State Dep’t Nominee Pledges to Veto Palestinians’ Statehood Bid at U.N.

By Patrick Goodenough | September 8, 2011 | 5:40pm EDT


The U.N. Security Council meets in New York (U.N. Photo)

(Update: State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed Thursday – the first time an administration official has done so – that the U.S. will veto a Palestinian bid for U.N. recognition should it come to a vote in the Security Council this month.)

( – President Obama’s nominee for the third most senior position in the State Department said Wednesday that the administration would veto any resolution put before the U.N. Security Council this month recognizing a Palestinian state. No administration official has stated that publicly until now.

Wendy Sherman’s comments before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing came at a time when Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, in rallying support for the U.N. bid, is pointing to a “promise” made by Obama a year ago.

Addressing the General Assembly in New York last September, the president said that if Mideast negotiators “reach for what’s best within ourselves,” then “when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations – an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.”

That statement, which drew enthusiastic applause, has been cited by Palestinian leaders as amounting to a U.S. pledge.

President Obama addresses the general debate of the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly on September 23, 2010. The Palestinian Authority is citing comments from his speech to support its bid for U.N. recognition this month. (UN Photo by Rick Bajornas)

“Obama last September promised that Palestine will obtain full membership in the General Assembly of the United Nations,” Abbas said in an interview aired on China’s CCTV in April, adding that this was one of what the P.A. is calling “the September entitlements.”

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that P.A.-run media outlets -- including Voice of Palestine radio -- are now running ads in support of the statehood bid, featuring those Sept. 2010 words from Obama.

“If he said it, he must have meant it,” Reuters quoted Abbas as saying in the ad, in reference to the U.S. president.
Wendy Sherman

Wendy Sherman, nominated for the post of undersecretary of state for political affairs comments, addresses a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, September 7, 2011. (Image: C-SPAN)

Sherman, who was nominated for the post of undersecretary of state for political affairs in July, told the Senate panel Wednesday that the administration was “doing everything it possibly can” to prevent a Palestinian statehood resolution from being put to a vote in the Security Council.

“The administration has been very clear as well – I don’t expect this to occur, but if it did occur,  if any such resolution were put in front of the Security Council – that we would veto it,” she said. “So our expectation is that will not occur.”

Pressed by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, Sherman reiterated, “The United States is very resolved to a veto threat in the Security Council. What we are very resolved about as well is urging the parties to enter into direct negotiations, again.”

Asked by Lee whether there was a potential coalition of countries that would join the U.S. in blocking a Palestinian state resolution, Sherman replied, “We are working outward and are increasing the number of countries who understand that to really have a viable Palestine and a secure Israel will require direct negotiations between the parties, not a resolution at the United Nations.”


Wendy Sherman, nominated for the post of undersecretary of state for political affairs comments, addresses a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, September 7, 2011. (Image: C-SPAN)

Notwithstanding Sherman’s assertion that “the administration has been very clear” that it would veto a Security Council resolution, in fact no administration official has publicly and directly pledged a veto to date.

That the U.S. would use its veto if necessary has been implied, however, in repeated statements by officials stressing U.S. opposition to any P.A. attempt to sidestep negotiations with Israel by seeking U.N. recognition.

“The United States will not support unilateral campaigns at the United Nations in September or any other time,” U.S. deputy ambassador to the U.N. Rosemary DiCarlo told a Security Council session on July 26.

When asked directly last spring whether the U.S. would veto a resolution, State Department spokesman Mark Toner replied, “I don’t want to preview how we might vote, but we don’t view it as a helpful step.”

Resolutions passed by the U.S. House and Senate over the summer urged the administration to lead international opposition to the Palestinian initiative, and – in the wording of the Senate version – “to announce that the United States will veto any resolution on Palestinian statehood that comes before the United Nations Security Council which is not a result of agreements reached between the Government of Israel and the Palestinians.”

The House resolution H. Res. 268 passed by a vote of 407-6 on July 7; the Senate’s S. Res. 185 passed by unanimous consent on June 28.

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