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Posted at 8:41 AM ET, 01/20/2011

What will Obama do at the U.N.?

By Jennifer Rubin

It takes a bit of detective work to figure out where President Obama is going on his Israel policy. Peace talks have stalled, but his secretary of state has rebuffed calls for an imposed peace and for unilateral declaration of the Palestinian state. Meanwhile, the Palestinians, fresh from walking out of peace talks and rejecting the idea that will they need to recognize a "Jewish state," are preparing another condemnation of Israel for the U.N. Security Council. So what is Obama going to do -- veto or go along?

Clue #1: The usual crowd of Israel bashers has sent the president a letter urging him to go along with a U.N. resolution condemning Israel for its settlements. But, oddly, not a single signatory from the ever-anxious-to-bash Israel crowd at J Street. It's a bit strange considering that the group itself has excoriated Israel for building not only in the West Bank but in its own capital. A perceptive observer reminds me that J Street, more than its left-wing agenda, has devoted itself to being Obama's "blocking back." In other words, J Street isn't going to get on the opposite side of this issue from its beloved president.

Clue #2: Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and sixteen Senate colleagues have also written to the president. They urge the opposite course:

We are very concerned about reports that the Palestinian Authority is drafting a resolution intended for consideration at the United Nations Security Council regarding issues that have been and should continue to be pursued through direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, namely borders and settlements. We believe such a move hurts the prospects for a peace agreement and is not in the interest of the United States.

We strongly urge you to make clear that the United States will veto such a resolution if it is raised at the Council, and to clearly communicate United States' intent to do so to other Security Council members. . . .

Attempts to use a venue such as the United Nations, which you know has a long history of hostility toward Israel, to deal with just one issue in the negotiations, will not move the two sides closer to a two-state solution, but rather damage the fragile trust between them.

Now, do we think the signatories to Gillibrand's letter, including prominent Democrats, would have taken this step without some clear indication from the administration as to which way it was leaning?

Take it to the bank: Obama will veto the U.N. resolution, signaling once again that an American president cannot follow the agenda of the far-left (in this case joined by a hodge-podge of Republican Israel bashers who've been out of power for a generation) and expect to protect America's vital interests.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 20, 2011; 8:41 AM ET
Categories:  Israel  
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Also helpful is that so many other priorities dominate the Security Council agenda, although Brazil does follow Bosnia in the rotating UNSC presidency. Time for a U.S. State dinner for Brazil, complete with an announcement that the unfair import tariff on Brazilian sugar ethanol is finally ending (another indefensible add-on to the extension of Bush43 tax cuts).

The UNSC and the UN are truly being tested with their impotence in impacting peaceful transfer of power following elections in Ivory Coast, and the collapse of governments in Tunisia and Lebanon.

Is it possible that UN membership might just be getting tired of the whining Palestinians on the dole? How will it look if the UN can not raise the $51M they say they need for flood victims in Sri Lanka when the PA's GDP is so dependent on foreign aid > $1BIL every year. One would hope that all the other post-colonial countries would start seeing the palestinians as the ultimate global welfare kings: drinking lattes in Ramallah and driving (used) Mercedes in Gaza.

Is Senator Kirsten Gillibrand being groomed as Obama's next VP? She certainly has been out in front of the cameras on everything since the midterms.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 20, 2011 9:14 AM | Report abuse

what a marvellous breath of fresh air.

Posted by: razor2 | January 20, 2011 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Interesting idea about Sen. Gillibrand, K2K2. I think she has eyes on Obama's chair come 2016 or 2020.

How would you go about resolving the 'welfare' status of the Palestinians, BTW?

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Our daily dose of Israeli propaganda courtesy of the so called "conservative American" blogger.

Posted by: wpost16 | January 20, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I think Obama is through tormenting Israel for the rest of his term. The Palies badly misplayed their hand, as always, and with next year's election looming political considerations will outweigh Obama's leftwing hostility toward Israel.

Posted by: eoniii | January 20, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Surprise! J Street has decided it is even more American and enlightened than the person for whom it is supposed to be acting as "blocking back," in addition to being more pro-Israel than Israelis or the Israeli government. J Street has officially come out in favor of the UN Resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

Will hubris finally sink that ship?

Posted by: lorilowenthalmarcus | January 20, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Not a great piece from you Jennifer. As always, you overlook all the inconvenient facts.

To begin with, J street has already stated it's position that the US should not veto the UN Resolution.

