In a parting shot to the Jewish state, President Obama directed Samantha Powers, the U.S. delegate to the United Nations to abstain from voting on a resolution to condemn Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, including portions of Jerusalem.
The resolution declares the settlements “in flagrant violation” of international law. It states, in part, that Israel should: “…immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and that the Israeli settlements have “no legal validity”.
The resolution was originally filed by Egypt, which withdrew it after conferring with President-Elect Donald Trump, who intervened on Israel’s behalf. The motion was revived by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela. The final vote of the Security Council ended 14-0 in favor, with the United States abstaining. The result was reportedly met by cheers.
The current administration has had a troubled relationship with Israel despite the popularity of the president with American Jews. The only democracy in the Middle East has been a constant irritation to the president by increasing the number of settlements on disputed Palestinian land. An estimated 590,000 Israelis live in the settlements at last count.
In the past, similar resolutions were vetoed by the United States in an effort to insulate Israel from widespread animosity. It’s not known why the Obama administration chose the current time to abandon the Jewish state, but the resolution is unlikely to be rescinded in the future, as such resolutions would likely be vetoed by Russia or China. In essence, by withholding the U.S. veto, President Obama is saying to Israel: Drop Dead.
You might say that resolutions aren’t binding laws, but this one can have real consequences. In effect, the United Nations suggests that hundreds of thousands of Israelis are now construed to be criminals that might be subject to the rulings of international courts.
In addition, one can expect renewed violence against Israeli citizens living in the settlements, given that Palestinian views of them as illegal interlopers is now officially confirmed by the UN. Outside of Israel, the resolution gives proponents of anti-Israel boycotts in the United States and other countries validation to continue their assault on the isolated country.
Another point: If Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory are illegal, the Palestinians are essentially demanding a ban on Jews in their “country”. This seems unfair on its face, as Israelis live with Palestinians and don’t demand their expulsion.
Interesting to note is that there has never been an autonomous Palestinian state. After a succession of dominance over 3000 years by Jews, Romans, Muslims, Christian crusaders, and the Ottoman Empire, the area’s residents first became known as Palestinians after WWI. The areas now disputed were captured by Israel from Jordan in a defensive war against several Arab nations in 1967.
Israel has offered the Palestinian Authority a state several times in the first years of this century, mostly during the Bush administration. These offers, which included freezing settlements in the disputed areas, were refused without counteroffers.
The problem is that Palestinians (and many others) consider Israel itself to be one big illegal settlement that should be removed from the Middle East. Many insist that Israel shouldn’t exist at all. Leading figures in the Muslim world believe that negotiating with Israel is, essentially, negotiating with the Devil. The leader of the Palestinian Authority has said “No one can force us to recognize Israel as a Jewish state”. With the recent resolution, the UN gives support to this viewpoint.
In the end, all this underscores the importance of the United States as Israel’s ally. Without our help, the state of Israel is in deep jeopardy. Barack Obama, in his last days as president, has decided to abandon Israel. Liberal supporters of Israel (Jews and non-Jews) who supported him and Hillary Clinton should re-evaluate the reasons why they vote as a bloc for Democrat presidential candidates.
Joe Alton, MD