Did Jim Steinberg pledge the veto?


 Here’s what Jim Steinberg, the deputy secretary of state, told Congress last week when he was asked how the United States would treat a Palestinian-drafted proposed U.S. Security Resolution that condemns Israel’s settlement expansion:

"We have made very clear that we do not think the Security Council is the right place to engage on these issues," Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee.

"We have had some success, at least for the moment, in not having that arise there. And we will continue to employ the tools that we have to make sure that continues to not happen," said Steinberg.

(From AFP.)

MJ Rosenberg at Media Matters thinks Steinberg means the U.S. will veto if it comes to it. He thinks that’s a bad thing. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs draws the same conclusion, thinking that’s a good thing. (Statement below the jump.)

I have no opinion on whether it’s good or bad — I’m just not sure it’s what Steinberg meant. I spoke to an Israeli diplomat today — not asking if he agreed with me, but asking, open-endedly, what he thought of the testimony — and he said he also didn’t think Steinberg was committing to a veto.

My two cents as to why I’m doubtful:

–The Obama administration has until now steadfastly refused to commit to the veto. I’m talking about off the record conversations with Jewish officials who would love to hear otherwise. Introducing such a pledge in response to a Hill question doesn’t make Beltway sense.

–Steinberg’s pulling a neat grammatical trick here. He pledges to "employ the tools that we have to make sure that continues to not happen."

"That" is having the issue arise at the Security Council.

If it does arise, though — if the draft resolution clears what bureaucratic hurdles the United States can place in its way — well, Steinberg isn’t saying what happens then.


JCPA statement:

JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow has released the following statement in response to yesterday’s testimony confirming US commitment to veto a resolution condemning Israel at the UN:

"Yesterday, we received confirmation of U.S. commitment to avoiding unnecessary distraction and vilification of Israel in favor of a return to peace talks. Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg affirmed the US’s intention to ‘use the tools we have’ in the UN Security Council should a proposed resolution condemning Israel be brought up.

"The JCPA had called on the US and other countries to reject a UN resolution whose only impact would be to isolate Israel from the community of nations and we are heartened to hear the State Department voice their agreement that two independent states living side by side in peace and security will not come from one sided debate in New York, but only through a resumption of good faith face-to-face negotiations."

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