The Obama administration delivered a Chanukah present most of the Jewish community didn’t want when the United States abstained in the U.N. Security Council on Resolution 2334 on Friday, Dec. 23.
President Barack Obama has received plenty of deserved criticism for not vetoing what’s probably the most anti-Israel resolution regarding the settlements since Jimmy Carter was president.
We’ll let the overwhelmingly negative, bipartisan reaction to the abstention (some of which you can read on Page 14) speak to the failures of the measure in terms of its lack of balance, and, because we’re not mind readers, we can’t say whether organizations such as J Street and New Israel Fund have revealed an uncommon devotion to peace or an unfortunate partisan preference in their support for Obama’s decision.
As for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aggressive, accusatory response to the resolution and to Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech Wednesday, Dec. 28, we don’t see the value in an obsession with establishing whether the United States played an active role in the resolution’s creation. We also think it’s a mistake for Israel to go to diplomatic war with allies and potential allies because they voted the wrong way on one resolution that is insulting and counterproductive but doesn’t substantially change the official U.N. view of Israel and the settlements.
But it is up to Israelis and their democratically elected government to determine what is in their best interests, just as it is Obama’s job to act in the best interests of the United States, not necessarily in the best interests of an ally and certainly not out of any personal grudge against a foreign leader or his domestic friends.
After careful consideration, though, we can’t conceive of any positive result from the Obama administration actions. A regional accord between Israel and its Arab neighbors is a significant U.S. national interest, but we’re further from such an agreement now than we were Dec. 22.
We’ve repeatedly heard the administration’s explanation that the United States had to act to stop the settlements from eliminating the possibility of a two-state solution, but the insistence on treating housing in Jerusalem and neighboring blocs the same as settlements east of the separation barrier is a failure of nuance and U.S. diplomacy that moves us away from the solution Kerry mapped out with his six principles.
Trying to shame Israel in the biased venue of the United Nations while hardly slapping the Palestinians on the wrist is a good way to get the Israelis to dig in, lest they appear to succumb to international pressure. Meanwhile, a victory in that international forum is likely to embolden the Palestinians to keep pursuing an imposed solution instead of negotiating with Israel.
No one in the Obama administration has laid out any process to get from today’s mutual anger and sense of betrayal to renewed talks between Israelis and Palestinians, let alone to rebuild trust and make actual progress toward a final agreement.
Kerry’s speech, promoted as a major policy address, buried his vision under a repetitive defense of the U.N. abstention and presented no way forward to achieve his six principles, which themselves are nothing new.
It’s clear the Obama administration, like so many U.S. administrations before it, is out of ideas and full of frustration with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We can only hope the president leaves bad enough alone in his final weeks in office and doesn’t pull any further surprises, such as enshrining Kerry’s principles in another U.N. resolution of recognizing a Palestinian state with unrecognized borders.