Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council held an emergency Security Council meeting Monday on Israel's raid of a ship headed to Gaza -- and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. The emergency meeting included a public meeting and a series of private consultations. The UN Security Council ultimately issued a statement on the situation in the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 1, after starting deliberations on Monday, May 31 - the American Memorial Day holiday.
All 15 members of the Security Council delivered public speeches about the Israeli raid in which at least nine people were killed. While Arab nations called the ship a humanitarian mission for the desperate situation in Gaza, Israel called the ship's operation an illegal act which defied calls for simple inspections. Israel has a blockade on all deliveries to Gaza, and Egypt, which shares a border with the Gaza Strip, keeps its border crossing closed most of the time.
Arab nations, Europeans and Asian members of the UN jumped to condemn Israel and the attack during the marathon public debate. Turkey's Foreign Minister said, "This is tantamount to banditry and piracy. It is murder conducted by a state." But while UN members were blasting Israel about a developing story with conflicting information as to what had actually happened, the American Ambassador failed to attend the emergency meeting. The U.S. Mission was represented by Ambassador Alex Wolff, the Mission's deputy. Wolff, a skilled diplomat, defended the U.S. position and fended off the barrage of American critics that showed up for the emergency meeting.
One reporter told me, "I have no idea where she (Rice) was. We were there all day and the U.S. only had Wolff." Another reporter said, "It's Memorial Day. Rice doesn't show up during a normal week, why would she show on a holiday?" Porter Speakman, Jr, NGO activist and director of the film "With God on Our Side," said: "This is probably one of, if not, the most important meetings our Ambassador to the UN has seen since she arrived. What kind of message does this send to Arabs, the Turks and to Israel when Susan Rice doesn't show up?"
Rice's absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand. The Associated Press said, "...long and difficult negotiations were conducted primarily by the United States with Turkey and Lebanon..." But those difficult negotiations didn't involve Rice who failed to show throughout the 12 hour ordeal.
Coming on the heels of Rice's silence and absence from the meeting where Iran was elected to the UN Women's committee and Rice's refusal to call out Libya after it was elected to the UN's Human Rights Council, Rice's performance is leaving Americans wondering if she really wants to be the American Ambassador to the UN.
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