The State Department admitted yesterday that it did collaborate with the Egyptians and Palestinians on the anti-Israel UN resolution. But they say their collaboration was simply to make the resolution more ‘balanced’ so that it didn’t just unfairly target Israel.
However as you read the Q&A with the Deputy Spokesperson, Mark Toner, it seems pretty clear that there’s more to this story than they are admitting, especially given how the US has such an influential role given their veto power:
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, tensions have been increasing since the UN vote on Friday. I’m sure you’ve seen all the reports and heard a lot of the words. The Israeli officials are now being quoted as saying that they have evidence that they will lay out to the Trump administration of – in which the U.S., specifically Kerry, had discussions with the Palestinians before the vote, a few weeks before, during a visit to Washington where Saeb Erekat was around, and basically that he pushed them to go to Egypt and to move ahead with this resolution. That’s one of the things.
MR TONER: Okay.
QUESTION: So the question is: Was the U.S. hiding behind this other group of countries to submit the resolution? Were those discussions ever taken place? Because the Israelis feel that they’ve got evidence that there was meddling by the Americans.
MR TONER: Excuse me. Forgive me. (Coughs.) I picked up a cold over the weekend too, unfortunately, so I apologize.
So you’re right. We’ve obviously seen the same reports, an amalgamation of different allegations that somehow this was U.S.-driven and precooked. What I’ll say – excuse me – (coughs) – is that we reject the notion that the United States was the driving force behind this resolution. That’s just not true. The United States did not draft this resolution, nor did it put it forward. It was drafted and initially introduced, as we all know, by Egypt, in coordination with the Palestinians and others. When it was clear that the Egyptians and the Palestinians would insist on bringing this resolution to a vote and that every other country on the council would, in fact, support it, we made clear to others, including those on the Security Council, that further changes were needed to make the text more balanced. And that’s a standard practice on – with regard to resolutions at the Security Council. So there’s nothing new to this.
You look like you’re pouncing on me, but go ahead.
QUESTION: No, we just —
MR TONER: No, we’ll continue. I can continue, but if you have a – do you have a follow up?
QUESTION: No, no. Let’s just keep going with this.
MR TONER: Okay, sure. And this is a really important point. We also made clear at every conversation – in every conversation – that the President would make the final decision and that he would have to review the final text before making his final decision. So the idea that this was, again, precooked or that we had agreed upon the text weeks in advance is just not accurate. And in fact —
QUESTION: But we know that —
MR TONER: Go ahead. I’m sorry. Go ahead.
QUESTION: No, we know that the U.S. didn’t draft it or put it forward. But was the U.S. in any way coaxing on any – another group of countries to move ahead and go and move ahead with this resolution?
MR TONER: Well, again, these are – I mean, again, I think it’s important to have the proper context, in that all through the fall there was talk about – and we often got the question here and of course we replied that we’re never going to discuss hypotheticals in terms of what resolutions or what is circulating out there – but of course, there has been for some time in the fall talk about this resolution or that resolution with regard to the Middle East peace and the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
So of course, in the – of course, in the course of those conversations, we’re always making clear what our parameters are, what our beliefs are, what our – what we need to see or what we – in order to even consider a resolution. That’s part of the give-and-take of the UN.
QUESTION: But surely these countries, before they would move ahead, would want to get the view of an influential member of the Security Council of the UN of who – of what their position would be on this.
MR TONER: Well, again, I think we – of course, as the draft or the text was circulated, we said to those on the Security Council that – what further changes were needed to make the text more balanced. And in fact, we ended up abstaining because we didn’t feel it was balanced enough in the sense of it didn’t hit hard enough on the incitement-to-violence side of the coin.
Go ahead. You look perplexed. (Laughter.) Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: At what stage did you intervene to try and balance? Was it after Egypt said they’d withdraw it?
MR TONER: I think it was once – yeah, I mean, once – I mean, I don’t have a date certain. It was once the Egyptians and Palestinians made it clear that they were going to advance this text or bring this resolution to a vote and that, in fact, it would be supported by other countries.
QUESTION: Does that date predate Mr. Erekat’s visit to the State Department?
MR TONER: I don’t know the date of his visit. But again, I’m not – I’m not exactly – and I’m not necessarily excluding that when he did visit to the State Department that they didn’t discuss possible resolutions or anything like that in terms of draft language. But again, there was no – nothing precooked. There was nothing – this was not some move orchestrated by the United States.
