The United Nations Security Council voted Friday to approve a resolution demanding that “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” It declared that the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” The Obama administration abstained, allowing the resolution to pass. All other members of the Security Council, including the United Kingdom and France, voted for it.
President Obama delivered his coup de grace in an act of spite against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He broke with the longstanding practice of both Democratic and Republican administrations to protect Israel against such one-sided resolutions that the Palestinians will use in their campaign to delegitimize Israel.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power defended the U.S. abstention as an act to save Israel from its own settlements policies that threaten the viability of a two-state solution. She pathetically reached back to a 1982 statement by then-President Ronald Reagan calling for an end to “the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements.” In the statement quoted by Ambassador Power, President Reagan said that “the immediate adoption of a settlement freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in these talks.”
What Ms. Power left out of her reference to the Reagan quote were the repeated failures of the Palestinians to negotiate in good faith for more than 30 years since, despite Israel’s unilateral withdrawal and dismantling of all settlements in Gaza and despite its moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank during Obama’s first term in office.
Samantha Power then shamelessly said that abstention rather than veto of the settlements resolution was a difficult vote “because of where it’s taking place: at the United Nations. For the simple truth is that for as long as Israel has been a member of this institution, Israel has been treated differently from other nations at the United Nations.” She said “such unequal treatment not only hurts Israel; it undermines the legitimacy of the United Nations itself.”
Nevertheless, the Obama administration compounded the “unequal treatment” of Israel by allowing a resolution to pass that made only a glancing reference to condemning acts of terror and incitement to violence by both sides. Instead, while paying lip service to Israel’s security concerns, the resolution focused almost exclusively on Israeli settlements as “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
The resolution did not even distinguish between the construction or expansion of arguably illegal outposts east of the Security Barrier and building within East Jerusalem, which supporters of the resolution presume will automatically be the capital of a new Palestinian state. “By treating all construction as equally problematic, the UN will paradoxically make it harder for future Palestinian, Israeli and American leaders to negotiate,” David Bernstein, President and CEO of The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said. “It limits their room to maneuver.”
Israel will likely ignore the resolution, as well it should. And starting on January 20, 2017, Israel will finally have a friend in the White House who recognizes the difference between a democratic ally and a gang of thugs pretending to be a nation state. “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” tweeted President-elect Donald Trump. Indeed they will.
Joseph A. Klein is the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom.
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