State Department spokesman John Kirby was grilled Friday by Associated Press reporter Matt Lee on why the U.S. abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote last month on a resolution condemning Israel rather than voting either for or against the measure.
"If you support the resolution enough to allow it go through, why didn't you just vote ‘yes?'" Lee asked.
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Kirby said that he did not want to reopen debate on the abstention but added that Secretary of State John Kerry still supported the decision.
"Why isn't an abstention a cop out here?" Lee asked. "You allowed it to go through, yet you didn't vote because you clearly, it would seem that you supported it because you didn't veto it. So why not take a stand for what you apparently believe in and vote ‘yes,' or ‘no' if you disagree with it?"
Kirby referred to an explanation put out by the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power.
"You talk about leadership and taking an active role, and you essentially vote present. That doesn't seem to be taking a leadership position," Lee responded.
Kirby said that the U.S. objection to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem–the subject of the U.N. resolution–is longstanding policy, but added that the U.S. government disagreed with other aspects of the resolution that prevented an affirmative vote for the measure.