Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, says the U.S. will no longer automatically exercise its veto in the UN Security Council to protect Israel.
In testimony before the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Power specifically declined to rule out support for resolutions on Palestinian statehood or the "peace process." "We will look to see what will advance Israel's security and what will advance peace in the region... Our objective as an administration is what can we do to defuse tensions, what will it take to get those negotiations back on track."
When Committee members expressed skepticism, she replied, "We will continue to work extremely closely with Israel in New York. As you know well we have a record of standing when it matters with Israel."
When, exactly, does it matter? Who decides? Apparently not Israel.
Amb. Power's testimony may have completed the transition of the U.S. from Israel's ally in its quest for legitimacy and security in the historic homeland of the Jewish people, to an arbiter between Israel and those who seek to erase it. Amb. Power appears also to have completed the transition of Israel -- in the eyes of the U.S. government -- from the party whose legitimacy and permanence in the Middle East remains challenged by all but Egypt and Jordan, to the country that bears an obligation to "fix" the problems that animate its enemies.
Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, recently stated that the U.S. will no longer automatically exercise its veto in the UN Security Council to protect Israel. (Image source: Center for Strategic & International Studies)
The "peace process," first codified in the Oslo Accords, commits Israel and the Palestinians to resolve differences bilaterally, not through the dictates of a third party or organization. No one thought it would be easy, but successive U.S. administrations ensured that the UN -- which Israel finds hopelessly biased against its interests -- would not have veto power or enforcement power. Now it may. Power and the U.S. have thrown in the towel on an issue that "matters" to Israel.
In 2014, the Palestinians stepped out of Oslo and joined a number of UN bodies and commissions, including several for which the PA would immediately be deemed ineligible if the UN were a serious institution -- particularly as the Palestinian Authority (PA) is in, at least on paper, a "unity government" with Hamas.
Conventions "on the involvement of children in armed conflict," "against torture," "on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women," "against corruption," and "on the international covenant on civil and political rights" have been signed by representatives of a corrupt, dictatorial regime that violates all of them.
In a more consequential move, at the end of 2014, the Palestinians filed to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), and are set to become a member this month. The Obama Administration opposed both sets of actions and a large bipartisan majority of the Senate supports a cutoff of U.S. funding to the PA if it supports an ICC war crimes investigation of Israel. But assured of overwhelming votes in the General Assembly, and fairly certain of Security Council support if the U.S. does not exercise its veto, PA officials claim the Palestinians have a right to international representation regardless of U.S. disapproval or the language of Oslo.
Amb. Power, now, appears to agree. But Israel can no longer be assured that the U.S. will support either a key provision of Oslo, or its own position: that internationalization of the conflict by the Palestinians is a mistake, and an affront to American diplomacy. She is, in this, a faithful representative of the current administration.
The President has expressed his belief that Israel is a secure party to whom, perhaps, this should not matter. While Hamas was firing rockets into civilian communities across the Jewish State last summer, the President said:
"I don't worry about Israel's survival. ... I think the question really is how does Israel survive? And how can you create a State of Israel that maintains its democratic and civic traditions? How can you preserve a Jewish state that is also reflective of the best values of those who founded Israel? And, in order to do that, it has consistently been my belief that you have to find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians... You [Israel] have to recognize that they have legitimate claims, and this is their land and neighborhood as well."
And this, in turn, reflects Secretary of State Kerry's apparent belief that Israel's prosperity is an impediment to "peace." On a visit to Israel in May 2013, he said, "I think there is an opportunity [for peace], but for many reasons it's not on the tips of everyone's tongue. People in Israel aren't waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow if there will be peace because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity."
Kerry appears not to think peace "mattered" to Israel.
A year ago, Secretary Kerry told an audience at the White House, "One of the lynchpins of the peace process is the separation of Israel's security assurances from the general negotiations." Security for Israel would be guaranteed in a "separate agreement" with the U.S., he said. This, of course, would spell the end of the promise to Israel of UN Resolution 242, in which the Arab states were handed the obligation to provide Israel with "secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force," and "termination of all claims or states of belligerency."
UN Resolution 242, apparently, is another one of those things that doesn't "matter."
Amb. Power's comments appear to be a full and faithful rendering of the policies of her boss at the State Department and his boss in the White House: when they find something that "matters" to them, they will do what they think is appropriate. What matters to Israel, however, seems to be a different issue altogether.