Rice embarrassed by Olmert at UN
We have seen the weakness of the UN come to the forefront in recent days once again with their failure to pass a powerful resolution that would force an end to the violence in Gaza.
The most disturbing evidence comes by way of the conflict’s aggressor Israel, indirectly weakening the most recent resolution by persuading the United States to abstain from the vote.
The story as reported by the New York Times essentially had Prime Minister Olmert calling the U.S. and demanding that President Bush stop in the middle of giving a speech to take his phone call. Bush took the phone call, during which Olmert convinced him to have Rice abstain from the vote on the resolution that she helped draft. The State Department is denying the story and says that Rice had always planned on abstaining from the vote in order to see how the Franco-Egyptian draft of the resolution would do on its own. But Olmert is not being shy about sharing his recollection of the story, even going as far as to boast about the situation “embarrassing” Rice on the national stage.
This single incident calls into question two controversial issues. First it calls into question the power that the UN actually has as a peacekeeping force in international conflicts. And second it raises the issue of Israeli influence in Washington.
If a UN resolution can be derailed this easily, with one simple phone call from a leader who has a lot at stake in the conflict at hand, is the UN really the cold observer that it claims to be?
Something to watch in the coming weeks as Obama takes office is whether or not this type of persuasion by the Israeli leadership is still as powerful with the new administration. Until then we will not be certain whether Olmert’s recent actions had more to do with his rocky relationship with Secretary Rice or Washington intervention in general.
Ideally I think Olmert and the leadership in Israel would like to have most of the looseends tied up in Gaza by the time Obama takes office, regardless if the military phase of the process is complete by January 20th. Israel would have a difficult time surviving the public relations defeat that they would likely suffer by forcing the new Obama administration to ask for restraint in their aggression.