We are NOT Neutral

[Ed. Note: this is part of a series about the demise of the Palestinian experiment in self-government and the implications for U.S. policy in the region.]

[Ed. Note: this is part of a series about the demise of the Palestinian experiment in self-government and the implications for U.S. policy in the region.]

Alvaro de Soto, a former UN envoy to the Middle East Quartet and the Palestinian government, accused the Bush administration in a report of pushing the Quartet “from a neutral to a pro-Israel posture.” According to The Washington Times, he “warned that a perception of UN partiality would discredit peacekeeping efforts and tarnish the office of the secretary general.” And he complained that U.S. pressure had “limited his own ability to deal directly with the Hamas-led Palestinian government.”

Leave aside the ability of anyone to tarnish the office of the secretary general of the UN more than Kofi Annan. And leave aside that there is more than a “perception of UN partiality” and it isn’t toward Israel. And leave aside that UN peacekeeping efforts are discredited by the behavior of UN peacekeepers that permitted a massacre in Bosnia, left Rwanda to genocide and appear unable to keep their hands off young women in the areas of their deployment.

The worst part about Mr. de Soto’s “analysis” is that he misunderstands completely the role and nature of the United States. We are NOT “neutral” between a democratic member-state of the UN and what is at best a terrorist organization trying to remake itself into a semblance of a government while pursuing a war against its ostensible peace partner. We are NOT neutral between our friend and ally Israel and the PLO – whether Fatah-dominated (with which we were willing to work) or Hamas-dominated (with which we are not). That is not only the American prerogative, but good policy.

Furthermore, the American commitment to Palestinian statehood was never absolute or unconditional and it wasn’t to the Palestinians; it was to Israel. Israel (at Oslo) offered the Palestinians recognition for their national aspirations in exchange for equal recognition of Israel’s nationalism. U.S. support for Oslo came after Oslo. Although Israel made the Palestinians a much better offer than the Jordanians and Egyptians ever did between 1948 and 1967, the Palestinians didn’t take it – and the UN didn’t care.

But the U.S. did, and does, care. Our policy is that the Palestinians have to accept “Israel’s right to exist” (a demeaning phrase; we prefer “the legitimacy of Israeli sovereignty”) with security. We have pushed, pressured (Israel), coddled (the Palestinians) and paid for the experiment, which is now a failure NOT because Israel didn’t do enough, but because Fatah was never going to be Israel’s partner and Hamas isn’t looking for partnership with Fatah in building a state in part of Palestine. Hamas is an international Islamist organization seeking absolute control of the levers of Palestinian governance in its effort to erase Israel. The U.S. isn’t and shouldn’t be neutral about any of it.

Mr. de Soto complains about pressure from U.S. envoys David Welch and Elliot Abrams to isolate Hamas. Well done, guys. And finally, Mr. de Soto complains that he didn’t think the report would leak. “I would not have been so candid,” he said candidly. We’re glad he was and glad to find our government on the wrong side of a UN bureaucrat.