I’ve written two posts about this anti settlement resolution at Times of Israel so I combined them into one long post here:
On Friday evening in Israel we learned that the United Nations Security Council had passed yet another resolution against Israel. This resolution condemned settlement building and referred to East Jerusalem as occupied territory. The full text of the resolution can be found here.
Originally this resolution was put together by Egypt but after some last minute behind the scenes wrangling Egypt dropped it only for it to be pushed forward by Senegal, Venezuela and New Zealand. The resolution passed with 14 votes for and none against with the USA abstaining. Every single member of the Security Council voted for this resolution with just one abstention, the USA.
Senegal and Venezuela are hardly countries to be pushing resolutions through the UN Security Council on the grounds of human rights and peace. Human Rights watch says of Venezuela’s position on the Security council;
Venezuela regularly voted to prevent scrutiny of serious human rights situations around the world, voting against resolutions spotlighting abuses in North Korea, Syria, Iran, Belarus, and Ukraine. Venezuela’s October 2015 campaign for a second term on the Human Rights Council was successful.
This is a country that actually makes sure nothing is done about Syria!
The big story around this resolution at the moment is that the outgoing Obama administration didn’t veto it. Netanyahu has spent the last eight years completely ignoring Obama’s initiatives when it comes to Israeli Palestinian peacemaking, making statements about expanding settlements when American diplomats arrive in the country, campaigning personally in Washington DC against Obama’s Iran deal and involving himself in US Presidential election campaigns against him. In the end it looks like Obama just had enough.
The response from Jerusalem was scathing against America. Netanyahu said;
The Obama administration not only failed to defend Israel from this harassment at the UN, it cooperated with it behind the scenes.”
The thing is that Israel gets $3.5 billion a year from the USA and will continue to do so until 2026. They aren’t the enemy. This isn’t really about the United States. This is about Israel and the rest of the world. This resolution passed with 14 members of the security council voting in favour and one abstention. Israeli diplomatic activity couldn’t even convince a single member without a veto to vote against it. While it is nice that the Americans have had Israel’s back in the United Nations for the past eight years their veto is not (despite what Bibi may think) a God given right.
If we were clever we would use this as an opportunity to take a look in the mirror. We would wonder whether Israel’s situation requires a full time Foreign Minister at the head of a powerful foreign ministry rather than Netanyahu holding on to the position (alongside Prime Minister, communications minister, economy minister, and regional cooperation minister) and dividing the responsibilities of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs among six other hastily created ministries.
We would question (again) the logic in appointing a full time deputy more interested in telling other countries what to do with their money than forging friendly links with them. Finally we would accept that treating the post of UN Ambassador as a dumping ground for your rivals rather than appointing people with the experience and diplomatic gravitas necessary to do the job effectively is a big mistake.
Samantha Power opened her speech at the UN yesterday with a quote from Ronald Reagan in 1982;
The United States will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements during the transitional period. Indeed, 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. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”
Ultimately the US position hasn’t changed since then. At some point it is time we started listening before we aren’t dealing with UN resolutions but with international actions.
The study of history is the study of the causes and consequences of great events. Want to understand World War Two? Don’t bother looking at the battle of Dunkirk.
This holds true for the resolution passed Friday by the UN Security Council that described East Jerusalem as occupied territory and made a strong statement against Israeli settlement building. Studying the resolution won’t tell you much about how it is that the most powerful countries in the world came to allow such a resolution to pass. It won’t give you the answer to the question; why?
In response to an article urging people to pay some attention to the resolution rather than angrily screaming about how evil the entire world is all I got were comments talking about the resolution itself. The wording of this resolution is less relevant than how and why the United States allowed this resolution to pass and why the permanent members voted in favour of it.
For the last eight years the United States has vetoed anti Israel resolutions under President Obama. Finally he decided to let one pass. If reports are to be believed (and I see no reason not to) he engineered the resolution as well as abstaining from the actual vote. But why now after eight years of protecting Israel in the UN?
Donald Trump is about to enter the White House. He has signalled quite openly that just about every one of Obama’s policies he disagrees with strongly and intends to attack if not do away with altogether. Allowing this resolution to pass in the UN is a way of tying the hands of the incoming President of the United States, forcing him to pay attention to Israeli settlement building and perhaps forcing him to think twice before taking any big decisions. In particular Trump apparently intends to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Netanyahu V Obama:
When it came to peacemaking between Israel and Palestine Obama clearly came to the region with the expectation that he would make things happen that previous Presidents couldn’t. Time and again Netanyahu and other elements of Israeli government showed him otherwise even to the point of humiliation. Take the so called settlement freeze; in December 2009 Netanyahu announced a 10 month freeze on building in the occupied territories. This failed to satisfy Obama’s and the Palestinian condition placed on the resumption of negotiations for a freeze in both East Jerusalem and in the West Bank. Nevertheless three months later Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel to participate in negotiations between the two sides at which point the government chose to announce plans to build another 1600 homes in East Jerusalem. You know just to really rub it in his face. Netanyahu argued that the timing was incidental but the effect was to humiliate not just the vice president of the most powerful country in the world but the United States itself by extension.
As soon as Netanyahu’s so called settlement freeze ended the United States still vetoed a draft resolution against settlements when it came before the UN Security Council. As with the vote passed last Friday the other 14 members of the security council voted in favour. This didn’t stop Netanyahu from getting in involved in Mitt Romney’s election campaign against Obama in 2012.
Barack Obama came to Israel and made a speech in Jerusalem in an attempt to appeal directly to the Israeli people. Netanyahu went further, he went to Capital Hill and made a speech directly to American politicians specifically to undermine Obama’s Iran policy. Not only did he fail to change American policy he toyed with the relationship between the two countries.
It is because of the Obama administration that Israel has the Iron Dome, it is because of the Obama administration that peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians happened at all over the past eight years. It is thanks to the Obama administration that Israel is guaranteed $3.8 billion per year for the next 10 years.
The actual text of the resolution is almost irrelevant compared to the context within which it occurred. Bearing in mind how undiplomatic this Israeli government has been regarding their relationship with the outgoing administration it is amazing that it took them so long to allow an anti Israel resolution to pass.
The lessons regarding the value of Israeli diplomacy are there for any who wish to open their eyes and see them. Successful diplomacy will ensure that Israel is protected from UN Security Council resolutions singling Israel out for unfair treatment at the hands of some of the worst regimes in the world.
A failure to act effectively on the world stage, an insistence on attempting to hold American presidents hostage to the concept of a special relationship while constantly attempting to undermine a serving US President at home will inevitably see Israel and Israelis suffer repercussions. Many supporters of Israel are looking to the incoming President Donald Trump with hope. They should be wary. Donald Trump would would never allow an Israeli politician to go to Capital Hill and preach against any of his policies without severe repercussions nor would he allow an Israeli government any wriggle room were he to decide one day he wants Israel to give up land or anything else.
Those not interested in learning lessons from the mistakes of Israeli politicians seem intent on screaming ANTISEMITISM at the top of their lungs. This is a mistake and it will likely lead to further significant issues for Israel in the future.