Rice: US supports Israel, but it’s a two-way street

Top Obama adviser says Israel must back US on Ukraine and other topics, talks up reform of UN Human Rights Council

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

US National Security Advisor Susan Rice (AP/Craig Ruttle/File)
US National Security Advisor Susan Rice (AP/Craig Ruttle/File)

WASHINGTON — The United States may be committed to supporting Israel, but that commitment comes with strings attached, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said during a talk in Washington, DC on Wednesday evening.

“America will always maintain our iron-clad commitment to the security of Israel, ensuring that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge and can protect its territory and people,” Rice told attendees at the Center for a New American Security’s annual conference in Washington DC. “Equally, we consistently defend Israel’s legitimacy and security in the UN and other international fora. In turn, we expect Israel to stand and be counted with the US and other partners on core matters of international law and principle, such as Ukraine.”

Rice delivered the speech as part of the latest in a series of talks delineating President Barack Obama’s second-term foreign policy agenda. Last month, Obama delivered a major foreign policy address at the West Point military academy’s commencement ceremony, but his lengthy statement of doctrine did not mention the administration’s policy toward Israel.

In her Wednesday talk, Rice drew linkages between topics raised in Obama’s speech and the administration’s Israel policy.

Speaking about the utility and limitations of international organizations in solving pressing problems, Rice noted that the US maintained – and even increased – involvement in international organizations in order to support human rights.

Rice said that it was to protect rights that Obama decided to join the United Nations Human Rights Council – “so we could lead in reforming that flawed institution from within.”

US involvement, she said, “made it more effective”, allowing the council to “spend far more time spotlighting abuses in Gaddafi’s Libya, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and Iran than demonizing Israel.”

In March, the organization voted for five back-to-back resolutions condemning Israel which met with widespread support among most voting members.

During the debate before the votes, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Paula Schriefer denounced the resolutions – and the council’s work.

“This Council continually singles out Israel for criticism without acknowledging the violent attacks directed at its people, nor the obligations and difficult steps of both sides to resolve the conflict,” Schriefer, who led the US delegation to the UNHRC, complained.

Rice also discussed Washington’s policies toward Iran. The continuing US troop deployment of some 35,000 soldiers in the Gulf region, she said, “are a daily reminder of our commitment to the region and clear evidence that the United States remains ready to defend our core interests, whether it’s disrupting al-Qaeda or preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”

“At the same time,” Rice admonished, “we look to our partners, both individually and through the Gulf Cooperation Council, to cooperate on missile defense and develop other critical deterrence capabilities, including in the spheres of counter-piracy, maritime security, counterterrorism and counter-proliferation.”

Rice said that while the UN Security Council’s limitations are demonstrated by its inability to effectively respond to the Syrian civil war, internationalism has allowed Russia and the United States “to work together to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons and to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Obama emphasized international partnerships in his May speech, and Rice reiterated that it was through such partnerships that the US “built an unprecedented sanctions regime to pressure Iran while keeping the door open to diplomacy.”

“As a consequence, working with the P5+1, we’ve halted Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon and rolled it back in key respects,” Rice said. “Now, we are testing whether we can reach a comprehensive solution that resolves peacefully the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and bolsters our shared security.”

The United States held bilateral talks with Iran this week in anticipation of the latest round of P5+1 negotiations that will be held next week in Vienna.

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