As if UN ambassador Susan Rice’s tongue-lashing of Israel at the Security Council on Friday wasn’t enough, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also had some choice words in an interview to ABC’s Christiane Amanpour shortly before the Security Council vote.
“I think it is absolutely clear to say,” Clinton enunciated,
number one, that it’s been American policy for many years that settlements were illegitimate and it is the continuing goal and highest priority of the Obama administration to keep working toward a two-state solution with both Israelis and Palestinians.
“Illegitimate” is supposed to be just short of “illegal” while still being, of course, a very strong condemnation.
It’s an idiom for which the secretary of state is already well known. Last March, when the Obama administration publicly skewered Israel over plans for Jewish housing in Jerusalem, Clinton called the plans a “deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the [U.S.-Israeli] relationship” that “had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process.”
And in May 2009 she was even more emphatic, saying that Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements—not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions.” The clear implication was that even babies should not be born in Israeli West Bank communities, or perhaps should be relocated immediately thereafter.
Official Israel had little choice, of course, but to praise the U.S. veto of Friday’s Palestinian-initiated Security Council resolution on settlements—led by a statement from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office that “Israel deeply appreciates the decision.” A veto accompanied by abusive language from the UN ambassador and the secretary of state is, no doubt, better than no veto. But to say that it is a lesser evil is not to excuse it.
The Israeli communities in the West Bank—or Judea and Samaria, locus of much of the Bible, and cradle of the Jewish people and of the Judeo-Christian component of Western civilization—now comprise about 300,000 inhabitants. If one adds to these the 200,000 Jewish Israelis now living in northern, eastern, and southern parts of Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem, that the Obama administration also consistently calls “settlements,” the total comes to about half a million.