A group of former government officials, commentators, and others across the political spectrum are urging President Obama to vote in favor of a resolution standing before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) condemning illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
Among those signing the letter to the president are former U.S. Trade Representative and Council on Foreign Relations Chair Carla Hills, journalist and former New Republic editor Peter Beinart, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering, former Assistant Secretary of State James Dobbins, former Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pastor, former New Republic editor and Atlantic Senior Editor and Daily Dish publisher Andrew Sullivan, former US Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Edward “Ned” Walker, Foundation for Middle East President Philip Wilcox, among others.
Steve Clemons, a noted foreign policy scholar and senior fellow and founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation in Washington, signed the letter and organized the effort under the auspices of his program.
The settlements are significant controversy in the stalled peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
“The time has come for a clear signal from the United States to the parties and to the broader international community that the United States can and will approach the conflict with the objectivity, consistency and respect for international law required if it is to play a constructive role in the conflict’s resolution,” the letter says.
“While a UNSC resolution will not resolve the issue of settlements or prevent further Israeli construction activity in the Occupied Territory, it is an appropriate venue for addressing these issues and for putting all sides on notice that the continued flouting of international legality will not be treated with impunity,” it adds. “Nor would such a resolution be incompatible with or challenge the need for future negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues, and it would in no way deviate from our strong commitment to Israel’s security.
“If the proposed resolution is consistent with existing and established US policies, then deploying a veto would severely undermine US credibility and interests, placing us firmly outside of the international consensus, and further diminishing our ability to mediate this conflict,” the letter says.
There are today over half a million Israelis living beyond the border established in 1967, “greatly complicating the realization of a two-state solution,” between Israelis and Palestinians, the letter says.
“That number has grown dramatically in the years since the peace process was launched: in 1993 there were 111,000 settlers in the West Bank alone; in 2010 that number surpassed 300,000,” the letter says. “The settlements are clearly illegal according to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva convention – a status recognized in an opinion issued by the State Department’s legal advisor on April 28, 1978, a position which has never since been revised.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.