Robert Satloff explains the odd maneuverings at the U.N. I shouldn't say "odd," actually, because these maneuverings are entirely predictable. At a time when Arab peoples are preoccupied with the corruption of their leaders, their leaders, out of necessity, are focused on the perfidiousness of another Middle Eastern state:
With the world focused on the political earthquake reverberating from Egypt and Tunisia to Libya, Yemen, and even to Iran, it is only fitting that the UN Security Council is scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss a topic that appears in virtually none of the protest banners waving over Middle East capitals -- Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. In light of current events, the mere convening of a Security Council meeting on this topic underscores the psychological, let alone geographic, distance between Turtle Bay and the Middle East.
So far, the Obama administration has maintained the correct position -- that the Security Council is not the proper forum to debate matters that are on the agenda for the eventual resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. As Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, "We have made very clear that we do not think the Security Council is the right place to engage on these issues." Given that the administration has a track record of inflating the centrality of settlements to Middle East diplomacy, it is to its credit that it has not acceded to Palestinian, Arab, or even some allied entreaties to join in this refocusing of international attention toward a condemnation of Israeli settlement policy. Indeed, the administration knows that passage of a resolution on settlements would only whet the appetite for further internationalization of the conflict, perhaps even leading either to an effort to win a UN-imposed prescription for a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement or a UN resolution recognizing a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. If Washington believes this conflict will ultimately be resolved through direct negotiations, then the administration is on firm ground by resorting to a veto of the proposed resolution.