Ex-State Department Negotiator: Everyone Loses From Obama Administration’s Abstention


By BB Portnoy

The Obama administration’s decision to abstain from Friday’s UN Security Council vote on an anti-Israeli settlement resolution was “ill-timed” and “ill-advised,” a former US State Department Middle East negotiator told The Algemeiner on Sunday.

“I can’t divine a single positive element of consequence of this resolution,” Aaron David Miller — a vice president at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, DC and a CNN global affairs analyst — said. “I don’t think it’s going to lead to anything of real value and it will create all kinds of problems.”

Furthermore, Miller said, “there are very clear losers here.”

“The Palestinians will lose because I think this will likely accelerate settlement building, no constrain it,” Miller explained. “And [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu lost, because he failed to stop the resolution despite deploying both President-elect [Donald] Trump and [Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah] el-Sisi, who I suspect he has embarrassed mightily. And I think that’s going to create the perception that in fact Netanyahu’s whole effort to legitimize the settlement enterprise has not succeeded.”

As for the Obama administration, Miller said “they are getting hammered mercilessly” over the resolution, and the US Congress is threatening to defund the UN.

Miller downplayed the notion that President Barack Obama decided to abstain from the vote because of a “personal animus” against Netanyahu. Instead, he believes Obama saw this as a last chance to “put himself on record” as stating that the “settlements are a problem and [Netanyahu] never got the memo.”

However, Miller said there is still a “second shoe to drop” before Obama vacates the White House, in the form of a speech by Secretary of State John Kerry on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which could be delivered as soon as this week.

“I think it will be an effort to lay out American views on elements of a two-state solution and what each side has to do to create an environment for serious negotiations,” Miller said. “Whether or not it will break new ground of any substance, I don’t know.”

In any case, according to Miller, Kerry’s speech “won’t change anything.”

“The reality is the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is not ready for prime time,” he said. “It’s missing several key ingredients and unless those ingredients are restored, it’s hard to imagine that this is going to go anywhere other than south.”

Once Trump takes office on Jan. 20, Miller pointed out, he “can’t reverse the Security Council resolution, but he can certainly through his actions and political statements basically walk away from it.”

“I think this may well prompt the Trump administration to go ahead with what it was inclined to do anyway, which is to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Miller continued.

Turning to the controversy surrounding Trump’s recent pick of attorney David Friedman to serve as the next US envoy to Israel, Miller said, “American ambassadors generally don’t guide and direct US foreign policy. It’s usually the other way around. And I suspect once [Secretary of State nominee Rex] Tillerson and [Secretary of Defense nominee James] Mattis get into this, Friedman’s voice may be muted somewhat.”

“The Trump administration has to figure out what its policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian issue will be,” Miller continued. “So far, all we have is inclinations and proclivities. Governing is about choosing, and the question is what kind of choices the Trump administration is going to make.”

(c) 2016 The Algemeiner Journal



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