Observers of the United States’ relations with Israel may have noted a marked change in the way the presidential administration of Barack Obama dealt with that Middle Eastern country once he began his first term in office.
Rather than granting carte blanche to the nation that’s America’s most powerful ally in the region as previous administrations have done in the past, a more measured and distanced relationship took hold between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Although Obama was quick to offer military aid to the young nation, the right-leaning stance of the Israeli government and unwillingness to compromise on Netanyahu’s part has at times inspired Obama to give one of our staunchest allies the cold shoulder.
Now, as the “lame duck” period of Obama’s presidency draws to a close, a parting shot by the president at the political stance of the Israeli government has ruffled feathers in Washington and Tel Aviv. At the United Nations, a vote on a resolution by the 15 nations of the Security Council condemning Israel’s building of new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and in the Palestinian-occupied territories of the West Bank drew an abstention from the United States rather than an objection.
Specifically, the resolution defined the Western Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem — Judaism’s holiest site — as explicitly “occupied Palestinian territory” and that settlements there are “a flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution.” To the state of Israel, those are fighting words.
Although this action had been hinted at in diplomatic circles prior to the vote, it nonetheless came as a surprise to many in the international community and allowed Obama’s true feelings about the Netanyahu administration to show.
Five days after the vote, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech at the State Department in which he said he believed that if Israel pursues a one-state “solution” to the Palestinian question versus a two-state solution (which has been the U.S.’s more favored path for Israel until now), that Israel could either be a Jewish country or a democracy, but not both.
The implication, of course, is that if Israel is not a democracy, the U.S. could use that as a basis to change its relationship with the country (although realistically, that’s not likely to happen).
Kerry’s speech was criticized by a number of world leaders, including British Prime Minister Theresa May. Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer even claimed that despite the U.S. abstaining from the vote, it had secretly helped to orchestrate the resolution in the first place and called the action “a really sad day and a shameful chapter in [U.S.-Isreali] relations.”
Netanyahu spokesman David Keyes stated that “[Israel is] not just going to be a punching bag and go quietly into the night as the Obama administration helps push such a grave resolution.”
The fact of the matter is that Israel did freeze the building of Jewish settlements for 10 months in 2009. It had no effect on the peace process with the Palestinians; it did not bring them to the negotiating table nor change any of their demands or attempts to keep diplomatic pressure on the Israeli government internationally.
In fact, every time Israel has compromised on its territory — with the exception of its granting the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in the 1978 Camp David Accords — there have been no corresponding gains in peace.
For example, in the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, Israel recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as a legitimate group representing the Palestinian people and allowed the Palestinians self-rule in population centers in the West Bank.
But rather than accepting those conditions and leveraging them to formally prepare for statehood, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat called for greater terrorism and more hatred against the Jewish people. He eventually launched a second violent Palestinian intifada against the Israeli government.
As with Obama’s saber rattling and sanctions placed on Russia, this latest move against the government of Netanyahu — which is more symbolic than effectual — is both a reflection of Obama’s true feelings about the issue and a way that he can attempt to create a rift between the two countries prior to President-Elect Trump taking office.
But the notion that he’ll be making things more difficult for either Russia or Israel is false. As with the Russian sanctions, the UN abstention merely shows a clear difference between how his administration views the situation and the outlook of incoming President Trump, who is diametrically opposed to Obama’s views.
As with the Russian relationship, it’s expected that Trump will quickly move to patch things up between the nations, and both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have acknowledged this. In an interview with her country’s Channel 2 television, Israeli Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev asked rhetorically, “Who’s Obama? Obama is history. We [now] have Trump.”
~ Conservative Zone