Acknowledging that United States policy will likely change on January 20, Secretary of State John Kerry nonetheless delivered an emphatic defense of the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from a vote on a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policy.
In a speech Wednesday at the State Department, Kerry said the U.S. declined to exercise its veto because it “cannot, in good conscience, do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hope of peace slipping away,” referring to Israel’s expansion of West Bank settlements and their impact on a “two-state solution.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Kerry’s speech “disappointing” and said “Israel looks forward to working with president-elect (Donald) Trump” to repeal the resolution.
Trump and Netanyahu traded tweets of support ahead of Kerry’s speech, leaving little doubt that a new chapter in U.S. relations with Israel and the Middle East is about to be written.
Obama Administration Was Hypocritical on UN’s Israeli Settlement Vote
Mark Goldfeder – CNN
Do not be misled — the decision to abstain was not the thoughtful action of a principled leader determined to make peace no matter what the cost. At worst, it was the cowardly move of a lame-duck politician who waited until there was absolutely zero political accountability before reversing his previously held position on vetoing anti-Israel Security Council resolutions (despite bipartisan calls from congressional leadership for him to stay the course) in order to take a symbolic parting shot at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President-elect Donald Trum
At best, it was another failed attempt by President Obama to impose his will by any means available on a situation that he has never fully understood — despite the fact that the entire time he had any political accountability he explicitly said that he would never sink to use these means, which he acknowledged are ineffective, and in fact even counterproductive because they encourage the parties to harden their positions and refrain from further direct negotiations.
WATCH: Extended excerpts from Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech on Israel and the US decision to abstain on a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlements policy.
Has Obama “Betrayed” Israel at the UN?
Henry Siegman – The National Interest
Netanyahu lost whatever right he might have thought he had to President Obama’s and the world’s trust when he shamelessly and unapologetically reversed himself and declared publicly during the last Israeli national elections that he would not allow a Palestinian state to come into existence as long as he is Israel’s prime minister….
The tragedy is that everything that President Obama and his predecessors have done to protect Israel’s security will have been for naught as Netanyahu’s mad drive with the settlements towards an apartheid regime threatens to end Israel’s existence as a democratic and Jewish state, something its enemies could not have achieved on their own.
We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but…….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2016
not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2016
America and Israel in 2017
Editorial Board – Chicago Tribune
Obama’s aides once described the president’s foreign policy in a memorable phrase: “Don’t do stupid stuff” (substituting a saltier term for stuff). The U.N. move fails that test. As an irate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Friends don’t take friends to the Security Council.”…
Israel recently sent a new ambassador to Turkey — the last one was expelled in 2011 over a dispute — marking the restoration of diplomatic ties. Some Arab countries that generally keep Israel at arm’s length or further may now privately view the Jewish state as the lesser of evils when compared with the Russian-backed Bashar Assad, the butchers of Islamic State or terrorist-enabler Iran.
And Israel will soon have a more sympathetic ear in the White House.
Understanding the U.N. Settlements Resolution
Mitchell Plitnick – Lobelog
The resolution establishes that nothing that has happened in the past fifty years of Israeli occupation mitigates the illegality of Israel establishing unilaterally establishing facts on the ground in occupied territory over which it has no recognized sovereignty….
Every president since 1967 has allowed UNSC resolutions critical of Israel to pass. Indeed, with less than one month remaining in his administration, Barack Obama was poised to become the first U.S. president not to do so. In fact, Obama did more to protect Israel from international action at the Security Council even for clear violations than any of his predecessors….
Trump has indicated that he supports Israeli settlement expansion in the past, but this resolution will mean that even the United States’ closest allies, as well as leaders Trump seems to have relationships with like Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not support that policy.
Kerry’s One-Sided, Self-Serving Sermon for Mideast Peace
Benny Avni – New York Post
In his Wednesday sermon, Kerry conveniently forgot key events of the last eight years. So let’s remind him.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, for one, refused to negotiate with Israel even after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze settlements for 10 months in 2010. In 2014, Kerry himself proposed to the two sides “parameters for peace” — likely the same six-point plan that he made public Wednesday. Netanyahu accepted it “with reservations.” Abbas has yet to give an answer.
What’s New and Not New in the UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements
Natan Sachs – Brookings Institution
In reiterating this stance, and in calling to distinguish between Israel and the settlements, the Security Council may indeed embolden European and other measures aimed at labeling or even sanctioning settlements, as Israel fears….
The U.S. abstention—the focus of a great deal of personal rage against Obama by Netanyahu and others—was not new either. In 1987, the Reagan administration abstained and allowed the passage of UNSCR 605, 14 to 0…
[T]here is a new belief among the world powers, and many on the ground, that time is fast running out on the viability of a two-state solution…
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) December 28, 2016
A Meaningless UN Security Council Resolution
George Friedman – Real Clear World/Geopolitical Futures
There are now two realities. The first is that the Palestinians are weak. No great power or Arab state has an overriding interest in the creation of a Palestinian state. The Russians are indifferent and the Arabs are concerned about the radicalism of such a state. The Palestinians are also divided, split into the relatively secular West Bank and religious Gaza – the Palestinian National Authority and Hamas. Without unity among the Palestinians, no one can sign an agreement authoritatively or coordinate resistance to the Israelis.
The second reality is that it is impossible to create two states. The Israelis cannot give up the Jordan River line since it is their main defensive position. Nor can they accept a westward shift of the border toward the 1948 lines, as it would make the Israeli heartland (the Tel Aviv-Haifa-Jerusalem triangle) vulnerable to the kinds of rockets fired from Gaza.
Therefore, the resolution on settlements and the entire settlement question completely miss the point. The Palestinian problem is that it has no meaningful Arab support, and its support in Europe or the United States consists of meaningless gestures….Therefore, a two-state solution is impossible…
Obama’s Fading Presidential Profile
James Robbins – USA Today
This was a bad move for President Obama to make on his way out the door. The resolution did not empower U.N. member states to take any action, so the administration cannot argue that it was taking this historic step to create real change. And by simply abstaining, instead of voting in favor of the resolution, Obama cannot even claim he was making a final, personal statement on the issue. It was “lead from behind” without the leadership, passivity pretending to be accomplishment….
President-elect Trump was the big winner politically. The Trump team has made no secret that it will be a much stronger supporter of Israel than Barack Obama ever was. Trump has a longstanding friendship with Israel’s prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu. Trump’s ambassador-designate for Israel, David Friedman, has called the two-state solution an “illusion” and called for implementing the 1995 law requiring the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And in the run-up to the vote on Resolution 2334 the president-elect convinced Egypt, the representative of the Arab world on the Security Council, to withdraw its sponsorship of the measure, though it still voted for the measure.