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Ex-officials urge Obama to back U.N. resolution on settlements

JTA

January 19, 2011 | 11:12 am

Former U.S. officials and policy writers are urging President Obama to endorse a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution blasting Israel’s settlement policy and calling for a return to peace talks.

“At this critical juncture, how the U.S. chooses to cast its vote on a settlements resolution will have a defining effect on our standing as a broker in Middle East peace,” says the letter, signed mostly by figures who have favored greater U.S. pressure on Israel in the past, sent Wednesday to Obama. “But the impact of this vote will be felt well beyond the arena of Israeli-Palestinian deal-making—our seriousness as a guarantor of international law and international legitimacy is at stake.”

The letter notes earlier occasions when the United States did not apply its veto to Security Council resolutions condemning settlement building. Since the U.S. is a permanent member of the Security Council, its veto would quash the entire resolution.

The resolution, reportedly drafted by Palestinian officials and representatives of other countries, does not directly criticize the Palestinians for the recent collapse of peace talks.

The Obama administration and Israel say the Palestinians have been at fault for making a settlement freeze a precondition for a return to talks.

The letter says that the United States could address such imbalances through an “accompanying statement.”

Among the signatories are Frank Carlucci, a former defense secretary, and a number of former U.S. diplomats who served in the Middle East, as well as representatives of Arab-American groups.

Jewish signatories include Rabbi Leonard Beerman of Los Angeles’ Leo Baeck Temple; Rabbi Tirezah Firestone of Rabbis for Human Rights; and Peter Beinart, a former New Republic editor who wrote a controversial essay last year that argued that Israeli policies were alienating young Israelis.

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