Samantha Power: US Won’t Commit to Veto of Palestinian State Resolution – US News
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday refused to categorically say if the U.S. would veto a potential Security Council resolution calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state, prompting concern from congressional lawmakers over the Obama administration’s continuing commitment to Israel.
Asked directly during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing whether the U.S. would exercise its veto power to turn back such a resolution, Samantha Power was noncommital.
“I really am going to resist making blanket declarations on hypothetical resolutions. Our position, again, I think has been very clear for some time,” Power said, when pressed on the issue. “I have said, again, we would oppose anything that was designed to punish Israel or undermine Israel’s security. But I think, again, it’s perilous. There’s no resolution in front of us.”
The lack of a firm answer prompted concern from several members of the committee from both sides of the aisle amid a rocky relationship between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two leaders have publicly disagreed regarding how to approach a peace process and over ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, which Netanyahu vehemently opposes.
Obama said in a recent interview with an Israeli television station the U.S. will have to re-evaluate “how we approach defending Israel on the international stage around the Palestinian issue.”
“I understand that this re-evaluation will not affect our security relationship with Israel. The president made that clear,” said Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the committee. “But, frankly, those remarks are troubling. Re-evaluating the way we defend Israel on the international stage could have ominous consequences, and it is obviously very concerning for those of us that seek to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
The U.S. is a steadfast ally of Israel’s, but questions continue from both Democrats and Republicans as well as diplomats regarding the Obama administration’s support.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Tuesday that Obama has made mistakes in the Israeli-U.S. relationship “deliberately” and that he was responsible for abandoning two core principles of the alliance: no public disagreements and no surprises.
“The past six years have seen successive crises in U.S.-Israeli relations, and there is a need to set the record straight. But the greater need is to ensure a future of minimal mistakes and prevent further erosion of our vital alliance,” Oren wrote. “Israel has no alternative to America as a source of security aid, diplomatic backing and overwhelming popular support. The U.S. has no substitute for the state that, though small, remains democratic, militarily and technologically robust, strategically located and unreservedly pro-American.”
Power’s remarks come amid renewed international frustration even from staunch U.S. allies with the lack of progress in the decades-old peace process. France and Great Britain as recently as April urged the Security Council to establish a framework for an agreement.
The ambassador on Tuesday emphasized that the U.S. has regularly supported and protected Israel from actions in the U.N. In December, the U.S. rallied support in the Security Council against what Power called a “deeply unbalanced” resolution introduced by Jordan that would have imposed a timeline on an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and required Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories. U.S. officials ensured that supporters of the resolution would fall short in a Security Council vote, sparing Power from having to exercise America’s veto.
Grant Rumley, research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says Power’s comments are “a departure point [from past U.S. policy], but it’s not a recent departure point.” He says the U.S. has indicated it would allow the French to bring forward a similar resolution to the one that failed last year.
Her comments today are further reinforcing this notion that whenever that resolution gets to the Security Council – if nothing changes between then – the U.S. is probably not going to veto,” Rumley says.
The U.S. in May also blocked a resolution at the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that would have required Israel to rid itself of its nuclear stockpile due to a ban on such arms in the Middle East.
“The United States and the Obama administration have consistently opposed the delegitimation of Israel. We’ve also consistently pushed for legitimation of Israel across the U.N. system,” Power said Tuesday. “We uniformly oppose one-sided actions designed to punish Israel and we will continue to do so. I want to be very clear. In most cases, in many cases at least, we are actually able to build coalitions and prevent things from coming up to a vote.”
Despite these assurances, Power said “now is a moment in which it’s not exactly clear how progress towards two-state solution is likely to be made.”
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the U.S. must support negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians rather than supporting Palestinian efforts to dictate the conditions of peace through the U.N.
“The reason so many members brought the issue up, including me in my opening statement, was for us to make this point to the administration,” Royce tells U.S. News. “We think it’s important that this issue be resolved between Israel and the Palestinian people and that the United Nations, given its bias against Israel – its very problematic … to have that become a platform for trying to reach a peaceful agreement.”