It is not clear why the United States is unable to be the honest broker that it regularly states it wants to be when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The most recent vote in the United Nations’ Security Council is a case in point. Everyone knew that Washington was opposed to the Palestinian proposed resolution that attempted to put a date to the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.
The US and other countries repeatedly say they support the idea but prefer that it is accomplished in a different way.
To prove their point, the US put pressure on African allies, specifically Nigeria, not to vote in favour of the resolution even though this oil-producing African country recognised Palestine and until half an hour before the vote reaffirmed it would favour it. So having flexed its muscles and accomplished its goal of rendering the Palestinian resolution’s defeat, why did the US continue to oppose a resolution the substance of which it says it supports?
Why couldn’t the US just follow the example of its European ally Britain and abstain? An abstention would not have changed anything but it would have sent a clear message to all parties that when it can, the US is willing to show that it is an honest broker.
Perhaps this is too much to ask and perhaps it is best that the world, especially Palestinians, give up on the pretence that the US can, even during US President Barack Obama’s second decided to seek help from another international agency – this time the International Criminal Court. But the US ability to engage and pressure Palestinians has been badly hurt by its unnecessary vote.
Imagine if the US representative Samantha Power had simply abstained from voting. It would have sent a message to Palestinians and Israelis that the US has the independence to make its own mind and to state its own position.
Abstainning doesn’t mean supporting. It simply means, as the UK representative said after the vote that Britian supports much of the content of the resolution and will work with the parties to reach an accepted resolution.
“We are convinced that it is possible, with further time and effort, to secure for the first time ever a resolution which commands full Security Council support.”
Instead the US legitimised the perpetuation of the Israeli occupation, ignoring the words of US Secretary of State John Kerry who put the blame of the failure of peace talks squarely on the shoulders of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
By voting against the relatively moderate Palestinian resolution, the US has given encouragement to the policies of obfuscation and delay in the negotiations. A resolution that France and Luxembourg were able to vote for – and the United Kingdom abstain from – occupation of their land. The tools available to them have been exhausted and world powers continue to play politics as the suffering of Palestinians continues unabated.
When Israel occupied Palestinian and Arab lands in 1967, it didn’t ask anyone’s permission. When the UN Security Council met, they argued in the preamble to resolution 242 that it is “inadmissible to take land by force”.
Israeli troops backed by western countries took Palestinian lands in six days and have not left since. It is now more than 47 years since. Giving Israel three years to end this occupation should have been embraced – or at least not opposed by the world’s leading power.
The US remains the most powerful country in the world and it can actually help bring peace to the Middle East. However, its one sided vote at the Security Council, when it could have easily abstained without the vote having any different result, has sent the wrong message.
Daoud Kuttab, an award-winning Palestinian journalist, is a former Ferris professor of journalism at Princeton University.