For a while there, despite people’s concerns that Obama would use his lame duck period to shaft Israel, things looked relatively peaceful. We should have known that Obama, like the viper he is, would hide until ready to strike, and strike he did. And like a viper, he didn’t even stand up in a manly way and turn on Israel. Instead, he “abstained,” allowing Israel’s enemies a clear shot at her.
Here are a few good summations of the dreadful thing Obama did:
Does the resolution matter? It does. The text declares that “the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” This may turn both settlers—even those in major blocs like Maale Adumim, that everyone knows Israel will keep in any peace deal—and Israeli officials into criminals in some countries, subject to prosecution there or in the International Criminal Court. The text demands “that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” Now add this wording to the previous line and it means that even construction in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City is “a flagrant violation under international law.” The resolution also “calls upon all States, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” This is a call to boycott products of the Golan, the West Bank, and parts of Jerusalem, and support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.
In a sense, the UN vote is a perfect bookend to Obama’s Presidency. A man who came to office promising to put “daylight” between the United States and Israel, has done exactly that by breaking with decades of American policy. It is also seeking—contrary to established tradition and practice, which strictly prohibit such lame-duck actions—to tie the hands of the next White House, which has already made its pro-Israel posture clear.
No doubt that many of those critical of the U.S.-Israel relationship will defend and applaud the administration’s action, even as the effects of the resolution are obscene. So what if it enshrines in international law the fact that Jews can’t build homes or have sovereign access to their holy sites in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people for more than 3000 years? Israel, as Kerry said, is too prosperous to care about peace with the Palestinians. Maybe some hardship will shake some sense into the Jewish State—which after all, could easily have made a just and secure peace with the Palestinian leadership at any time over the past two decades, if that’s what it wanted to do. Accounts to the contrary, from Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, say, or left-wing Israeli politicians like former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the late Shimon Peres, are simply propaganda generated by the pro-Israel Lobby, whose wings the President has thankfully clipped.
But the Obama Administration’s abstention isn’t just about Israel or bilateral relations with a vital partner in a key region. It’s also about the prestige of the United States and its power—the power, for instance, undergirding international institutions like the United Nations. Consider how the Obama Administration has used the UN the last several years—to legalize the nuclear program of Iran, a state sponsor of terror, and make it illegal for Jews to build in their historical homeland. In Turtle Bay, the White House partners with sclerotic socialist kleptocracies like Venezuela in order to punish allies, like Israel. Is this American moral leadership? For Sean Penn, maybe.
The administration’s fecklessness has harmed Israel, endangers ordinary Israelis, and hurts the elusive quest for an enduring peace. Moreover, the Trump administration is powerless to revoke the resolution: It would have to introduce and pass a new resolution, and either Russia or China would be sure to veto it. Thus, Israel will find itself at the bargaining table in any future peace negotiation with Palestinian territorial demands backed by the U.N.’s most powerful body.
By declaring that settlements — including “settlements” in Israel’s capital — violate international law, the resolution purports to carve into stone the armistice lines that existed at the end of Israel’s war for independence. Yet these lines didn’t become lawful permanent borders precisely because hostile Arab nations specifically refused to recognize the existing battle lines as Israel’s border, specifically declined to create a Palestinian state, and instead maintained a posture of armed hostility to Israel. Indeed, since the West Bank hasn’t been part of a sovereign nation since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the so-called occupied territories aren’t truly “occupied” under international law. They’re more accurately termed “disputed” territories, with the precise resolution of the dispute to be negotiated by the relevant parties.
There are implications for ordinary Israelis as well. If an Israeli lives in a suburb of Jerusalem, is he or she now a criminal? Can he be arrested and tried in activist courts in Europe or in international legal tribunals? Radical U.N. action will only harden Palestinian intransigence and worsen already rising anti-Semitism (thinly disguised as anti-Zionism) on the international left. To put this radical resolution in context, under its terms, it is now an alleged violation of international law that the Western Wall remains in Israeli hands.
