The Cable

Palestinians have a plan B for U.N. statehood drive

It's generally expected that the United States will veto the Palestinian bid for full member status at the United Nations Security Council next month, but the Palestinian government thinks it has an ace up its sleeve -- a workaround option that would bypass the U.S. veto and allow it to secure U.N. recognition, says the PLO's top representative in Washington.

"The plan as of now is to go the United Nations to seek full member-state status for the State of Palestine," said Maen Rashid Areikat, PLO representative to the United States and head of the PLO mission in Washington, in a Tuesday interview with The Cable. That means submitting a request to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who will then turn that request over to the U.N. Security Council for a vote.

But the Security Council doesn't actually vote on the statehood question, only whether to refer the matter to the U.N. General Assembly. If and when the United States vetoes the idea of referring the Palestinian request to the General Assembly, that request dies. But the Palestinians aren't planning to stop there.

"We hope the United States will reconsider its position and not use its veto power against the Palestinian move at the United Nations," he said. "What happens after a veto? There are so many other options."

Areikat said one option under serious consideration was to invoke U.N. General Assembly Resolution 377, known as "Uniting for Peace," which was put forth by U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson in 1950 as a means of getting around an obstructionist Security Council, which at the time was unable to authorize a response to North Korea's attacks on South Korea because the Soviet Union was rejecting all related Security Council resolutions. Resolution 377 is meant to bypass the Security Council if it "fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression."

"What we could do is go to the Security Council and say that a member state of the Security Council, in this case the United States, has blocked our request and therefore we are seeking Security Council support to take the issue to the U.N. General Assembly, invoking Resolution 377," he said. "If that effort succeeds, we will be a non-member state at the United States, not a member state. That's the difference between the two."

Under Resolution 377, the Palestinians would only need nine out of 15 Security Council votes to refer their statehood request to the General Assembly, which can then address the matter immediately (if in session) or can call an emergency special session, as has been done 10 times since 1950, most recently in 1997, when it was convened to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The other option is for the Palestinian government to submit their request for full member status to the Security Council again, forcing the U.S. to veto it over and over.

"We can keep on going back to the Security Council again and again," Areikat said.

The Obama administration has been working hard to try to convince the Palestinians not to move forward at the United Nations. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at today's briefing that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today. Also, the NSC's Dennis Ross and Acting Special Envoy David Hale were in the Middle East and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. Hale, but not Ross, will meet with Abbas Wednesday.

The Clinton call was "to urge President Abbas to receive them and hear them with open ears and to continue to work hard with us to avoid a negative scenario in New York at the end of the month," Nuland said. "We will continue to oppose any one-sided actions at the U.N. And we're making that clear to both sides."

"We respect their position, we expect them to respect our position. It's not a secret that they are asking us not to go the United Nations. It's not a secret that we are telling them we have to go to the United Nations," Areikat said.

But he said the Palestinian leadership no longer had faith in the United States or the international community to set forth a process for peace negotiations that both the Israeli and Palestinian sides could agree to. It's been a year since President Barack Obama established Sept. 2011 as the deadline for setting forth a framework for a final settlement, but "nothing has really happened," Areikat said.

"We have been waiting for over a year for the international community and the United States to create a formula that will constitute a basis for resuming negotiations and what we've seen is a total rejection on the part of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli government to engage."

Prompted by The Cable, Areikat also responded to comments made in our interview with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren last week, who said that if the Palestinians move forward with their statehood drive, all bilateral agreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians could be at risk, including the Oslo Accords.

"The agreement that Oren is accusing the Palestinians of violating is an agreement that Israel has rendered obsolete in the first place," he said, referring to the Oslo Accord specifically. "It's really shocking to hear that he is threatening to abandon the agreements with the PLO, which also provided certain stability to Israel and Israelis. I don't see how by abandoning the Oslo accords Israeli will be serving its own interests."

The State Department last week urged both sides to honor their existing agreements, despite the new diplomatic tussle. Areikat warned that the scuttling of standing agreements could have repercussions for Israel as well.

"If the Israelis want to take an action, there will be a reaction. If they want to throw away an agreement, it will also have an impact on them," he said.

Areikat also criticized leaders of the U.S. Congress, who is threatening to cut some or all of the $550 million in annual aid to the Palestinian government if it moves forward with the statehood push at the U.N., calling such an action "unwise and unconstructive."

"We definitely hope the U.S. Congress understands the fact that any steps taken to put pressure on the Palestinians is going to adversely affect U.S. interests and even the interests of Israel in the region," he said. "I hate to see members of Congress threatening to use financial support to try to influence Palestinian positions on this issue."

UPDATE: A State Department official confirms that Ross did end up meeting with Abbas Wednesday, along with Hale.

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The Cable

Gen. James 'Hoss' Cartwright: I have no regrets

In a small, windowless office with barren walls in the Pentagon's E-ring, four-star Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright sits behind an empty desk. He's spent the month of August on "terminal leave," tying up the loose ends of his 40-year military career, in which he rose to become the second-highest-ranking uniformed military man in the nation, before losing his chance at one final promotion.