QUESTION: Could you be clear what you just said? I heard a double negative in there. You’re not precluding that they didn’t discuss it. Are you saying they – that when the Palestinians were here —
MR TONER: I don’t have a readout. Yeah, I don’t have a readout of that meeting in front of me. I just – but I said I can imagine that they talked about Middle East peace broadly and efforts to reinvigorate the process. I don’t know that they discussed the possible action at the UN. But of course, as we – as I said in answer to Lesley’s question, that was something that was in the mix for some months now in New York at the UN that there might be some action taken there.
QUESTION: And what about New Zealand, when the Secretary was there before Antarctica?
MR TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: And also I believe he had a meeting here with Mr. Shoukry at some point in early December.
MR TONER: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Was the resolution discussed at either of those meetings with those diplomats?
MR TONER: Again, I can’t specifically say whether the resolution – but certainly, if a resolution or action at the UN was discussed, it wasn’t discussed in the level of detail where there was some final text. We always reserved the right with any text that was put forward, drafted and put forward, to veto it or to not take action or abstain, which is what we ended up doing.
This is a great line of questioning here, as it really point outs just how huge a role the US must’ve played in crafting or directing the resolution so that it wouldn’t be vetoed by the US:
QUESTION: But you advised them on how to put together a motion that the United States would feel comfortable abstaining or voting in favor of?
MR TONER: Well, I think what we said is – and this is not just unique to this process, but once a text, a draft text is to the point where it’s going to be put forward to a vote, of course we would provide input on what we believed were – was language that didn’t pass or didn’t allow us to vote for it or —
QUESTION: You see what I’m saying?
MR TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: You didn’t just say bring whatever motion you like up and we’ll vote however we feel about it. You were encouraging them to bring forward a motion that you would feel comfortable not blocking.
That’s a great question. Because the US has such an influential role at the UN, they clearly played a big part in the final text of this resolution. This question forced the Deputy Spokesperson to dance with his answer a bit, so as not to indict themselves with the strong accusations being leveled against them by Israel.
MR TONER: Well, but we have to be really careful in how we’re talking about this because what the allegations —
MR TONER: No, I know and I understand that. But no, no, but I’m saying that some of the allegations out there, frankly, are implying that this was somehow some – as I said, some orchestrated action by the U.S. to pass a resolution that was negative about settlement activity in Israel, and the fact is that that’s just not the case. Of course, we would always provide, when the final text was going up for a vote, our opinion on where the red lines were. But I think that – I think this is all a little bit of a sideshow, to be honest, that this was a resolution that we could not in good conscience veto because it condemns violence, it condemned incitement, it reiterates what has long been the overwhelming consensus international view on settlements, and it calls for the parties to take constructive steps to advance a two-state solution on the ground. There was nothing in there that would prompt us to veto that type of resolution.
QUESTION: But there was nothing in there —
MR TONER: And in fact —
QUESTION: — because you told them not to put anything in there that would cause you to veto it.
MR TONER: But that – but again, not at all. And I said we did not take the lead in drafting this resolution. That was done by the Egyptians with the Palestinians. But again, in any kind of resolution process, of course there’s moments where – or I mean, it’s not like our views regarding settlements or regarding resolutions with respect to Israel aren’t well-known and well-vetted within the UN community. There’s been many times in the past where we’ve not – or we vetoed resolutions that we found to be biased towards Israel. But that’s another point here is that there’s nothing – the other canard in all of this is that this was somehow breaking with longstanding U.S. tradition in the UN Security Council, when we all know that every administration has vetoed – or rather has abstained or voted for similar resolutions.
QUESTION: But it’s true then that you had opportunities to ask them not to bring it forward at all and didn’t take them.
MR TONER: I’m not sure what you’re —
QUESTION: Well, instead of saying why not write the motion this way, you could have said please don’t bring a motion.
MR TONER: Well, again, I think when it was clear to us that they were going to bring it to a vote and that every other council – every other country on the council was going to support that resolution, that draft text —
QUESTION: When did it become clear to you that it would —
MR TONER: I don’t have a date certain for that.
MR TONER: I think it was last week or so.
Toner admits that of course they would talk about their ‘red lines’. But he’s trying to argue that it only happened after the final text was completed. But that just doesn’t seem likely given all the back and forth the US had with the Egyptians and Palestinians and the fact that the legislation actually made it without Obama vetoing it.
It sounds to me that Israel is far more correct about their allegations than what the State Department will admit.