From Commentary (a site I’ve ignored of late because of its virulent, untempered Trump hate but which is realizing, as is true for so many other #NeverTrumpers, that Trump’s a good thing):
It turned out that nothing could prevent President Obama from firing one last shot at Israel. Despite the pleas of the Israeli government and the warning from his successor that failing to veto a biased UN resolution on the Middle East conflict would be deeply unfair and soon repudiated, the administration broke with decades of U.S. policy, abstained from voting on a resolution that condemns Israeli settlements, and abandoned the Jewish state to its enemies at the United Nations Security Council.
Today’s resolution brands the Jewish presence in any part of the West Bank or in parts of Jerusalem that were occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 as illegal. And it makes the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live in those parts of the ancient Jewish homeland international outlaws. The excuse given by the U.S. was that increased building in the territories and Jerusalem is endangering the chances of a two-state solution. But, as I noted yesterday when the vote on the resolution was postponed, this is a canard. The reason why a two-state solution has not been implemented to date is because the Palestinians have repeatedly refused offers of statehood even when such offers would put them in possession of almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem. The building of more homes in places even Obama admitted that Israel would keep in the event of a peace treaty is no obstacle to peace if the Palestinians wanted a state. Rather than encourage peace, this vote will merely encourage more Palestinian intransigence and their continued refusal to negotiate directly with Israel. It will also accelerate support for efforts to wage economic war on Israel via the BDS movement.
This lame duck stab in the back of America’s only democratic ally in the Middle East should only further encourage President-elect Donald Trump to make good on his promise to move the U.S. embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and let the world know that the new administration not only repudiates his predecessor’s betrayal but that the alliance is as strong as ever.
From Paul Mirengoff (the last #NeverTrump holdout at PowerLine who is also realizing the promise of a Trump presidency):
Obama’s abstention was cowardly. Clearly, he wanted the resolution to pass. Therefore, the U.S. should have voted for it.
But what can we expect from the guy who voted “present” as a state legislator when controversial matters came up?
Obama’s U.N. ambassador Samantha Power, an Israel basher in her own right, claimed that the U.S. abstained because the administration didn’t agree with every word of the resolution. This is rubbish. It’s rare to agree with every word of a resolution or a piece of legislation. One votes “yes” if one agrees with it on balance; otherwise one votes “no” (or in this case exercises a veto).
I imagine this is how things will be under Donald Trump. He’s not an abstaining, voting “present” kind of guy. The contrast with Obama probably helped him win the presidency.
From The Wall Street Journal:
The decision by the United States to abstain from a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel over its settlements on the West Bank is one of the most significant, defining moments of the Obama Presidency.
It defines this President’s extraordinary ability to transform matters of public policy into personal pique at adversaries. And it defines the reality of the international left’s implacable opposition to the Israeli state.
It is important, though, to see this U.S. abstention as more significant than merely Mr. Obama’s petulance. What it reveals clearly is the Obama Administration’s animus against the state of Israel itself. No longer needing Jewish votes, Mr. Obama was free, finally, to punish the Jewish state in a way no previous President has done.
No effort to rescind the resolution, which calls the settlements a violation of “international law,” will succeed because of Russia’s and China’s vetoes.
Instead, the resolution will live on as Barack Obama’s cat’s paw, offering support in every European capital, international institution and U.S. university campus to bully Israel with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
(By the way, if you want a good round-up of Obama’s despicable approach to vacating the White House, one that involves doing everything he can to hamstring the American people’s choice, Kimberly Strassel has a great summary.)
Donald Trump, he of tweet brevity, eschewed wordy discussions about Obama’s malevolent pettiness or the way his passive aggressive act at the UN is a gift to the world’s worst actors. Instead, he issued a pungent threat to the UN — a threat on which I hope Trump makes good:
As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2016