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And Over at the UN… Diplomats Try to Keep Israel Front and Center

Despite more obviously pressing problems in Syria and elsewhere, U.S. and U.N. diplomats keep focusing on Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Susan E. Rice

Susan E. Rice

At the U.N. Press Center, we can read

While the brutal conflict in Syria continues to dominate headlines, the world cannot afford to be complacent to the ongoing deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, a top United Nations official said today, stressing the urgent need to focus on the goal of a two-State solution.

But can the world afford to nothing much about Syria?  It is not a dominant theme for peacemakers?

After all,

the conflict in Syria, now entering its 20th month has reached “new and appalling heights of brutality and violence,” said Mr. Feltman, adding that, available estimates, which the U.N. is not in a position to verify, put the number of people killed at over 30,000.

But

“While the world’s gaze of concern points elsewhere in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict drifts dangerously in a direction that must be avoided,” the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, told the Security Council, during a meeting on the situation in the Middle East.

“…the creeping realities on the ground and the stalemated diplomacy portray a more worrying reality”…The parties “cannot be impervious to the warning signs of a fading two-State solution,” he added. “Nor can this Council.”

Violence and other sources of tension on the ground are making it all the more difficult to overcome the political stalemate, Mr. Feltman stated, noting concern about security in the West Bank, settler violence, continued settlement activity, Palestinian attacks against Israelis, as well as sporadic eruptions of violence in the Gaza Strip…

And what did U.S. Ambassador Rice say?

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Susan E. Rice said on Monday that the U.S. “does not accept the legitimacy of Israeli settlement activity, and will continue to oppose any efforts to legalize outposts.” Speaking at the Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East, Rice emphasized: “The fate of existing settlements must be dealt with by the parties along with other permanent-status issues.”

Oh, and I caught this attempt to muddy the waters at a State Dept. Press Conference:

MS. NULAND: Thanks. Anything else? Said.
QUESTION: Scholarships for the Palestinians?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you aware that you have cancelled a three-year program of scholarships for the students from Gaza because of an Israeli pressure on the travel ban, and this disallows young Palestinian students, especially women, from traveling to the West Bank, and they find themselves confined to Islamic universities in Gaza?
MS. NULAND: Well first of all, let me just clarify, Said, that there have been no scholarships canceled by the United States or by our Consulate General in Jerusalem for Gazan students to study in West Bank universities. In fact, we are currently funding three undergraduate students from Gaza who are on four or five-year university degree programs in the West Bank with assistance granted through our A-PLUS programs. These folks have been studying for some time and permits have been granted for these students by Israeli authorities.
My understanding of the situation is that the Israeli high court in May opened a case with regard to the future of Gazan students studying in the West Bank. They made clear to us in the context of that that while the case was ongoing, they would not issue any new permits. So understanding that and with the school year starting, we chose this year, for the 2012 school year only, to grant scholarships to folks already in the West Bank. But it is our hope that we will be able to get back in the business of helping Gazan students study in the West Bank.
QUESTION: Are you raising this issue with Israel to allow Palestinians to travel from Gaza to the West Bank for studying purposes?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, those who are already part of our programs and were before the high court took up the case have been able to continue their studies. And we have heard from the Israelis that this is a freeze, if you will, until this court case goes forward. So we will see where we are after the court case is finished, but it’s obviously our hope and aspiration to be able to continue the program for Gazan students.
QUESTION: Thank you.

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About the Author: Yisrael Medad resides in Shiloh and is a foreign media spokesperson for the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities.


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