For better or worse, each passing day the Middle East is becoming more unstable. Regimes that have clung to power for decades are now being overthrown and threatened. Others are preemptively cracking down on their opponents or seeking to appease them.
While no one can say with certainty what the future will bring to the radically altered Middle Eastern landscape, it is becoming increasingly apparent that US influence over events here will be dramatically diminished.
This assessment is based on the widespread view that the Obama administration has failed to articulate a coherent policy for contending with the rising populist tides.
Last Friday's UN Security Council vote was a case in point. On the one hand, the US vetoed a Lebanese-sponsored resolution that criminalized Israel's policy of permitting Jews to exercise their property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. On the other, after vetoing the resolution, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned their own actions and explained why what they did was wrong.
As Rice put it in her explanation of the vote: "We reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel's security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region. Continued settlement activity violates Israel's international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace....
"While we agree with our fellow Council members - and indeed, with the wider world - about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians. We therefore regrettably have opposed this draft resolution."
It is important at the outset to point out that Rice's claims are either wrong or debatable. Israel has not committed itself to barring Jews from exercising property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Permitting Jewish construction in these areas does not violate Israel's international commitments.
Moreover, there is no firm international legal basis for declaring Jewish neighborhoods and villages in these areas illegal.
It is far from clear that Jewish neighborhoods, cities and villages in these areas harm prospects for peace or undermine trust between Israelis and Arabs. Jews built far more homes back when Israel was signing agreements with the Palestinians.
Finally, it is far easier to form a coherent argument explaining how these communities strengthen Israel's security than an argument that they endanger it.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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