The Cable

Israel supporters launch pre-emptive strike on the U.N.

The White House is pushing back hard against a claim by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol that the administration is preparing to support an independent U.N. investigation into the Gaza flotilla incident.

Kristol, writing on the Weekly Standard blog, claimed he had heard, "the administration intends to support an effort next week at the United Nations to set up an independent commission, under UN auspices, to investigate Israel's behavior in the Gaza flotilla incident."

The White House quickly and sharply denied that account.

A  White House official told multiple reporters, "We've said from the beginning that we support an Israeli-led investigation into the flotilla incident that is prompt, credible, impartial, and transparent. We are open to different ways of ensuring the credibility of this Israeli-led investigation, including international participation."

The official also said, "We know of no resolution that will be debated at the U.N. on the flotilla investigation next week."

Kristol's allegation, and the White House's rebuttal of it, is further illustration of the ongoing tension between some in the pro-Israel advocacy community and the administration over how strongly and aggressively to defend Israel in the international arena.

While it's true there is no specific resolution expected, sources close to the issue say, what pro-Israel leaders like Kristol are worried about are continuing calls for tougher measures against Israel, such as the vote in the Human Rights Council, and whether or not the administration will really oppose them with vigor.

That point is made clearly in the first line of a letter addressed to the president that is currently being finalized by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY. In a rare show of bipartisan comity, the two Senate leaders are calling on Obama not just to oppose new efforts to isolate Israel at the U.N., but to openly declare America's support for the Jewish state.

"We write to affirm our support for our strategic partnership with Israel, and encourage you to continue to do so before international organizations such as the United Nations," the letter reads.

Commending the administration for working to craft a presidential statement by the U.N. Security Council that didn't call for an international investigation in the first place, the senators asked him not to support any new ones.

"Israel has announced its intention to promptly carry out a thorough investigation of this incident
and has the right to determine how its investigation is conducted," they wrote. "In the meantime, we ask you to stand firm in the future at the United Nations Security Council and to use your veto power, if necessary, to prevent any similar biased or one-sided resolutions from passing."

The Cable

Briefing Skipper: Abbas, Iran, Mexico, BP, Flyers

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. These are the highlights of Thursday's briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finished off her Latin America tour in Barbados, where she met with officials and talked about the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, health issues including PEPFAR, energy, climate change. Friday she's meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the morning and Jordanian King Abdullah in the afternoon.
  • Brazil has told the U.S. it will carry out its obligations under the new UN Security Council Resolution on Iran but Turkey hasn't said any such thing. "We expect all UN members to carry out the will of the United Nations and Resolution 1929," Crowley said, adding he hadn't heard that Turkey wouldn't carry its obligations.
  • Robert J. Einhorn, special advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, you know, will now serve as the U.S. coordinator for the implementation of sanctions related to Iran. Crowley acknowledged that the planned Russian sale of S-300 missiles is not covered, but pointed out that they haven't yet been delivered. "Russia has exercised responsibility and restraint, and has not, at this point, delivered those missiles to Iran," he said.
  • As for the overall criticism that the sanction are weak, Crowley said they want to see the effects "over time" and tried to explain the logic behind the narrow focus. "It was not our intent to shut down Iran. It was our intent to change Iranian policy and change Iranian behavior," he said, "While applying pressure on the Iranian government with the hope that it will come back to the table to negotiate in good faith, we don't want to add to the misery of the Iranian people."
  • Crowley rejected the speculation that U.S. government criticism of BP due to the oil spill was a problem in U.S.-UK relations. "BP is a private company, and this is about the impact of a tragedy in terms of the explosion of the oil platform and the resulting oil spill, and this is not about relations between the United States and its closest ally," he said, "It is not going to affect our relationship between the United States and Britain."
  • Mexico sent a formal note to the State Department expressing concern over the border shooting of a 15 year old, a video of which has now surfaced. "We, like Mexico, absolutely regret the loss of life. And it asked for a transparent investigation. That's exactly what we plan to do," Crowley said, adding the investigation would be led by the FBI.
  • In Pakistan, the U.S.-Pakistani defense working group met today. It's co-chaired by Lieutenant General Athar Ali, Pakistan's secretary of defense, David Ochmanek, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Force Development, and David Sedney, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.
  • Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake will travel to Turkmenistan on June 14 through 16 and Uzbekistan June 17 and 18. "He will lead a large official delegation to the first bilateral consultations with the government of Turkmenistan," Crowley said. Assistant Secretary Mike Posner and Kurt Donnelly, director of Central Asia for the National Security Council, will join him.
  • Crowley offered condolences to Mark Toner, a noble fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, who came two games short of winning the Stanley Cup Finals this week.