In a final attempt to assert his legacy in the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict, President Barack Obama abstained from a United Nations vote condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Though the resolution is nothing spectacular -- George W. Bush abstained from six similar resolutions -- the political establishment in both Washington, D.C., and Tel Aviv, Israel, went ballistic.
Obama was decried as anti-Israel. Israel withdrew its ambassadors from the countries that supported the resolution, and President-elect Donald Trump lashed out at the UN. Republican senators even unveiled a proposal to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Seldom mentioned is Obama’s well-documented history as one of the most pro-Israel presidents ever. He recently signed a $38 million military aid deal for Israel. He allowed Israel to engage in numerous wars in Gaza throughout his presidency. The assertion that Obama has a “vendetta” against Israel, which are the words of Ted Cruz, makes zero sense.
Take a look at the times past presidents criticized Israel. George Bush Sr. refused to issue loan guarantees to Israel because of settlement policy.
During Ronald Reagan’s administration, numerous UN resolutions condemned Israeli actions in Lebanon and the occupied territories.
Obama’s toothless political stunt, along with Secretary of State John Kerry’s blunt speech on Israel , comes at a time when negotiating a peace settlement in Israel and Palestine seems useless.
Trump’s arrival to the White House marks the end of any possible two-state solution, as he seems ready to back Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government in every way imaginable.
The death of the two-state solution didn’t happen by accident. It stems from Israel’s continued expansion of subsidized settlements on Palestinian land, a policy that has been considered illegal and an obstacle to peace by both the United States and the UN for decades. This was the context in which the UN resolution was passed. Opposition to settlements is a moderate stance, yet on this issue, even the Democratic Party is siding with Trump instead of Obama.
Even with yesterday’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem, the U.S. and Israeli governments will continue policies that exacerbate the vicious cycle that violates the human rights of Palestinians and in turn threatens the security of the Israeli state and its citizens. The proposal to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, per Kerry, would cause a regional explosion. With the ascension of our new Republican government, we can only expect more of the same regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Israeli Defense Force will continue its actions in the West Bank, and with recent efforts by the Israeli defense minister to secure total immunity for IDF forces, Palestinian rights will continue to be a low priority.
At this point, only serious public opposition to Israeli policy and support for the Palestinians will change the stance of the U.S. government. What the recent UN resolution lacked was consequences if Israel continued settlements in the West Bank. Real political pressure is needed to facilitate a new effort towards peace.