Reports on this started leaking last night, with Bloomberg reporting that U.S. diplomats were shopping around an offer to Arab governments to get them to withdraw their UN resolution condemning Israel for settlement activity. Those reports had the U.S. trading increased pressure on Israel for a withdrawal of the Arab-backed resolution.
Apparently, that didn’t work out, or the initial reports were wrong. This just-posted Foreign Policy article says that Ambassador Susan Rice came back with an even bigger bus under which they could throw Israel, this one carrying the imprimatur of a formal UN Security Council condemnation plus an assortment of other international anti-Israel measures. That offer was, naturally, declined:
The U.S. informed Arab governments Friday that it will support a U.N. Security Council statement reaffirming that the 15-nation body “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” a move aimed at avoiding the prospect of having to veto a stronger Palestinian resolution calling the settlements illegal. But the Palestinian’s rejected the American offer. … [Rice] outlined the new U.S. offer in a closed door meeting on Tuesday with the Arab Group. … [I]n 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.
In a way, this is a natural follow-up to the administration’s bumbling in Egypt, where they managed to alienate all parties in the Middle East except the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, and Iran’s assorted proxies. This gesture won’t win us any lasting goodwill from Arab elites. WikiLeaks showed that they care far more about geopolitical stability than they do about the settlements, such that the spectacle of the White House abandoning a second ally for the second week in a row would be met with worried chagrin, regardless of what they say out loud.
More to the point, and by now out of genuine curiosity: who exactly does the Obama administration envision having as a Middle East ally, say, six months from now? Strategic administration leaks about the Egypt crisis have already signaled a renewed chill in the U.S.-Israeli relationship. U.S. backing for a UN resolution wouldn’t detonate the alliance — military-to-military ties are too strong for that — but it would be the end of cooperation between this White House and this Israeli government, a government that a militarily and now diplomatically besieged Israeli public would rally behind.
And that’s before we get to how our UN mission, representing the world’s only hyperpower, seems to believe that “bargaining” means “getting progressively closer to the other side’s position.” We’re negotiating with the likes of Libya and the Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon over whether we should protect one of our last Middle East allies against a biased UN lynch mob. It’s almost difficult to believe that the Iranians, per J.E. Dyer’s must-read post, are at this very moment literally sailing their way into regional hegemony.