"Hoss," as he's known to his friends, was always a controversial figure within the military aristocracy: a Marine with a penchant for technology, an iconoclast who made his reputation bucking the conventional wisdom, an insider who was always trying to force the Defense Department to think outside the box. He was often impolitic and caught up in controversy, but his determination to drive the discussion on things like missile defense, cyberwarfare, and military strategy made him stand out as the general who talked straight and wasn't afraid to ruffle feathers.

It was these very qualities that made him "Obama's favorite general," according to Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars. When asked whether that was true, Cartwright said he believed it was -- once upon a time. He also acknowledged that Obama promised to promote him to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but then reneged on that pledge after a whisper campaign against Cartwright, reportedly coming from within the Pentagon, made his appointment politically difficult for the White House.

But looking back he has no regrets.

"I wouldn't change anything. I wouldn't do it any different," Cartwright told The Cable, in the first interview he's given since stepping down. His retirement became official this week.

The break between Cartwright and his two bosses, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, came after the contentious debate in late 2009 over the surge of troops in Afghanistan. Cartwright worked with Vice President Joseph Biden on a plan that placed a greater emphasis on counterterrorism than counterinsurgency, and included a smaller footprint with fewer additional troops. They presented that plan to Obama without the prior approval of Gates and Mullen.

Gates has publicly denied that this episode cost Cartwright the chairman's job and said in June that "Hoss Cartwright is one of the finest officers I've ever worked with."

But Cartwright acknowledged in his interview with The Cable that his insistence on giving options for alternative policies in Afghanistan, alternatives Gates and Mullen didn't like, caused a falling-out that along with the whisper campaign in which critics accused him of insubordination and leaked details of an inspector general's investigation into a possible relationship he had with a female aide (he was later cleared of any wrongdoing), scuttled his chances to take the chairman's seat.

"Yeah, they did make it personal," Cartwright said, though careful not to name Gates or Mullen in particular as being behind the effort to smear him. "But at the end of the day, that's their choice. I can live with this skin very easily."

"At the end of the day, the measure of merit was not necessarily whether the relationships were strong," he said. "The measure of merit was: All the things that I needed to do as vice chairman, all the things that Chairman Mullen and Secretary Gates needed to do, none of that stuff ever suffered as a result of this.… The department never suffered. The war fighter never suffered."

Regardless, the Biden-Cartwright plan, known as "counterterrorism plus," eventually lost out to a plan much closer to the counterinsurgency heavy approach that Gates and Mullen were advocating. Cartwright said he never thought he was breaking the chain of command or committing insubordination by dealing directly with Biden or Obama.

"Well, you know, in someone's eyes, maybe I broke the chain of command. But from the standpoint of the law, no. And so I'm very comfortable with where I was," he said. "My job is not to come up with a strategy and say, 'This is the answer.' My job is to give the president and the administration a broad enough range of choices that are credible choices and let them find in it the broader strategy as they look across all the other elements of power that they have."

Within those choices for how to proceed in Afghanistan, Cartwright was in favor of a "counterterrorism plus" approach that would have required fewer surge troops.

"Actually, I was arguing more about balance," he said. "In other words, I believe that if you weren't going to put enough force in to control the entire country, then the tied-down force had to have its flanks protected. And therefore you had to have a mobile force that was more counterterror-type force than you did."

Many in the war-fighting community believe that Cartwright just didn't get it because he never led troops in battle. He rose through the ranks as a Marine aviator and then spent most of the last decade as the head of U.S. Strategic Command or as a top Pentagon official. For the soldier on the field in Afghanistan, Cartwright's idea for fewer troops just placed the troops in battle in greater danger. For many in the military, the choice was to go big or go home.

But Cartwright says he just didn't see it that way -- and when the president asked him for his own opinion, he was bound to give it to him. And he still stands by the advice he gave. Cartwright's view is the emphasis should be on finding ways to wind down the war more quickly and leave Afghanistan in the hands of the Afghans.

"At the end of the day, from a grand strategy standpoint, this is a very cost-imposing strategy on us and, not having a clear idea of how long we're going to stay other than until the cash runs out, is important to understand," he said. "You can't kill your way or buy your way to success in those activities. It's got to be diplomatic. And Afghans have to be convinced that it's time for them to do their own thing."

At his retirement ceremony on Aug. 3, which Mullen and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta attended, Cartwright quoted Teddy Roosevelt's famous speech, "In the Arena," which begins, "It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena."

This week, he said the pushback he received was the unavoidable consequence of doing his duty.

"If getting criticized was my worry, if that was the merit of the job, then I wouldn't be there anyway. You do what you think is right," he said. "At the end of the day, you do your own self-reflection. You look in the mirror and you say: Is the integrity where it belongs? Is anything you provided in the way of advice so far off the base as to be reprehensible? I never came to the conclusion in either case that either the integrity had suffered or that the advice was bad advice."

As he sits in his uniform at his empty office, Cartwright thinks about what he wants to do next. He said he might enter a think tank or academia while he decides how to contribute to military policy from the civilian side of the discussion. He leaves the Pentagon with a sense of accomplishment and without remorse.

"My advice wasn't always taken, but it always at least informed the debate, which was my measure of merit," said Cartwright. "That people were so strongly against it at times, well shoot … these are big decisions."

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