President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice met recently with the leadership of the American Jewish Committee and discussed a number of issues facing the United States and Israel.
Rice explained that she and her staff assert Israel’s legitimacy and counter anti-Israel bias in UN bodies on a daily basis:
This is an issue of utmost and daily concern for the United States. We spend an enormous amount of time defending Israel’s right to defend itself and defending Israel’s legitimacy throughout the United Nations system. It’s a shame that we have to do so. It reflects badly on many member states who continue to view the United Nations as a venue in which they can attack and harass Israel. ... And so whether it’s the Goldstone report or the flotilla or the Board of Inquiry report, whether it’s the Durban conference and its successors, we have been very clear in our opposition to all forms of unfair attacks on Israel, to any manifestation of anti-Semitism and to stand up for Israel’s right to be a full and equal member of the United Nations system.
Within the United Nations we have supported Israel as it’s taken on leadership positions within the organization… We have pushed for Israel’s inclusion in particular regional or sub-regional groupings… Here in New York we’ve succeeded in garnering their membership in the group that relates to the 5th Committee. That’s the budgeting, financial part of the system. We have succeeded in pushing for their inclusion in Geneva, in the Human Rights committee structure in that like-minded body. And we continue to do the same here in New York for the human rights architecture. So, we are about this business every day, either in principle because its right and because we share critical values and interests with our partner and ally Israel.
She said regarding the UN’s sanctions against Iran:
Well, the sanctions that were imposed in June of 2010, in Resolution 1929, were by far the toughest that have ever been levied against Iran and the toughest sanctions on the books today against any member state. They were comprehensive, dealing with Iran’s ability to acquire the financing and materials and the other support necessary for this nuclear program. It indicated that oil was one of the factors fueling Iran’s nuclear program, and it was very powerful in its own right, those sanctions, which are of course binding on all member states. And it was very significant that we had the support of Russia and China and the entire P5-in addition to those sanctions, that now the entire world is obliged to implement. You just have seen recent examples of some of the neighbors in the region catching Iran in the act of trying to ship some materials to Syria and intercepting those. That was Turkey, by the way.
... [W]hether or not countries like the sanctions, they have been pretty uniform in fulfilling their obligations to implement them. And that’s important. That’s where we get the multilateral level with 1929. On top of that, as you well know, the United States Congress, with the Administration’s support, has adopted strong legislation that ups our national sanctions even more. And there are some very powerful measures that were passed soon after in July of 2010. And indeed, you’re well aware of the legislation that was passed in December, which implicates the central bank of Iran and Iran’s oil trade. The European Union followed our national action in 2010 with their own much toughened sanctions, as did Canada, Japan, South Korea, and some of the countries in the Arab world. And today, we’re seeing commensurate ratcheting up as we strengthen our national sanctions. We’re seeing our European partners, hopefully, as soon as today…
I think we’ll see similar actions to follow by other important partners. And, if not, coordinated action in the Security Council, which I do think is not likely in the immediate term. The sanctions that we are imposing nationally will, I think, quietly compel even some who might be reluctant to embrace further multilateral action to adjust their purchasing decisions.
Rice explained the President’s and her awareness of Israel’s struggles vis-à-vis the Hamas-run Gaza Strip:
President Obama has been very, very clear in our condemnation of rocket attacks out of Gaza into Israel. I was with him in Sderot when we toured houses that had been hit directly by rockets out of Gaza. I’ll never forget the image of the scores-I mean, tens-of-thousands of empty rocket casings piled up in a police station in Sderot. So the United States is acutely aware of the terror and the mortal danger that these rockets pose. And even though it may not be the topic that is most frequently raised in the Security Council, you can be certain that the United States is raising it. And just last week, in the discussion inside the Security Council, I raised again, as I do every time, that very real risk and threat to the people of Israel. And so this remains very much prominent on our radar screen on our agenda. And while others in the Security Council may choose to emphasize other issues, we continue to make that point very clearly in the first place.
Rice reiterated the Obama Administration’s opposition to the Palestinians’ unilateral attempt to declare statehood:
Let me begin by saying that from the United States’ point of view, the achievement of an independent Palestinian state can only come through direct negotiations and a negotiated two-state solution. We very much want to see that day come, and we very much want to see the outcome of that two-state solution realized. But it’s not going to happen through a shortcut at the United Nations and that’s what we have been arguing. When the Palestinians brought their application in September, the Security Council went through the traditional process of considering that application in the membership committee. We went through a sort of an exhaustive legal discussion, debate, analysis. And once that was completed and the committee’s report was forwarded to the Security Council ... it’s essentially stayed there for the time being. I presume that is because the Palestinians decided that given the voting-likely outcome in the Council, it wasn’t timely to push it to a vote. The fact is, nobody knows for sure what the Palestinians will choose to do, if anything, in the coming weeks or months. I think that predictions are dangerous. But let me just say that we are roughly in the same place now as we were last year. And potentially in a better position. So I don’t want to make any rock solid commitments on that, but I think that if the Palestinians are weighing their choices with respect to the Security Council, they’ll be doing so in a very similar landscape.
Click here to read the full transcript of her remarks.
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