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Middle East
Obama urged to condemn settlements
US academics and ex-government officials ask US president to support UN resolution against illegal Israeli settlements.
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2011 09:41 GMT

The letter said the number of Israelis living beyond the 1967 line complicates the realisation of two-state solution [AFP]

Several US policy practitioners, academics, former government officials and journalists have in a letter to Barack Obama urged the US president to support the upcoming United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

"The time has come for a clear signal from the United States to the parties and to the broader international community that the US can and will approach the conflict with the objectivity, consistency and respect for international law required if it is to play a constructive role in the conflict's resolution," read the letter published in the Washington Note, a popular political blog, on Wednesday.

It went on to say that "while a UNSC resolution will not resolve the issue of settlements or prevent further Israeli construction activity in the Occupied Territory, it is an appropriate venue for addressing these issues and for putting all sides on notice that the continued flouting of international legality will not be treated with impunity."

The signatories to the letter advised that if the US believes that the text of the resolution is flawed, that it could set forth additional US views on settlements and related issues in an accompanying statement.

"The alternative to a Resolution - a consensus statement by the President of the UNSC - would have no stature under international law, hence this option should be avoided," the letter warned.

Cairo address

The letter urged the president to follow through on the commitment he made in his landmark Cairo speech of June 2009, in which he said: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.

"This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

The letter also states that settlements are illegal according to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva convention - a status recognised in an opinion issued by the US State Department's legal advissr on April 28, 1978, a position which has never since been revised.

"That official US legal opinion describes the settlements as being "inconsistent with international law.

"US policy across nine administrations has been to oppose the settlements, with the focus for the last two decades being on the incompatibility of settlement construction with efforts to advance peace."

It also says that the resolution will have a defining effect on the credibility of the US as a broker in Middle East peace, as well as its "seriousness as a guarantor of international law and international legitimacy ... in a region in which hundreds of thousands of our troops are deployed and where we face the greatest threats and challenges to our security.

"This vote is an American national security interest vote par excellence. We urge you to do the right thing."

Among those who signed the letter are former US Trade Representative and Council on foreign Relations Chair, Carla Hills, journalist and former New Republic editor Peter Beinart, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas Pickering, former Assistant Secretary of State, James Dobbins, former Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Pastor, former New Republic editor and Atlantic Senior Editor and Daily Dish publisher, Andrew Sullivan, former US Secretary of Defence, Frank Carlucci and former US Ambassador to Israel Edward Walker.

Source:
Washington Note
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