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US Vetoes UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements

At the United Nations, the Obama Administration engaged in their first-ever Security Council veto today, on a resolution that would have declared Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 borders “illegal” and called for an immediate end to construction.

The 14 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution in Friday’s vote.

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

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

UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s pretzel-logic statement doesn’t do this action any favors. She said in a statement, “Our opposition to the resolution before this council today shld not be understood to mean we support settlement activity… we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.” This is the Administration’s stated position on the topic, but they couldn’t formally reject it and in fact vetoed a unanimous resolution today.

Mark Leon Goldberg points to this statement from Hillary Clinton just a month ago:

We are very concerned about the initiation of demolition of the Shepherd’s Hotel in East Jerusalem. This disturbing development undermines peace efforts to achieve the two state-solution. In particular, this move contradicts the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of Jerusalem. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties should mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards its status for people around the world. Ultimately, the lack of a resolution to this conflict harms Israel, harms the Palestinians, and harms the U.S. and the international community. We will continue to press ahead with the parties to resolve the core issues, including Jerusalem, in the context of a peace agreement.

You could say that the US position on the settlements has been the primary driving policy undergirding the whole of Middle East peace talks for two years. Peace talks which are in tatters, by the way, so it’s not worth protecting Israel from this resolution to revive something that doesn’t exist.

This comes on the same day that the President offered very muted criticism for massacres in three Arab countries, where autocrats repressed their own people. It would be hard for anyone in the Arab world today not to make a connection between that and the UN veto today. This, as much as the consequences of reversing these two actions, harms US national security.

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David Dayen

David Dayen