As expected, this past Friday afternoon the United States vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution that would have condemned Israel for its “settlements” in the disputed territories of Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem.
The vote followed a week of scrambling where the US tried to substitute a toned down vote to be issued not as a resolution but as a weaker “President’s Statement.” This statement would have changed the wording of the resolution from “Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967” which means any settlement ever built, to “continued settlement activity” which is any new settlements. It would have objected to any non-negotiated change in status, a slap at the Palestinians goal of a unilateral declaration of statehood and it would have condemned “all forms of violence, including rocket fire from Gaza”
President Abbas objected to this change and insisted the original resolution be offered up for vote. The outcome: 14 to 1 to condemn Israel, with U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice casting the lone no vote. Immediately after her veto, Ambassador Rice launched into speech where she said she agreed with the resolution:
“While we agree with our fellow Council members and indeed with the wider world about the folly and the illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians,” Ambassador Rice said. “We therefore, regrettably, have opposed this draft resolution.”
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Translation: “We really wanted to vote for this, but our donations from the Jewish community are down and we have to run for reelection in less than two years.”
Notice there was no mention of terrorism or non-negotiated change of status. Nor was there any mention of the fact that the Palestinians refusal to negotiate. Right now the Palestinians have no reason to negotiate. They are biding their time till the spring when they plan to fight in the same venue for a unilateral declaration of Palestinian Statehood.
Keep in mind that it was the Obama administration’s naiveté that made the “settlements” a major issue to begin with. While the Palestinians have always objected to the building, it had never before disrupted talks. On the other hand, based on agreements it made with the United States during the Bush Administration, Israel had agreed not to build new communities (except in Jerusalem) but would continue to expand existing ones to account for natural growth.
No longer needing the Jewish vote to get reelected to the Senate, Hillary Clinton reverted to her historical pro-Palestinian position and first demanded the freeze in 2009. She was quickly backed up by Obama. What the President and his advisers perceived as a minor concession (a settlement freeze including no new housing units in existing communities) was for Israel a grave sacrifice. From their point of view he was telling Israeli parents that their children could no longer purchase homes near their parents. Worse yet, Obama included Jerusalem in his demands.
Obama, through his Secretary of State MS Clinton, said there was never an agreement between Israel and the US about natural expansion of existing settlements. Elliot Abrams who negotiated the agreement for the United States says that Obama’s contention is simply not true (See: Hillary Is Wrong About the Settlements, Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2009)
Seizing the opportunity to avoid talking, the Palestinians used Obama’s demands, to make a settlement freeze their precondition to further talks, even though there were ongoing construction projects concurrent to the negotiations which occurred during the Bush administration.
In August 2009 Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a one-time unilateral ten month settlement freeze. It was approved and implemented on November 25, 2009 and ran till September 25, 2010. The Palestinians wasted the first 9+ months of the freeze and did not come he negotiation table till September 2010, three weeks before the freeze ended. A fact lost on the Obama Administration. Not once during the ramp up to this resolution did the Obama administration question the Palestinian Authority’s refusal talk for the first nine months of a ten month freeze.
Don’t look for help from Congress; the mostly Democratic New York delegation has been strangely silent in criticizing Obama’s passive-aggressive treatment of Israel. Some of them will sign non-binding letters of support for Israel but with the exception of Anthony Weiner and Republican Peter King, not one has stood up and criticized Obama for his unfair treatment of the Jewish State (Senator Schumer criticized the President on a Jewish radio show, but when he was asked about his statement by the mainstream media he backed off).
Even worse some, such as Congressmen Steve Israel of Long Island agreed to lend their names to the anti-Israel group J Street at the urging of the President, allowing them to use his name to give the group some “street cred” in the pro-Israel community. Ever the party pro, Israel was rewarded for his blind following of Obama’s disturbing policy regarding the Jewish State with a high-profile party position, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2012 election cycle, which will make Israel the 5th highest ranking Democrat in the leadership.
In one new passive-aggressive stroke the United States angered the Arab world and increased the level of mistrust felt by the supporters of Israel. After playing with this resolution for a week, the US finally (and barely) voted no but not without admonishing Israel for a problem that the President created.
I shudder to think what that vote would have been if Obama’s approval ratings were higher or if it occurred during a second Barack Obama administration. Based on his track record before and after he was elected president, in the safety of a second administration, Barack Obama’s passive-aggressive treatment of Israel will be simply aggressive.