Fallout Continues after US Abstains from UN Resolution Regarding Israel
By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
The fallout continues over the United States refusal to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution critical of Israel over its construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This move further strains an already tense relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
The resolution declared that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal in the occupied territory. It demanded a halt to all construction there and in other territories captured in the Six-Day War of 1967.
UN Ambassador Provides Explanation for US Decision about Israel
In her address to the Security Council, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power summed up the Obama administration’s decision to abstain.
In a speech on December 23, Power said, “Today, the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity….President Obama and Secretary Kerry have repeatedly warned – publically and privately – that the absence of progress toward peace and continued settlement expansion was going to put the two-state solution at risk, and threaten Israel’s stated objective to remain both a Jewish State and a democracy…This resolution reflects trends that will permanently destroy the hope of a two-state solution if they continue on their current course.”
In a conference call with the press, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes added more detail. “Netanyahu had the opportunity to pursue policies that would have led to a different outcome today….In the absence of any meaningful peace process, as well as in the accelerated settlement activity, we took the decision that we did today to abstain on the resolution,” Rhodes said.
Jerusalem in Territory Considered Occupied
The text of the Security Council resolution goes far beyond the settlements issue and includes Jerusalem itself. The resolution “reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
In effect, the resolution says Israel has no legal right to any part of Jerusalem, even the holiest of all places in Judaism such as the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and Mount Sinai. These areas were seized by Jordan in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 and were only taken back by Israel in 1967.
The Obama administration has not explained why these sites were included in the resolution.
Democrats Are Critical of Obama’s Action
President Obama has garnered intense bipartisan opposition to the action taken against Israel. Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY), a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, has been highly critical of President Obama.
According to news website RealClear Politics, Engel said, “It’s a parting shot out the door, you know. President Obama, whom I voted for twice, decided he was going to do this. And I think he would have been a lot better off vetoing the resolution and say to the U.N., let’s get serious here, let’s try to not put blame on one party, particularly, the party that’s a democracy.”
Engel questioned the validity of the resolution, considering that countries on the Security Council have atrocious human rights records. The United Nations consistently calls out Israel, when the world body does virtually nothing regarding other contentious areas of the world.
On Twitter, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) described the U.N. as a “fervently anti-Israel body.” In a public statement, Schumer observed, “Knowing this, past Administrations – both Democrat and Republican – have protected Israel from the vagaries of this biased institution. Unfortunately, this Administration has not followed in that path and its actions will move us further from peace in the Middle East.”
UN Fails to Focus on Syrian Conflict
Many people have questioned why the U.N. spends its time focusing on Israel when just a couple of miles away, Syria is embroiled in a horrendous civil war. So far, this war has cost the lives of more than 500,000 people and displaced millions more. The war has also involved attacks from one permanent member of the Security Council, Russia. Other countries that voted for the resolution have dubious human rights records, such as China and Venezuela.
The U.N. General Assembly passed 20 resolutions against Israel in 2016, but only four resolutions for the rest of the world. Those resolutions were aimed at North Korea, Russia, Iran and Syria. The resolution against Russia labeled Moscow as an occupying power in Crimea. But the U.N. has done nothing about Russia’s conduct in the Syrian civil war.
US Secretary of State Fights Back Against Global Criticism
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came out swinging in defense of allowing the resolution to proceed without a U.S. veto. He chastised Israel for its settlement policy, which he called an obstacle to peace. However, Kerry never mentioned why Jerusalem was included in the resolution.
As expected, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly responded to Kerry’s speech. In a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu said Kerry “obsessively dealt with settlements” and barely touched on “the root of the conflict, Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries.”
Netanyahu’s spokesman David Keyes said to CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday “We have ironclad information, frankly, that the Obama administration really helped push this resolution and helped craft it, from sources internationally and sources in the Arab world.”
Netanyahu also commented on his website that “Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements, but we agreed the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue.”
Questions with Regard to US Involvement
The Obama administration has stated that the Egyptians and Palestinians are the ones who moved the resolution forward, not the U.S. Rhodes noted, “With respect to this resolution, we did not draft this resolution; we did not introduce this resolution. The Egyptians, in partnership with the Palestinians, are the ones who began circulating an earlier draft of the resolution. The Egyptians are the ones who moved it forward [Thursday]. And we took the position that we did when it was put to a vote.”
President-elect Donald Trump provided an alternate view of the U.N. in one of his customary tweets. “The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!” he tweeted.
This U.N. resolution will be virtually impossible to rescind primarily because two other permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China, will not overturn it.
However, the resolution gives more ammunition to the incoming Trump administration. The new administration will seriously re-examine the relationship between the United Nations and the United States, considering the U.S. pays a quarter of the U.N.’s budget.
We don’t know what other policies President Obama is considering during his final weeks in office. No matter what, the new administration will have its hands full after President Trump’s inauguration.
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