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Matt Lee Takes It To State Department’s Nuland Again – OpEd

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The AP’s Matt Lee is going to make himself a mini wonk-celebrity for his habit of making mince-meat of the State Department’s Victoria Nuland during her press briefings.  Yesterday, he took her on over the UNCESCO defunding and Israel’s announcement it would be building 2,000 new settlement housing units and withholding PA tax revenue in punishment for the UN organization’s vote to accept Palestine as a full member.

If you think about what has happened along the lines that Lee does, the UNESCO vote does not really cause any substantive change in Palestinian status in the international arena.  It doesn’t harm Israel in any specific, tangible way.  Yet in response to the vote the U.S. has ended its funding for one of the most important international bodies there is, Israel is withholding potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian tax revenues, and Israel will build 2,000 new housing units on illegally held Palestinian territory.

Lee points out that Palestinians are suffering tangible material harm to their interests, while Israel suffers no punishment for its violations of the status quo and stated U.S. policy.  We offer $3 billion per year to Israel and yet we’re not willing to withhold a single penny when Israel contravenes our own policies regarding settlements.  What is the message Israel takes away from this:

…How is it U.S. policy to encourage peace talks if you’re unwilling to do anything against either side when they continue to ignore you and, in fact, not just to ignore you but to make matters worse, is what you said. You’re a parent. You have two spoiled children who are doing things that you don’t like. What do you do to get them to stop that behavior? You don’t do nothing. You punish them. You take some kind of action. You have, or you did have, leverage with the Israelis because you gave them $3 billion a year. You do have, or did have, leverage with the Palestinians because you give them millions of dollars a year. And yet, you’re not going to do anything with that?

…Is the Administration upset or embarrassed at all by the fact that two relatively tiny groups of people are running roughshod over American foreign policy?

…You do believe that your involvement in UN organizations such as UNESCO…that that’s an American national security interest or in an American interest. And you’re prepared to allow these two small groups of people to make you forfeit your national interests in international organizations. That’s what you’re saying to me.

The AP reporter does everyone a tremendous service by calling the Obama administration the emperor with no clothes.  He even uses the term “impotent” at one point.  If I lived in DC I might go there just to watch the fireworks.

I don’t envy Nuland.  She’s not given much to work with.  All she can continually say when pummeled by reporters is the U.S. is committed to the road map and Quartet process, components which are DOA as far as any serious observer of the process can tell.  If the State Department spokesperson wasn’t such a cold fish, you might actually feel a twinge of sympathy for her.

Returning to the press briefing, another reporter gets Nuland to tacitly concede that Hillary Clinton hasn’t had a substantive contact with an Israeli or Palestinian leader in the past six weeks, aptly summarizing the level of commitment of the administration to the issue.  This stasis of course works only to Israel’s advantage because it want to preserve the status quo as long as possible.

The reporters generally note that the U.S. election season is likely to continue to render our efforts pointless because no candidate, including the president would be willing to exercise any robust or muscular intervention in the process.  This means another year of paralysis and ineffectiveness, which is music to Israel’s ears.

This article appeared at Tikun Olam



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Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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