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The US sends Israel a clear signal: Don't assume.

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For decades, Israel could count on the US to veto any Security Council resolution aimed at Israeli policy. Whether it was a resolution condemning Israel's actions during the war in Lebanon, the use of repressive measures against their Arab population, or killing of UN personnel and destroying UN property, the US has always been ready to provide a key veto on the Security Council even if the rest of the world disagreed.

That may come to an end in a very public and humiliating way for Israel if the US steps back and effectively tells Israel, "You're On Your Own" when it comes to illegal settlements.

BBC is reporting that a high-ranking US official recently met with Qatar's Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad Al Thani, at an economic meeting in France. The meeting came to light at the recent Arab League summit.

During their talks, Sheikh Hamad asked the US official whether Washington would guarantee not to veto a UN Security Council resolution that was critical of Israel's ongoing settlement construction in East Jerusalem.

The diplomat said the US official had replied that the current feeling in Washington was that they would "seriously consider abstention".

An Egyptian official is said to have confirmed his knowledge of the US position during a meeting at the Arab League summit, which was held behind closed doors.

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The US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, was in Paris last week to hold talks with Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas.

UN Security Council resolutions are important in ways that General Assembly resolutions are not. Most important, SC resolutions have the binding force of law. Unlike the invasion of Iraq, the US was able to credibly point to portions of the UN charter justifying the invasion even though the Security Council never formally authorized the invasion. However, soon after the invasion, the UN established the International Security Assistance Force to help secure Kabul and surrounding areas from the Taliban and Al Qaeda. That is a significant reason why the legality of the American invasion in Afghanistan has never been questioned as widely as the invasion of Iraq. Even countries that have a history of confrontational relationships with the US supported the invasion. That includes Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, and Libya. North Korea and Iraq were notable in their opposition even after the Security Council took up the matter.

Al Thani, who is also Prime Minister of Qatar, is a serious man. He is not an idealogue. It is important to note that Al Jazeera exists and continues to bring change to the region because of the support it receives from the government of Qatar. No other emirate would dream of permitting that network on its soil.

Qatar also permitted US troops on its soil during the Gulf War. They are a key strategic ally in the region. Immediately following 9/11 it was Qatar that arranged for Arab support of the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force by the United States in Afghanistan.

Qatar is not merely a strategic military ally. It is also a key political ally. Qatar is more democratic than almost any other Arab nation. In addition to the example of Al Jazeera, Qatar has also institutionalized democratic principles in its government when Qatar introduced its first constitution on June 9, 2005. The constitution guarantees freedom of expression, assembly, and religion and calls for a 45-seat parliament. Thirty of the seats will be filled in democratic elections; the emir appoints the remaining seats.

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All of this was achieved without bloodshed. This was not imposed from outside. This flourished from within. That makes it much more stable than anything we are seeing currently in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The fact of this discussion and the fact that it is now public knowledge is a major signal to Israel. The days of acting in defiance of all international standards are over. The days of ignoring and even humiliating American governments without consequences is over. Israeli exceptionalism is no longer guaranteed by the US. That is a seismic shift in the world of diplomacy.If Bibi thinks he can solve this problem by running even further to the right -- he's wrong.


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For starters, I am not the Henry Porter who writes for the Observer in Britain. I'm a native New Yorker living in Maryland. I used to believe knowledge was power. Now I know knowledge translated into action is power.

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