votes have been cast, long after the speeches have been forgotten, it is the Palestinians and the Israelis who must still talk to each other—and listen to each other—and find a way to live side by side in the land they share.
Rather than parse this boilerplate bullshit, I’ll concentrate on a few reactions to Rice’s statement from the far right.
The National Review:
[Ambassador Rice] is entirely correct. However, words are insufficient. The U.S. must send a message to the Palestinians and the U.N. that actions have consequences.
The American Spectator:
After the UN General Assembly voted to raise the Palestinian Authority’s status from an observer entity to a non-member observer state, Susan Rice delivered a particularly strong pro-Israel statement in opposition to the resolution.
Yes, Rice has voted against anti-Israel resolutions before but has done so with very little enthusiasm as was the case when she voted against a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israeli settlements in February 2011. Despite her opposition to the resolution, she spent most of her speech calling Israeli settlements illegitimate.
So why has Rice changed her tune? Well, of course, to mollify opposition to her becoming the next Secretary of State should President Obama choose to appoint her. I’m not sure a single forceful pro-Israeli statement will be enough to overcome her statements on Benghazi but it could certainly help her with Senators who are sitting on the fence.
Had Rice not been under pressure about the Benghazi horse shit, she would have said exactly the same.
The National Review article linked to above speculates:
The vote will almost certainly lead the Palestinian Authority to seek membership in U.N. specialized agencies, as it did last year with UNESCO. It will be particularly hard for those specialized agencies that include the Vatican among their membership, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Telecommunication Union, to deny the Palestinians membership, because the Holy See is also a U.N. non-member state observer. The most significant impediment to Palestinian-membership efforts in other specialized agencies is the threat of losing U.S. funding, which means that the U.S. must maintain and enforce current law that prohibits funding international organizations that grant membership to the Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority will also likely seek to either join the International Criminal Court (ICC) or ask the organization to revisit the ICC prosecutor’s conclusion earlier this year that he does not have the authority to initiate an investigation because the issue of Palestinian statehood is in question.
The U.S. should communicate to the ICC that its decisions on these matters will influence future U.S. cooperation with that organization. [emphasis added]
It might be easier for the U.S. to communicate with the ICC, if we were a member. We are not, and Obama has made no indication that status will change. His staff is probably spending more time trying to steer the Bradley Manning court case away from bringing out more on the soldier’s torture and who knew what when, than they are on dealing with the ICC.
But should Susan Rice be Obama’s Secretary of State nominee (I’m not at all convinced he’s going to nominate her), the GOP senators are going to have to eat the words she uttered today. Barbara Boxer, John Kerry and Dick Durban will relish shoving it down their throats, and adding to their AIPAC-related PAC coffers, for their blind service to another country.
That country is not Palestine, though.