A Shameful Legacy

The Security Council’s vote on Friday to condemn Israel, demanding a return to the pre-1967 lines and explicitly raising the specter of sanctions, is arguably the single most odious manifesto to emerge from that hotbed of anti-Semitism since the 1975 U.N. resolution equating Zionism with Racism. Not since then has the international body careened so far from the bounds of reason and fairness into the regions of demogoguery, bigotry and sheer irrationality.

The Security Council vote to condemn “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including eastern Jerusalem,” seeks to turn the clock back on decades of diplomacy and to delegitimize the Jewish claim to all of Yerushalayim, including the Kosel and the Old City.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office denounced the resolution as “shameful,” and shameful it was. But the outpouring of indignation did not issue only from Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition partners.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) also branded the U.S. abstention “absolutely shameful.” Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said “The settlement issue is no doubt an issue. “But this is not the way. We abandoned Israel,” he said, and vowed to lead a move to stop all U.S. funding of the U.N.

Within President Barack Obama’s own party voices were raised against the maneuver. Incoming Senate Minority Leader& Chuck Schumer of New York said it was “extremely frustrating, disappointing and confounding.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D- Connecticut), called it “unconscionable.” Sen. Mark Warner (D.-Virginia) said, “I am dismayed that the administration departed from decades of U.S. policy by not vetoing the U.N. resolution.”

The major difference between this and the ignominy of 1975 was that then the United States, led by its able ambassador Daniel P. Moynihan, stood proudly with Israel against its enemies; this time, the U.S. stood — or skulked — with its abstention, against Israel. Netanyahu’s office accused the Obama administration of “colluding with the Palestinians behind the scenes to gang-up against Israel.”

The explanation for the failure to use the veto was, to put it as gently as possible, mealy-mouthed.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, argued that “one cannot champion” both settlements and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The settlement problem has gotten so much worse,” she said, but added that “our vote today does not diminish” the country’s “steadfast” commitment to Israel.

Power’s remarks are doubly fallacious. A U.S. veto would not have been construed as a vote for “settlements,” given the administration’s track record of issuing knee-jerk condemnations of Israel every time a local housing committee approved a preliminary plan to build something in Efrat or Gilo, no matter that bulldozers might not arrive for years.

Nor is there any contradiction between “settlements” and two-states. It has long been recognized (even by the Palestinians in past negotiations) that in any final settlement Israel will retain the major Jewish blocs in Yehudah and Shomron. No diplomat seriously contemplates transferring the 37,000 residents of Maalei Adumim, for example, to some other place.

Secondly, it is patently untrue that the U.S. abstention did not diminish the country’s support for Israel. It casts Israel as the villain in the Mideast conflict, by implication that all the violence and hatred is its fault and the Palestinians are merely victims, dispossessed by a cruel occupying power. And it was the U.S. that allowed that to happen.

But why?

Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry, who spent a significant part of his Mideast peacemaking denying charges that he was unfairly blaming Israel for the negotiations stalemate, added to the record against himself, once again scolding Yerushalayim for bringing retribution upon itself. Israel, he said was “heading to a place of danger” with its construction in disputed territory. The future of a two-state solution “is now in jeopardy, with terrorism, violence and incitement continuing and unprecedented steps to expand settlements being advanced by avowed opponents of the two-state solution,” Kerry said, equating terrorist violence with building Jewish homes in Yehudah and Shomron.

Right on message, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters that Netanyahu could have avoided this outcome had he adopted a different policy.

“Absent this acceleration of settlement activity, absent the type of rhetoric we’ve seen out of the current Israeli government, I think the United States likely would have taken a different view,” Rhodes said.

It bespeaks a punitive attitude. They had it coming to them, is what the Americans are saying.

Of course, it was not ultimately the decision of Kerry, Power or Rhodes. These people speak for and act on behalf of one man: U.S. President Barack Obama.

Israel’s National Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz characterized it as “a hurtful, injurious and childish act. This is not the way friends work together.”

Indeed not. Countless words have been written speculating on the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. They have both denied any personal animosity, while acknowledging disagreements, the kind of disagreements that friends do have.

The Obama administration’s refusal to use its veto at the U.N. Security Council was not out of friendship. Rather, it looks like a “parting shot,” a spiteful getting back at Netanyahu.

It is most regretful that a president who has only weeks left to his term, should choose to leave behind such a shameful legacy.