To Veto or Not to Veto

By D.C. based attorney who wishes to remain anonymous

The United States is placed in a very precarious diplomatic position with the current U.N. Resolution before the Security Council  The Resolution, proposed by Lebanon and backed by all 14 members of the Security Council (with the exception of the United States), condemns “all settlement activities.”

The United States has stated that it does not believe the U.N. is the proper forum to address the settlement issue.  Specifically, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated, “We continue to believe strongly that New York is not the place to resolve the longstanding conflict.”  However, the Resolution places the United States in an extremely difficult position, because the substance of the resolution reflects the Obama Administration’s position on Israeli settlements.  Specifically, in his Cairo speech in 2009, President Obama stated, “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

The Obama Administration viewed the threat of a veto as enough to force its Arab backers to commit to peace talks rather than the UN.  However, by placing the Resolution on the Security Council agenda, President Obama is forced to deal with this issue prematurely and contrary to its position of a negotiated resolution.

Here are some considerations President Obama must consider in weighing its decision to veto:

Why the United States Should Veto:

1.      The Resolution is inconsistent with the United States’ long standing foreign policy of a negotiated resolution to the dispute.

2.      It will give the Palestinians an excuse or political cover to not commit to negotiations.

3.      It will establish a bad precedent by opening the channels for Palestinian statehood through the Security Council, rather than committed negotiations with Israel.  If Palestinians wish to secure statehood and lasting peace, it can only be accomplished through serious negotiated talks with Israel.

4.      The UN is not the proper forum to address the settlements issue, and undermines the peace talks.

5.      It will cause great harm to President Obama politically at home if he does not veto.

Why the United States Should not Veto the Resolution:

1.      The peace talks can still continue even with the resolution.

2.      The United States can present itself as an objective and credible party to the peace talks (particularly with Arab leaders), which will ultimately help Israel achieve its goals of peace and security.

3.      The Resolution is consistent with the U.S. policy towards settlements as “being inconsistent with international law.”

4.      It will improve American standing and credibility in the Middle East, which can help achieve broader national security objectives in the region, where currently there are hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops deployed.

5.      It will demonstrate to Israel that the United States is standing firm in its position that Israeli settlements are an obstacle to a negotiated resolution.

The decision by the United States will pose serious implications for a negotiated resolution and the United States’ foreign policy objectives.  However, in the end, it seems the Obama Administration will have no choice but to reluctantly veto the Resolution.

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1 Response to To Veto or Not to Veto

  1. Joe R. says:

    I agree that the Obama Administration will veto the Resolution, though perhaps reluctantly. The real deciding factor would have to be number 5 above, under ‘reasons we should veto’; it would open up a Pandora’s Box of political complications for President Obama. The focus would then shift to the intense political conflict, which would arise in the U.S., if the President did not veto the resolution. This is a delicate situation and Mr. Obama knows it. If the Obama Administration wishes to further its agenda to condemn “all settlement activities”, it should understand that sometimes passive resistance is the most effective way to pursue sociopolitical/political ends. Vetoing the bill would exemplify this concept of passive resistance. Sure, on the surface it would appear that this is anything but passive. However, let’s face it, the voice of the United States within the U.N. Security Council is a very loud and authoritative voice. For President Obama not to veto this resolution would sound-off an unprecedented shift in United States policy. This refers to the United States long standing foreign policy of a negotiated resolution to the dispute. A negotiated resolution would, by definition, have to include Israel. If Obama did not veto this resolution, there is no certainty as to how the ripple effect could play-out. Such a bold decision could unpredictably force the balance of this sensitive political environment to tip. There is a time to be bold, but the time is not now.

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