Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, April 14, 2016:
The Obama administration says it “will carefully consider” what are expected to be a series of United Nations Security Council Resolutions aimed at Israel in the coming months, generating accusations in Congress that Washington is preparing to abandon Israel at the U.N., according to State Department officials and congressional sources apprised of the measure.
U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon that no decisions have been made yet about several draft resolutions being informally circulated in Turtle Bay, but that the administration is open to considering future drafts.
“We will carefully consider our future engagement and determine how to most effectively advance the objective we all share in achieving a negotiated two-state solution,” a State Department official not authorized to speak on record told the Free Beacon.
The administration has struggled this week to publicly articulate a consistent position on the issue.
State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Monday that the administration is open to U.N. action on Israeli settlements, but on Tuesday declared that the administration is flatly “opposed” to such action and would likely veto an Israel-focused measure.
Anne Patterson, an assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, testified to Congress on Wednesday that the administration has not yet committed to opposing future resolutions.
Asked by the Free Beacon to clarify the administration’s stance late Wednesday, a State Department official said that while the administration remains opposed to any “one-sided” action targeting Israel, it would not commit to vetoing all resolutions focused on Israel.
“Our position has not changed with regard to action at the U.N.,” the official said. “We continue to oppose one-sided resolutions that delegitimize Israel or undermine its security, but we are not going to speculate on hypothetical resolutions or other actions by the Security Council at this time.”
There are at least two drafts being circulated at the U.N. Security Council centered on the Jewish state, and more are expected in the months ahead.
One measure, led by the Palestinian Authority, seeks to formally condemn Israeli settlement activity, while a second measure, spearheaded by France, seeks to define the parameters for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.
A second U.S. official familiar with the U.N. action emphasized that the administration does not yet have a stance on those specific resolutions or future resolutions.
“There’s not much new here. This and other drafts have been floating around for some time,” the official told the Free Beacon. “Nothing has been formally introduced or circulated in the [Security] Council. We have no position on the informal draft.”
Meanwhile, Patterson’s testimony has generated frustration among lawmakers, who fear that the administration is planning to stand down when the U.N. Security Council takes up action focused on Israel.
Patterson also had difficulty explaining how the administration will react to the new U.N. resolutions aimed at Israel.
“Will the administration state unequivocally that we will not introduce, we will not support, that we will block, that we will veto any resolution at the U.N. Security Council that seeks to impose a two-state solution on Israel or that offers some artificial timeline for negotiations,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) asked Patterson during a hearing.
“I can’t say without seeing a resolution,” Patterson responded.
Pressed by Ros-Lehtinen, Patterson continued to dodge the question.
“A draft exists and I haven’t personally seen it,” Patterson said.
“Do you think perhaps this lack of clarity to say, ‘We vetoed it before, we’re going to veto it again’ [is causing confusion]?” Ros-Lehtinen asked, describing the situation as “worrisome.”
“All I can say is that I think the administration’s record on this is pretty clear,” Patterson said, referring to the administration’s veto of past resolutions centered on Israel.
One senior congressional source working on the issue told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration appears to be setting the stage to endorse new U.N. action on Israel.
“It’s pretty clear the administration has been shifting the goal posts on this even though it should be a simple question to answer: Will the administration keep with longstanding U.S. policy and veto any resolution at the UNSC that would impose a resolution on Israel?” the source said.
“It’s worrisome because everyone keeps focusing on this ‘one-sided’ phrase that keeps getting thrown out, but who decides what a one-sided resolution is?” the source said. “If it’s the same people who decided what ‘consulting’ Congress meant during the [Iran] negotiations or the shift in Cuba policy, then there should be real cause for concern there. The president is still legacy shopping and I don’t think it would be a stretch to imagine him once again upending established U.S. policy and undermining what is supposed to be the bedrock of our policy of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”