Secondly, no state has formally recognised Israel as a Jewish State and even Nenetyahu has backed away from such an absurd demand. Recognition after all, has to be mutual, thought those of the Imperialist mindset have always taken the word “negotiation” to mean capitulation and surrender.

Thirdly, Netenyahu already admired he was powerless to stop the settlement expansion, which are the very cornerstone of negotiations. With Bibbi powerless to discuss the settlements, what does that leave to negotiate?

The settlements are a violation of the 4th Geneva Convection and contrary to US policy, as Obama expressed in his Cauiro speech. It is hardly a case of Israeli bashing therefore to state the obvious and condemn them.

Let's face it Jennifer. Negotiations have failed fro 43 years and you know what they say about insanity and expecting a different outcome?

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 20, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

MsJS asked: "How would you go about resolving the 'welfare' status of the Palestinians, BTW?"

Start with folding UNRWA into UNHCR. yeah, pipe dream, but there are rumblings in the EU and US Congress to stop funding the PA. (One of the few benefits of the financial meltdown.)

When one thinks of the tens of millions of refugees in the world, it is long overdue that the Palestinians who are official refugees merely because they are descended from the original 'refugees' be cut loose and forced to work for a living.

Gaza has had five years to turn itself into the Singapore of the Mediterranean with nicer beaches, offshore natural gas, and what did they do? Enable Hamas to dominate the economy into one devoted to launching rockets into Israel and exporting hate.

Singapore is a de facto dictatorship, but look at what they accomplished.

Sometimes I think the only solution for Israel is to mass convert to Buddhism, declare themselves part of Tibet, and invite China to come in and occupy all of "Palestine". That would stop the Muslim whining in a heartbeat.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 20, 2011 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Ah, you spoke too soon. As Haaretz reports today

Also referring to the possible UN condemnation of Israel's settlement activities, dovish U.S. advocacy group J Street said that "as a pro-Israel organization and as Americans, we advocate for what we believe to be in the long-term interests of the state of Israel and of the United States"."

"Ongoing settlement expansion runs counter to the interests of both countries and against commitments Israel itself has made," a J Street statement said.

The J Street statement added that the draft UN resolution "introduced in the United Nations Security Council this week condemns Israel’s ongoing settlement activity and calls on both parties to continue negotiating final status issues in an effort to resolve the conflict in the short term," adding that those were "sentiments that we share and that we believe a majority of Jewish Americans and friends of Israel share."

"While we hope never to see the state of Israel publicly taken to task by the United Nations, we cannot support a U.S. veto of a Resolution that closely tracks long-standing American policy and that appropriately condemns Israeli settlement policy," J Street added.

Also commenting on the possible UN condemnation of settlement activities, Americans for Peace Now urged the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to avoid vetoing the resolution, saying that it was "indefensible that the Netanyahu government, heedless of the damage settlement activity does to Israel's own interests and indifferent to the Obama Administration's peace efforts, has not only refused to halt settlement activity but has opened the floodgates, including in the most sensitive areas of East Jerusalem. In this context, the move by the United Nations Security Council to censure Israel's settlement activity should surprise no one."

"Given this context and content, APN calls on the Obama Administration to not veto this resolution in its current form," the rights group added, saying that "vetoing this resolution would conflict with four decades of U.S. policy. It would contribute to the dangerously naive view that Israeli settlement policies do no lasting harm to Israel. "

"And it would send a message to the world that the U.S. is not only acquiescing to Israel's actions, but is implicitly supporting them," the statement said.

Posted by: nhrds | January 20, 2011 8:03 PM | Report abuse

“When one thinks of the tens of millions of refugees in the world, it is long overdue that the Palestinians who are official refugees merely because they are descended from the original 'refugees' be cut loose and forced to work for a living.”

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing with regards to the 3 billion (plus loan guarantees) we give annually to Israel, especially seeing as at least 10% of Israelis choose not to work.

“Gaza has had five years to turn itself into the Singapore of the Mediterranean with nicer beaches, offshore natural gas, and what did they do?”

I don't know of too many societies that have managed to transform themselves into an economic powerhouse while being bombed, blockaded, and strangled by a state that has vowed to drive the place to “collapse”, as the Wikileaks cable revealed.

“Enable Hamas to dominate the economy into one devoted to launching rockets into Israel and exporting hate.”

