Last week, the U.S. curiously abstained from a voting on a United Nations Gaza ceasefire resolution, “an apparent reversal of earlier promises to Arab states.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, despite voicing support for the resolution, raised concerns about “Egyptian mediation efforts” in explaining the abstention.
But in reality, Rice was essentially ready to support the resolution — until a last-minute intervention from President Bush. In a speech in Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert bragged that he called Bush at the last minute, urging that the U.S. not vote to support the resolution. Bush acquiesced to Olmert’s demands:
“In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favour,” Olmert said.
“I said ‘get me President Bush on the phone’. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care. ‘I need to talk to him now’. He got off the podium and spoke to me.”I told him the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour.”
Rice had worked extensively on the resolution with Arab, British, and French foreign ministers. “She was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favour,” Olmert said.
In a briefing Friday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack maintained that “we fully support the text, the objectives, and the goals of that resolution” and boasted that the “resolution never would have come into being as it was without the efforts of Condoleezza Rice up there.” But he struggled to explain how the Department could both abstain and support the resolution:
Q: So we — so when the secretary comes out and you come out and you say, We support this resolution, we support the language in it, we support the goals, why — what message does it send when you don’t vote for it? I mean, it’s just, it’s completely inconsistent, no?
McCORMACK: Well, you’re — you’re certainly welcome to your interpretation.
“Look, it’s a nuanced argument,” McCormack said. The simple reality, however, is that Bush overrode Rice at the behest of Olmert. Ironically, asked whether he thought Bush had ordered Rice to abstain at the eleventh hour, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said, “I don’t know.”