Obama’s revenge

Pres. Obama has achieved his revenge. An hour ago, in the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. representative abstained from either approving or vetoing a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity, thus permitting the resolution to be adopted.  This is the first time in history that the U.S. has failed to exercise its veto in the Security Council to block a one-sided resolution that designates by name only Israel as a party that is hindering a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

J Street, the lobbying group that bills itself as “the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans,” cheered the U.S. abstention in a press release that said: “The resolution is consistent with longstanding bipartisan American policy, which includes strong support for the two-state solution, and clear opposition to irresponsible and damaging actions, including Palestinian incitement and terror and Israeli settlement expansion and home demolitions.”  But this is false, because the resolution does not express “clear opposition” to anything Palestinians have done; it expresses “clear opposition” only to Israeli actions.

Here is what the resolution actually says with regard to settlements: the Security Council “[s]tresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-State solution[.]”

Here is what the resolution actually says with regard to violence and terrorism: the Security Council “[c]alls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism[.]”

Notice the difference?  “Israeli settlement activities” are specifically singled-out, by name, for condemnation.  But there is no similar condemnation of “Palestinian” acts of terror, or “Palestinian” acts of provocation and destruction.  It is as if both sides are equally guilty of acts of terror, or acts of provocation and destruction.  I suppose the Security Council believes that Israeli forces are tunneling into Hamas-controlled Gaza, just as Hamas terrorists are tunneling into Israel.

The idea that this resolution is even-handed is a not very funny joke.  It is especially ironic that the resolution was adopted only days after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who is in the last days of his ten-year tenure, observed that over “decades” the U.N. has been “disproportionate” in its criticism of Israel.

Why, then, did the Obama administration decide not to exercise its veto?

The answer is clear: Pres. Obama has achieved his revenge against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Obama simply doesn’t like Netanyahu.  Netanyahu has not been shy in expressing his disagreements with the Obama administration, and he made very strenuous efforts, including an address to a joint session of Congress, to derail the nuclear deal with Iran.  The president—a/k/a “no drama Obama”—doesn’t like people who disagree with him; disagreement creates too much drama.  So Mr. Netanyahu is quite far down on the list of Mr. Obama’s favorite people.

Now, with less than a month left in his term of office, and with no more political contests in his own future, Pres. Obama has decided to indulge his personal pique.  Sticking a thumb in the eye of someone you dislike can be a satisfying exercise.  Abandoning his own record over the course of his presidency, Mr. Obama has permitted himself that satisfaction.

What is the likely result of the adoption of this latest resolution?  The most likely result is more of the same.  The Security Council members discoursed eloquently about how their “brave” and “courageous” adoption of the resolution would rescue the two-state solution and advance the cause of peace, but that is dubious.

The Palestinians are far from stupid; they will be very shrewd in deciphering the message in the Security Council’s action today.  That message is: without the Palestinians taking any effective actions to create a society that could actually live side-by-side with Israel in peace, the international community will increase pressure on Israel.  Therefore, the Palestinians need to do nothing, and the U.N. will nevertheless continue to batter Israel.  From the Palestinian perspective, the lyrics ring true: “it’s nice work, if you can get it.”

The terrorist group Hamas rules Gaza, which is supposed to be part of the future state of Palestine.  Hamas believes that Muslims have a religious obligation to end any shred of Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East and, therefore, are required by Islam to destroy Israel.  Does the Security Council resolution require the Palestinian Authority to wrest control of Gaza from Hamas?  It does not.  Does the resolution require the Palestinian Authority to disarm and condemn all Palestinian persons and groups who believe Islam requires the destruction of Israel?  It does not.  The resolution imposes specific requirements on only one party: Israel.

You hear a lot of talk these days about Obama’s legacy.  Today’s developments at the U.N. will be a big part of that legacy.  And here is something else to consider when you’re thinking about Obama’s legacy.  In 2008, he received approximately 78% of the Jewish vote, and in 2012 he received 69%.

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=2523973
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