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.
Matt Lee certainly raises hackles when he asks his questions, but I’ll point out that Nuland is correct when she says that he often sails very close to pomelic.
But I have to admit, Lee makes a very good point i.e. the USA is busy punishing UNESCO (who are only following their statute) yet refuses to punish either the Palestinians nor the Israelis for ignoring American “suggestions”.
And, let’s face it, if neither side is paying the slightest attention to what the Americans are saying then why, exactly, is the USA still pretending that it has a role to play here?
Both of them have given up on Obama, so he may as well stand aside and **let** the UN have a crack at this problem.
But at the moment he is doing neither i.e. he is contributing nothing substantive, yet he is also preventing anyone else from filling that void.
In case you missed it, the U.S. already punished the Palestinians by blocking $200 million in aid to the PA in relation to the September bid for statehood:
Excuse me for being massively unimpressed by a report in an Israeli paper that is sourced from a report in a British paper which itself does not source *any* of its information from *any* American source.
The USA is a free and open society, so if the Congress has blocked $200million then that reporter from The Independent would be able to find *someone* in authority in America who is willing to say “Yeah, ya’ got that right buddy, $200million”.
Either he couldn’t, or he didn’t even try, but either way he didn’t get it from the horse’s mouth.
Until he does then I, for one, don’t believe a word of it.
Here’s the same spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland quoted explaining how the US administration is feverishly trying to unblock the $200 million in aid that was blocked by another arm of the US government, the Congress.
I can appreciate how many peace-minded Americans can be frustrated by the embarrassing performance of the Obama administration when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
I am more inclined to simply see it as an indication of the collapse of the United States from a relevant world power into a latter-day Ottoman Sick Man.
What you have in the United States, is a massive, sluggish, inefficient and corrupt machine lurching from one bad policy to the next while wheeling out people like Ms Nuland to engage in futile acts of turd polishing while behind the scenes, everyone knows that there is NO US policy beyond what Israel – a tiny belligerent Asian state – formulates.
It’s a humiliating end for a formerly great power, but as a non-American, I welcome the ruin of America’s international standing and I hope Bibi finishes the job.
For those of us who are not American or Israeli, the best that we can do is attempt to manage the collapse of the United States and to survive the disasters that may result from US policy being made in Israel rather that Washington.
I think of it as a controlled demolition.
I know that would be sad for good men like Richard, but I really think it’s over. You just have to be thinking how to survive the fallout.
Mary Hughes-Thompson says
I tend to agree with that analysis, though it doesn’t yet seem to have dawned on our valiant leaders that the empire is cracking. I’m one of the lucky ones who can choose any one of two dozen or more countries in which to live, and I’m certainly examining my options.
I could not believe how this AP guy was laying it down! This is the same AP that brings us insipid and often biased reports from the whole world. And here’s a reporter doing what they should all be doing — demonstrating that the US hasn’t a clue, has no policy just brown-nosing legislators, and does whatever makes Jews feel good, in particular about Israel. It is horrendous and stupid and this is an objective, unbiased statement.
I think it’s ok to celebrate this one small interaction. On the other hand the US has not lifted a finger for the prisoners of the two boat “flotilla” to Gaza. The IDF news says this is about security but the boats were (1) carrying letters and (2) were in international waters. So, it’s piracy on the high seas in order to stop Palestinians from, I’m guessing, getting possession of lethal letters which they can throw (launch?) across at Israeli settlements. The US/Israel blockade aims at destroying the Palestinian nation altogether and that is why these boats are stopped and held by Israel, to demonstrate to Gazans that there is no hope whatever, ala Jabotinsky.
Linda J says
Thank you Omar. What a trenchant comment!
US in controlled demolition — as scary as that is being an American, as the 911 truthers say, “pull it!”
The fact that there are no politicians of moral substance and vision is just additional proof of this demise. Just yesterday I was complaining about the absence of character in top “leaders” and I actually began to say some nice things about Richard Nixon! Can you imagine? Tricky as he was, I still sensed more substance to him than anyone on the stage currently though I did not vote for him, of course. But, that’s how bad it is.
RE: “If UN General Assembly Votes for Palestinian State, U.S. May Be Forced to Defund Entire UN System” ~ R.S.
TAKE IT AWAY, BOWIE:
David Bowie (feat Nine Inch Nails): I’m Afraid Of Americans (VIDEO, 04:24) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slKNd22GGaQ
The look of pure, unadulterated hatred on Nuland’s face as Matt Lee asks his first question….is this woman supposed to be a diplomat?
Richard Silverstein says
Did you also note her smarmy comment when beginning her press conference that they like it when the press room is empty for a briefing? This woman hates her job & hates the press covering her boss.
yes shes clearly pissed right from the start. no doubt she picked up contempt for the media from her old boss dick cheney.