Elliott Abrams called the Obama administration’s handling of its UN veto a “manifest failure of American diplomacy.” It left virtually everyone angry at the United States — the Palestinians and Arabs because of the veto and Israel’s supporters because of Susan Rice’s intemperate statement on it. It left observers appalled as the administration tried to replace an anti-Israel resolution with an anti-Israel presidential statement and then issued an anti-Israel ambassadorial statement. Abrams called the language in Rice’s statement “amazing” for a diplomat: “folly,” “illegitimacy,” “devastates,” “corroded,” etc.
It was not necessary for Rice to address the merits of the resolution, since there were multiple procedural reasons to veto it: (a) final status issues are to be negotiated, not resolved at the UN; (b) such issues are to be negotiated together, not individually; and (c) the U.S. traditionally vetoes one-sided UN resolutions without reference to their merits. You don’t single out settlements as an alleged “obstacle to peace” without also mentioning the Palestinian ones: the failure to dismantle terrorist groups (one of them rules Gaza); an unelected “Authority” without the legitimacy to speak for the people; the unwillingness to recognize a Jewish state even in a final agreement; the insistence on indefensible borders; the assertion of a deal-breaking “right of return,” and so on.
Rice not only addressed the merits of the resolution, but sided with the Palestinians — creating the impression the U.S. believed they were right but lacked the courage to raise its hand to support them. It created exactly what Robert Satloff warned against: a mixed message resulting in the “worst of all possible scenarios.” It also reflected extraordinary diplomatic impotence — with the Palestinian rejection of a direct presidential request to withdraw their resolution. It is hard to remember the last time anyone achieved the trifecta of offending each side while embarrassing oneself in the process.
Wait a minute – I do remember. It was when the administration promised Israel a package of benefits to extend its settlement moratorium for 60 or 90 days; then balked at putting the promises in writing; and then withdrew the offer after determining the Palestinians would not come to the table even if Israel extended the moratorium. Before that was the time Obama visited Saudi Arabia to seek a move toward normalizing relations with Israel and came away empty-handed; then sent his secretary of state to the Council on Foreign Relations to plead publicly with Arab states to take some steps, “however modest,” toward normalization — which produced nothing again; and then pressed Israel for unilateral steps that were supposed to have been reciprocal.
Last year the administration erupted against Israel for approving Jewish housing in a Jewish area of the Jewish capital, resulting in a 43-minute call from the secretary of state to Israel’s prime minister demanding “specific action” by Israel to demonstrate it was “committed to this relationship” with the United States. This year, the president himself made a 50-minute call to Mahmoud Abbas, personally requesting withdrawal of the proposed UN resolution; after failing, he sent his ambassador out to mitigate his veto by castigating Israel.
He didn’t join the jackals; he simply put the U.S. on record as endorsing their views, in language he hoped they would appreciate.