Obama’s U.N. Mistake
Anne Bayefsky - May 15, 2009
Eye on the UN
In advance of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States on Monday, President Obama unveiled a new strategy for throwing Israel to the wolves. It takes the form of enthusiasm for the United Nations and international interlopers of all kinds. Instead of ensuring strong American control over the course of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or the Arab-Israeli peace process, the Obama administration is busy inserting an international mob between the U.S. and Israel. The thinking goes: If Israel doesn’t fall into an American line, Obama will step out of the way, claim his hands are tied, and let the U.N. and other international gangsters have at their prey.
It began this past Monday with the adoption of a so-called presidential statement by the U.N. Security Council. Such statements are not law, but they must be adopted unanimously — meaning that U.S. approval was essential and at any time Obama could have stopped its adoption. Instead, he agreed to this: “The Security Council supports the proposal of the Russian Federation to convene, in consultation with the Quartet and the parties, an international conference on the Middle East peace process in Moscow in 2009.”
This move is several steps beyond what the Bush administration did in approving Security Council resolutions in December and January — which said only that “The Security Council welcomes the Quartet’s consideration, in consultation with the parties, of an international meeting in Moscow in 2009.” Apparently Obama prefers a playing field with 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, 22 members of the Arab League — most of whom don’t recognize the right of Israel to exist — and one Jewish state. A great idea — if the purpose is to ensure Israel comes begging for American protection.
The U.N. presidential statement also makes laudatory references to another third-party venture, the 2002 Arab “Peace” Initiative. That’s a Saudi plan to force Israel to retreat to indefensible borders in advance of what most Arab states still believe will be a final putsch down the road. America’s U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, announced to the Security Council that “we intend to integrate the Arab Peace Initiative into our own approach.”
Make no mistake: This U.N. move, made with U.S. approval, sets America on a well-calculated collision course with Israel. U.S. collusion on this presidential statement was directly at odds with Israel’s wishes and well-founded concerns about the U.N.’s bona fides on anything related to Israel. Israeli U.N. ambassador Gabriella Shalev issued a statement of Israel’s position: “Israel does not believe that the involvement of the Security Council contributes to the political process in the Middle East. This process should be bilateral and left to the parties themselves. Furthermore, the timing of this Security Council meeting is inappropriate as the Israeli government is in the midst of conducting a policy review, prior to next week`s visit by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the United States. . . . Israel shared its position with members of the Security Council.”
By contrast, Rice told reporters: “We had a very useful and constructive meeting thus far of the Council. We welcome Foreign Minister Lavrov’s initiative to convene the Council, and we’re very pleased with the constructive and comprehensive statement that will be issued by the president of the Council on the Council’s behalf. This was a product of really collaborative, good-faith efforts by all members of the Council, and we’re pleased with the outcome.”
The Obama administration’s total disregard of Israel’s obvious interest in keeping the U.N. on the sidelines was striking. Instead of reiterating the obvious — that peace will not come if bigots and autocrats are permitted to ram an international “solution” down the throat of the only democracy at the table — Rice told the Council: “The United States cannot be left to do all the heavy lifting by itself, and other countries . . . must do all that they can to shore up our common efforts.” In a break with decades of U.S. policy, the Obama strategy is to energize a U.N. bad cop so that the U.S. might assume the role of good cop — for a price.
On Tuesday the Obama administration did it again: It ran for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council. As expected, the administration won election to represent the Council’s Western European and Others Group — it was a three-state contest for three spaces.
The Council is most famous, not for protecting human rights, but for its obsession with Israel. In its three-year history it has:
adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than condemning the 191 other U.N. members combined;
entrenched an agenda with only ten items, one permanently reserved for condemning Israel and another for condemning any other U.N. state that might “require the Council’s attention”;
held ten regular sessions on human rights, and five special sessions to condemn only Israel;
insisted on an investigator with an open-ended mandate to condemn Israel, while all other investigators must be regularly renewed;
spawned constant investigations on Israel, and abolished human-rights investigations (launched by its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights) into Belarus, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Moreover, every morning before the Human Rights Council starts, all states — and even observers like the Palestinians — get together in their regional blocs for an hour to negotiate, share information, and determine positions. All, that is, except Israel. The Western European and Others Group refuses to give Israel full membership. Now the U.S. will be complicit in this injustice.
Joining the Council has one immediate effect on U.S.-Israel relations: It gives the Obama administration a new stick to use against Israel. Having legitimized the forum through its membership and participation, the U.S. can now attempt to extract concessions from Israel in return for American objections to the Council’s constant anti-Israel barrage.
Obama administration officials may believe they can put the lid back on Pandora’s box after having invited the U.N., Russia, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to jump into the process of manufacturing a Palestinian state while Israel is literally under fire. They have badly miscalculated. By making his bed with countries that have no serious interest in democratic values, the president has made our world a much more dangerous place.
Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and at Touro College. She is also editor of www.EyeontheUN.org.
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