It's happened again -- Susan Rice has skipped another UN meeting critical to U.S. interests. Today's UN Security Council debate on the Middle East was the last open meeting scheduled before the planned UN vote to recognize Palestinian statehood. The Obama Administration has said it doesn't think it's a good idea for the Arabs to push for a General Assembly vote on the issue, but U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice obviously doesn't translate that into working against the dress rehearsal. Does Rice think it's none of America's business if the UN recognizes a government that includes Hamas? Does Rice believe the UN should take up other statehood issues? Her silence confuses our allies and sends the wrong signals to the UN.
While this isn't the first time Rice has avoided controversial and difficult UN issues, she issued a long public statement yesterday on a separate subcommittee's non-controversial work and today has tweeted multiple times about a UN youth conference. Rice also held a press conference last year with the Russian Ambassador and the UN Secretary-General to discuss texting while driving.
While Rice feels compelled to speak up on safe driving and youth conferences, she failed to show up for the emergency UN meeting on the Gaza flotilla debate, she failed to condemn Libya when it was elected to the human rights commission, she failed to speak out against Iran's election to the women's committee and she failed to attend the first Security Council meeting to confront the Arab Spring issues. And that only scratches the surface.
Whether it's adding Haiti peacekeepers to the beleaguered peacekeeping force or keeping the pressure on North Korea's and Iran's nuclear programs, Rice has failed to deliver resolutions despite promises that the Obama team would lead the world.
Inside the Security Council today, the debate raged over the Arab's planned UN vote on behalf of the Palestinians:
Israel's Ambassador to the UN pointedly asked the Palestinian representative, "On behalf of whom will you present a resolution in September? Mr. Abbas or Hamas? Will it be on behalf of both the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terrorist organization, which advances a charter calling for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews?"
Palestine's Representative called out the international community for not doing enough and said failure was "...due to Israel's relentless violations of the law and the failure to hold Israel accountable for its illegal actions."
The Palestinian representative also appealed for assistance, "The Security Council convenes this open debate at a moment requiring serious reflection and candid deliberation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the international efforts to resolve it and resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole."
The speeches today called for American leadership, participation and perspective. But Ambassador Rice didn't attend the meeting. One Security Council diplomat told me, "Ambassador Rice is seldom here and (Deputy) Ambassador (Rosemary) DiCarlo always has a good statement."
Over the last few years, Rice has avoided tough negotiations and public feuds and has subsequently produced very few UN resolutions on America's priority issues. She has consistently avoided the difficult issues where negotiations take patience, skill and aggressive advocacy. An absent U.S. Ambassador surely entices others to take full advantage of the void. One sure way to weaken the UN is to placate it, neglect it and marginalize it, as Rice has done these past years. The UN and the American people deserve better.