Who pulled Israel into US politics?

How soon they forget!

The founding editor of ToI, David Horovitz, has just written an op-ed under the chilling headline: “Dreadful symbiosis sees Israel and Jews pulled into volcanic core of US politics”.  The piece warns that, although Israel has benefited enormously in the past from the bipartisan support it has enjoyed in Washington, there is now a danger that Democrats will be less supportive. And what is the underlying cause of this troubling new trend? Well, according to Mr. Horovitz, the fault lies primarily with Donald Trump.

The thesis is this: Representatives Ilhan Omar (D. Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D. Mich.)—the former renowned for “just follow the Benjamins baby,” the latter for “we’re going to impeach the motherf**ker!”—are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, and they are no friends of Israel.  They both publicly support BDS, and Tlaib favors a “one-state solution,” which means that Israel, as the nation-state of the Jewish people, fades out of existence.

And, because Donald Trump wants to gain Jewish support for his re-election bid, he has made every effort to portray these two anti-Israel Democrats as the new face of the Democratic party. In this way, Pres. Trump is trying to force U.S. Jews to abandon the Democratic party, which (if Trump succeeds) will exacerbate Democratic estrangement from Israel and, ultimately, end the long history of bipartisan support.

No doubt there is some truth to the Horovitz thesis.  Like every other politician up for election, Trump wants to attract every single vote he can, and if that means splitting U.S. Jews away from the Democratic party that they have long favored, he will try to do that.  And if that means that bipartisan support for Israel is weakened because Democrats become less supportive, that is a tangential consequence that Trump would accept.

But, although Mr. Horovitz’s thesis certainly includes some facts, it also omits other facts that are perhaps even more significant in the larger picture.  One might well ask, for example: When, for the very first time, was Israel pulled into that volcanic core of U.S. politics?  Who is responsible for starting that dangerous trend?

In this context, does the phrase “U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334” ring any bells? It should. In December of 2016, just one month before his administration expired, Pres. Obama decided not to veto Res. 2334, which amounted to a double-barreled abandonment of pro-Israeli positions held by every U.S. administration since the 1967 war in the Middle East.

I say “double-barreled” because Res. 2334 violated two basic principles of what formerly had been bipartisan U.S. policy.  First, the U.S. had always insisted that U.N. resolutions be “even-handed.”  Res. 2334, in contrast, expresses “grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling…the two-State solution[.]”  But it does not mention a single activity of Palestinians as imperiling the solution—not digging terror tunnels into Israel from Gaza; not firing rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel; not ramming, or stabbing, or blowing up Israeli civilians.  No prior U.S. administration would have failed to veto such a one-sided resolution.

The second policy Pres. Obama abandoned dates back specifically to U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which was passed immediately after the 1967 war ended.  In language that has become historic, Res. 242 called for: “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”.  It does not call for withdrawal from “all territories” or even “the territories”; it only refers to withdrawal from “territories”.

Every U.S. administration since 1967 had understood Res. 242 to mean that Israel is obligated to withdraw at least from some territories, but only after both sides have agreed to the scope of the withdrawal.  That means that, unless both sides agree on which territories Israel is to vacate, Israel is not obligated to withdraw from any territories.  Res. 2334, acquiesced in by Pres. Obama, turned prior U.S. policy on its head.  That resolution says, in effect, that unless both sides agree otherwise, Israel must withdraw from all the disputed territories, including East Jerusalem, which encompasses the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.  So, under 2334, if the Palestinians simply continue to say “no, we don’t agree,” Israel must relinquish everything.

Many people (myself included) believe that at least part of Pres. Obama’s motivation for permitting 2334 to be adopted was his animosity toward PM Benjamin Netanyahu.  It is stunning to think that U.S. foreign policy might even conceivably be determined by a president’s personal pique.

The last paragraph in Mr. Horovitz’s op-ed is this:

Israel’s geopolitical reality would be compromised not only by the remote prospect of an overtly hostile US president, but by the election of a US president who just doesn’t care about Israel all that much, isn’t too excited by it, or doesn’t feel it’s worth going out on a limb for. And no matter how much some unstinting supporters of Trump and Netanyahu refuse to look a little further along the path, that’s a danger that is now accelerating toward us.

The facts are that Israel has already dealt with a U.S. president who just didn’t care about Israel all that much; his name was Barack Obama; he was and still is a Democrat. And, in fairness, these facts should not be forgotten.

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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