Seeing as Israel has dumped about 10 times as many ordnance into Gaza, and killed 100 times as many people, what does that tell us about what Israel exports?

“Singapore is a de facto dictatorship, but look at what they accomplished.”

If you've ever been to Singapore you'd probably think differently. No TSA thugs at airports, no FBI raids on your homes, no wiretaps.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 20, 2011 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Shingo1: I have been to Singapore.

your history forgets that Israel withdrew totally from Gaza in 2005, and endured thousands of rockets from Hamas before the blakcade and Cast Lead.

I just read Jon Lee Anderson's story of how the Sinhalese Buddhists of Sri Lanka destroyed the Tamil Tigers. Counter-insurgency that works.

The less than $3BIL USD is military aid and 75% of it has to be spent on U.S. military hardware. Israel would be better off without that strings-attached 'aid', which is part of the peace treaty with Egyt, and then Israel would be able to sell their technologies to China.

Israel has absorbed almost THREE MILLION Jewish refugees from every Muslim majority country, the Falasha of Ethiopia, and every part of the former Soviet Union and Europe and Latin America

without one dollar of United Nations aid.

Only the victimologists who call themselves palestinians get their own special UN agency for refugees and only the palestinians get their descendants into perpetuity as official refugees, the ultimate insult to the world.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 21, 2011 4:06 AM | Report abuse


You said,

"Negotiations have failed for 43 years and you know what they say about insanity and expecting a different outcome?"

Exactly right. They've failed because Palestinian Arabs do not want a state alongside Israel, they want to replace Israel with an Arab state.

They make this apparent every day by the continued hateful incitement in Palestinian media, the veneration of terrorists, the demand for 'right of return' for the descendants of 1948 refugees, and their refusal to admit that Israel -- the part that they don't get in a 2-state agreement -- is a Jewish state.

And this is the US-supported PA! I'm not even talking about Hamas.

Nevertheless the administration keeps pushing the charade of a 'peace process', blaming Israel for its perennial failure, and demanding more and more concessions -- from Israel.

Now THAT'S insanity.

Posted by: FresnoZionism | January 21, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

The usual Neocon attitude. Any criticism of Israeli policies and you're an anti-semite.

What a useless, lazy, low-information column.

Posted by: polaris11 | January 21, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Right, because anyone who disagrees with Rubin is an "Israel basher." Apparently no one is allowed to have differing views on foreign policy, particularly concerning the Mideast. Jennifer has turned her new home here at the WaPo into a place where differing viewpoints are maligned as anti-Israel, un-American, pro-terrorist, etc. Rather than thoughtful commentary, Jennifer spouts predictable talking points in order to amplify the already-deafening right wing echo chamber.

Honestly Jennifer, could you dumb down the conversation any more? I don't think so.

Posted by: Stacyx | January 21, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who doesn't think Israel has the complete right to seize as much territory as it wants and kill as many civilians as it wants is an Anti-Semite that hates Jews and agreed with Hitler. Isn't it obvious?

Posted by: maurban | January 21, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

One of the notable differences between this paper and Ha'aretz is that criticism of Israeli government policy is far more common and acceptable in the latter than in the former.

Posted by: bernielatham | January 21, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I am glad to see that my comment has just disappeared, I can only guess that I was spot on my description of the israeli far-right, their US apologists, the self-proclaimed representative entities that can keep themselves trying to silence any dissent voice to their agenda.

Posted by: Sensi23 | January 21, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Dear Detective Sherlock Rubin:

This is not “ever-anxious-to-bash Israel crowd” as you flippantly state, but a group that recognizes that America’s interests are not always the same as Israel’s interests. When America’s interests are different than the interests of Israel, we must not allow the tail to wag the dog.

The Jacobinic Likudniks in charge in Israel don’t desire an agreement because the Likudniks would rather continue to steal land from the Palestinians. The Likudniks and zionists will continue the land grabbing until the nation of Israel has expanded from river to river – from the Nile to the Euphrates. This has been made clearer by the recently released Palestine Papers.

The Jewish citizens of Israel and the Palestinian citizens in the Middle East will be astounded when they understand what has been offered by the Palestinian negotiators and rebuffed by the zionist and Likudniks.

The United States has allowed passage of UNSC resolutions in the past relevant to the Middle East and it is now time to do so again. The Likudniks and zionists need a signal that they need to rethink their strategy.

Posted by: freddane | January 25, 2011 6:17 PM | Report abuse

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