Ambassador Rice: Palestinian Bid Is 'Unwise And Counterproductive'

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In an interview with All Things Considered's Michele Norris, the United States' ambassador to the United Nations said the U.S. supports an independent Palestinian state, but trying to achieve that by asking the U.N. to recognize Palestine as a state is "unwise and counterproductive."

Ambassador Susan Rice echoed President Obama, saying "there's no shortcut; there's no magic wand," toward Palestinian statehood. She said the only way to reach a solution is for Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

This week has been tense diplomatically for the United States. President Obama vowed that he would veto the Palestinian bid for full U.N. membership and he's faced criticism that he hasn't been an ardent-enough supporter of Israel and, alternately, that the U.S. is picking and choosing which country's self-determination it will support.

Michele asked Rice about that. She pointed to the speeches the president has given praising the people of Tunisia and Egypt for their desire to govern themselves. Michele asked Rice if the U.S. stance on the Palestinian bid contradicts what the president has been saying about the Arab Spring.

"While we are very consistent in our principled stand that we want to see freedom, democracy, respect for human rights everywhere in the world, including throughout the Arab and Muslim world — that is the goal, of course, for the people of Palestine. But they want a state and they want a state that has defined borders, that has a capital, that has the viability to deliver goods and services and benefits to the people. That's what we want to see," she said. "But there's no way to accomplish that through a vote in the Security Council and in the General Assembly.

"A vote here is merely a statement on a piece of paper. It doesn't change anything on the ground for the Palestinian people the day after."

But, Michele told Rice that some people think the symbolism of that piece of paper would be a good thing.

"If it accelerated the negotiations, we would say yes," said Rice. "The reality is quite the opposite. The process that must occur will be that much more complicated in the wake of this kind of one-sided action."

She added: "This is not just a neutral, symbolic action. In our view it is unwise and counterproductive."

Much more of Michele and Rice's conversation on today's edition of All Things Considered. Tune into your local NPR member station to listen. We'll post the as-aired version of the interview a little later today.

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