There are signs of a U-turn in US policy towards Israeli settlements. The Obama administration has decided to support a UN Security Council statement against settlement activity, states "Foreign Policy" correspondent Colum Lynch.
Although a Security Council statement is not binding, in contrast to a Security Council Resolution, US support for it, if ultimately given, will represent sea change in the US position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Until now, the US has unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Palestinians and Arab bloc in the US to withdraw the statement of condemnation. According to "Bloomberg", Washington proposed to the Arabs to support the Russian initiative for a Security Council visit to the Middle East to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a visit that would be a major achievement for the Palestinians, in exchange for withdrawing the initiative for a Security Council resolution calling the settlements illegal.
This US proposal was rejected. The Obama administration therefore decided to support the Security Council statement that rejects the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice outlined the new US offer in a closed door meeting on Tuesday with the Arab Group, states "Foreign Policy".
"Politico" quotes a Tweet from Lynch that says that Palestinian leaders have rejected the statement offer, and are proceeding with a resolution, which the White House has said it will veto.
It cannot be ruled out that the Palestinian stance is a bargaining ploy aimed at squeezing more concessions from the US. It is not clear how the US will vote on a binding Security Council resolution that calls the Israeli statements illegal, something that the US has previously said it will veto. The Security Council could vote by tomorrow.
An Israeli source told "Globes" that Israel was aware that the US is negotiating with the Arab Group, but that Jerusalem expected the US to veto any "unbalanced initiative" in the Security Council. Asked whether Israel would be satisfied with a US abstention, the source said, "Obviously an abstention is better than a vote in favor, but we probably won't get that far."
The Obama administration's dilemma is that the Security Council document (either a statement or a resolution) is worded in a way that does not contradict the official US position on the Israeli settlements. Every US administration since the 1967 Six-Day War, both Democratic and Republican, has held that the settlements are illegal.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 17, 2011
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