Rice: U.S. not involved in negotiations over Palestinian text at U.N.


NEW YORK (JTA) – Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said America is not involved in trying to tone down a draft U.N. resolution on Palestinian statehood.

“We’re not negotiating any text, we’re not engaged in efforts to water down a text,” Rice said Thursday in a briefing with Jewish journalists. “We’re making the case that this is not a productive course.”

Rice dismissed as false rumors that a draft text even exists, but she said the Europeans were talking with the Palestinians about the substance of a resolution.

“There is no Palestinian text yet,” she said. “Nobody in New York has seen one.”

The Obama administration has vowed to veto any Palestinian statehood resolution that reaches the U.N. Security Council. But a resolution favoring Palestinian membership in the United Nations likely would win passage in the U.N. General Assembly, where the majority of member nations already have recognized a Palestinian state bilaterally, albeit in varying forms.

Rice warned that such a measure “would not be without consequences in the real world.”

Members of Congress have proposed revoking U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinians seek U.N. recognition next week, and Israeli officials have warned that Israel could respond to unilateral Palestinian action at the United Nations with everything from suspension of tax payments to the Palestinian Authority to annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Rice’s first briefing for journalists from the Jewish media came as the Obama administration is reaching out to American Jews in an effort to bolster support for President Obama and convince Jewish voters and fund-raisers that he is pro-Israel.

The latest sign that Obama has an Israel perception problem in the Jewish community came in the upset loss by the Democratic candidate in this week’s special congressional race in New York. The victory by Republican Bob Turner over State Assemblyman David Weprin, the Democrat, was cast by some observers as a sign that Jewish voters, who comprise a large proportion of a district represented by Anthony Weiner until his scandal-induced resignation, are disenchanted with the president, particularly on Israel issues.

Rice sought to counter the notion that Obama has fallen short of the mark on Israel. She said Obama has done more than any previous president to ratchet up the pressure and sanctions on Iran, and has enhanced Israel’s security by increasing foreign military financing. She also noted the praise that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ex-Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy lavished on Obama for helping secure the safe release of Israeli diplomatic personnel in Cairo who were trapped in their embassy last Friday while an Egyptian mob broke into and ransacked the building.

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