Su­san Rice Keeps On Push­ing

An in­ter­view with Obama’s top se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor.

Forward Magazine - - Front Page - By Jane Eis­ner

Just days af­ter France hosted se­nior diplo­mats from the around the world to work on or­ga­niz­ing a peace con­fer­ence on the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, Pres­i­dent Obama’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Su­san Rice, pushed back against the no­tion that in­ter­na­tional pres­sure could sup­plant direct ne­go­ti­a­tions for a two-state solution.

In an exclusive in­ter­view with the For­ward on June 6, Rice warned that con­di­tions in Is­rael and the West Bank were de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, which she blamed on ac­tions by both sides. But, sit­ting in her of­fice in the White House, she re­sisted char­ac­ter­iz­ing Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry’s pres­ence in Paris as an en­dorse­ment of any in­ter­na­tional ef­fort, im­ply­ing that Kerry was there more as a pro­tec­tive move.

“Sec­re­tary Kerry par­tic­i­pated be­cause we are very much of the view that this very del­i­cate is­sue has to be han­dled ef­fec­tively and we can’t see ef­forts that might, in fact, com­pli­cate the sit­u­a­tion on the ground be al­lowed to gen­er­ate dis­trac­tion — or worse, re­newed or in­ten­si­fied fric­tions,” Rice said.

Kerry, she ex­plained, “was there rep­re­sent­ing our en­dur­ing view that we need a two-state solution. It’s over­due. Cir­cum­stances on the ground are not evolv­ing in a con­struc­tive direc­tion, and the par­ties ought to ad­dress this is­sue and re­solve it through direct ne­go­ti­a­tion.”

The in­ter­view was the first that Rice has granted one-on-one with a mem­ber of the Jewish me­dia since be­com­ing na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser in 2013.

While Rice ruled out sup­port for a global peace ini­tia­tive, she of­fered un­spar­ing and un­usual crit­i­cism of both Is­raeli and Pales­tinian be­hav­ior.

“We’ve been deeply con­cerned about at­tacks on Is­raeli civil­ians, the knife at­tacks. We’ve also been con­cerned about at­tacks on Pales­tini­ans where they’ve oc­curred,” she said.

“This has come to a rather higher level of in­ten­sity in re­cent months, and that’s of great con­cern,” she said. “We’ve also re­peat­edly ex­pressed con­cern with the con­tin­ued and ac­cel­er­ated set­tle­ment ac­tiv­ity, which ad­min­is­tra­tions of both par­ties for over 40 years have ex­pressed grave con­cern about.”

Rice spoke in the blunt terms that marked more than four years as am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions dur­ing Obama’s first term, and the three years she’s been his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, with an of­fice in the West Wing just a cor­ri­dor away from his.

As Obama’s se­cond term winds down, there’s been re­newed spec­u­la­tion that he will launch his own ini­tia­tive or sup­port a U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion to es­tab­lish hoped- for pa­ram­e­ters around any fu­ture agree­ment. Sev­eral hun­dred mem­bers of Congress, Demo­crat and Repub­li­can, re­cently signed a let­ter urg­ing the White House to veto such a move if it

sup­ported a “one-sided” res­o­lu­tion.

When asked if she could guar­an­tee that the United States would not sup­port such a res­o­lu­tion, or al­low its pas­sage, Rice hedged.

“I think our record speaks for it­self,” she an­swered. “Which is that we have spent seven and a half years of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion fight­ing and de­feat­ing ef­forts to dele­git­imize or oth­er­wise sin­gle out Is­rael un­fairly. I spent four and a half years of my life do­ing that at the U.N., and Am­bas­sador [Sa­man­tha] Power is do­ing the same — all at Pres­i­dent Obama’s direc­tion. So I think our record is the best in­di­ca­tion of how we would ap­proach this.”

But she added: “I would be fool­ish and no one would ever rule out ac­tion [on a] hy­po­thet­i­cal, and that’s what we are talk­ing about. But our view re­mains as I just said, that the only way to re­solve the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict is through a ne­go­ti­ated solution; that means the two par­ties sit­ting down, face to face.”

Rice ac­knowl­edged the mount­ing frus­tra­tions in Europe that a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion is slip­ping away, which is what prompted French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande to con­vene the June 3 meet­ing at­tended by Kerry, U. N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Arab League, the Euro­pean Union and key Arab states. Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans were ab­sent.

And that frus­tra­tion, she said, “raises the pos­si­bil­ity that some mem­bers of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity could seek var­i­ous forms of in­ter­na­tional ac­tion, in­clud­ing po­ten­tially a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion. We worked very hard on the one hand to dis­cour­age that kind of ef­fort, with suc­cess. But also to en­cour­age the two par­ties to rec­og­nize that it is in their in­ter­ests to cre­ate both the cir­cum­stances and the po­lit­i­cal will nec­es­sary to sit down and have a mean­ing­ful direct ne­go­ti­a­tion.”

Ever the diplo­mat, Rice flat- out re­fused to answer a ques­tion about Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton’s re­cent crit­i­cism of Don­ald Trump’s for­eign pol­icy pro­pos­als and his tem­per­a­ment as com­man­der in chief. She shooed away the ques­tion more abruptly than some might have.

“We’re not get­ting into pol­i­tics,” she said. “You can stop right there. I’m not get­ting into any pol­i­tics. I can’t. It’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate and can border on il­le­gal, so don’t waste your time on that.”

For more on the Rice In­ter­view, read Jane Eis­ner on page 25.

GETYY IMAGES

Both Sides Now: ‘We’ve been deeply con­cerned about at­tacks on Is­raeli civil­ians,’ said Rice. ‘We’ve also been con­cerned about at­tacks on Pales­tini­ans where they’ve oc­curred.’

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