The one drawback (and usually it’s a bonus) of observing Shabbat is that the news catches up with us a day late. So the world learned about Obama’s treachery against Israel at the UN Security Council, when he instructed his ambassador to the UN to abstain in a Security Council vote against Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, 24 hours before the rest of us caught up. On the other hand, this has enabled me to read all (or at least a lot) of the commentary that has been expressed about this vindictive act before I put my own thoughts together.
(Apologies in advance for what is turning out to be a very long post. Please bear with me.)
Let’s start with UNSC Resolution 2334 itself. What does it actually say? (Hold on to your blood pressure). Here’s an excerpt, read it all (at risk of your mental health):
“Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,
“Reaffirming the obligation of Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and recalling the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice,
“Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions,
“Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines,
“Recalling the obligation under the Quartet Roadmap, endorsed by its resolution 1515 (2003), for a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and the dismantlement of all settlement outposts erected since March 2001,
“Recalling also the obligation under the Quartet roadmap for the Palestinian Authority Security Forces to maintain effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantling terrorist capabilities, including the confiscation of illegal weapons,
“1. 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;
“2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;
“3. Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;
Edited to add: Elder of Ziyon notes the many hypocrisies and biases inherent in the resolution including the most egregious one concerning Jerusalem (his comment is in bold):
Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions,
The human right to live in your ancestral lands is denied to only one people.
. 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;
Except in 1967 not one person called it “Palestinian territory.” An inconvenient fact.
2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;
The US is now acceding to the maximalist Arab demands that Judaism’s holiest sites should be under Muslim control.
3. Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;
Lines that were meant to be temporary since 1949.
The only mitigating factor is that the resolution is non-binding, but even here there are negative ramifications:
… there are no short-term practical ramifications for Israel with regards to the settlement activities. The Fourth Geneva Convention already makes it illegal for nations to move populations and establish settlements in territories acquired in a war, and an overwhelming number of countries already consider the Israeli settlements to be illegal on that basis. In addition, the resolution does not include any sanctions or coercive measures against those who violated it. However, in the medium or long term, the resolution might influence how the International Criminal Court treats legal suits filed against Israel, and may create a justification for countries and individual organizations to impose sanctions on the settlements.According to Itamar Eichner, the passage of the resolution may make Israeli citizens involved with settling the West Bank vulnerable to lawsuits throughout the world.
Perhaps here is the place to remind ourselves of the legality of the settlements. You can read it all at the link.
To recap the events that ensued, (sarcasm warning ahead) after Egypt mysteriously pulled its own proposed resolution on the settlements (whether because of pressure from Israel or Donald Trump is still not clear), three other “Tzaddikim” stepped up to the plate to save the world from the worst evil that mankind has known, i..e Jews living in their historic and ancient heartland, Judea and Samaria.
Who were these saviors of mankind? New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal, that’s who. Through their altruistic volunteerism, aided and abetted by a vindictive US Administration which abandoned 50 years of defending Israel at the hostile UN, not to mention all those righteous nations like Britain and all the other European nations which never killed a civilian in battle or occupied foreign territory (not its own homeland), Resolution 2334 passed 14-0 with one pathetic and meaningless abstention by our friends the Americans.
In a stunning departure from its policy over the last eight years, the Obama administration abstained from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution Friday that demands an immediate halt to all Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, enabling the measure to pass.
The text also calls on all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967” — language that Israel fears will lead to a surge in boycott and sanctions efforts, and that an Israeli official warned would provide “a tailwind for terror.”
One particularly righteous party was delighted with the vote:
The Palestinian Authority hailed “a day of victory.”
As for our friends the Americans:
Speaking at the Security Council after the vote, US Ambassador Samantha Power said the decision underlined the Council’s long-standing position that “the settlements have no legal validity.” She claimed the US position was “fully in line with the bipartisan history” of how US presidents have approached the issue for decades.
And Israel’s reaction?
Shortly before the vote, an Israeli official used unprecedentedly harsh language to accuse the Obama administration of scheming with the Palestinians to harm Israel with the resolution.
“The US administration secretly cooked up with the Palestinians an extreme anti-Israeli resolution behind Israel’s back which would be a tailwind for terror and boycotts and effectively make the Western Wall occupied Palestinian territory,” the official said. (The draft resolution refers to East Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territory.)
Palestinian and Egyptian officials met earlier in the month with State Department officials in Washington, Channel 2 noted Friday evening, and it was in those talks, Israel believes, that plans were coordinated to push through the anti-settlements resolution. Hence the official’s reference to the US administration having “cooked up” the resolution.
“This is an abandonment of Israel which breaks decades of US policy of protecting Israel at the UN and undermines the prospects of working with the next administration of advancing peace,” the official added.
Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said the US vote also “spits in the face” of incoming president Donald Trump.
The full Israeli reaction came almost immediately. Here is the full text of Binyamin Netanyahu’s comment after the vote:
Citizens of Israel, I would like to reassure you. The resolution that was adopted yesterday at the United Nations is distorted and shameful but we will overcome it. The resolution determines that the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem is ‘occupied territory’. This is delusional.
The resolution determines that the Western Wall is ‘occupied territory’. This too is delusional. There is nothing more absurd than calling the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter occupied territory. There is also an attempt here, which will not succeed, to impose permanent settlement terms on Israel. You might recall that the last one who tried to do this was Carter, an extremely hostile president to Israel, and who just recently said that Hamas is not a terrorist organization. Carter passed sweeping decisions against us at the UN of a similar kind, and this was also unsuccessful. We opposed this and nothing happened.
All American presidents since Carter upheld the American commitment not to try to dictate permanent settlement terms to Israel at the Security Council. And yesterday, in complete contradiction of this commitment, including an explicit commitment by President Obama himself in 2011, the Obama administration carried out a shameful anti-Israel ploy at the UN.
I would like to tell you that the resolution that was adopted, not only doesn’t bring peace closer, it drives it further away. It hurts justice; it hurts the truth. Think about this absurdity, half a million human beings are being slaughtered in Syria. Tens of thousands are being butchered in Sudan. The entire Middle East is going up in flames and the Obama administration and the Security Council choose to gang up on the only democracy in the Middle East – the State of Israel. What a disgrace.
My friends, I would like to tell you on the first night of Chanukah that this will not avail them. We reject this resolution outright, just as we rejected the UN resolution that determined that Zionism was racism. It took time but that resolution was rescinded; it will take time but this one will also be rescinded. Now I will tell you how it will be rescinded. It will be rescinded not because of our retreats but because of our steadfastness and that of our allies. I remind you that we withdrew from Gaza, uprooted communities and took people out of their graves. Did this help us at all at the UN? Did this improve our relations at the UN? We were hit with thousands of rockets and at the UN we were hit with the Goldstone report!
So I will tell you what is clear, I know, to the vast majority of Israeli citizens: We learned this lesson, and we will not go there. But I also want to tell you something else: We are not alone. I spoke last night with many American leaders. I was pleased to hear from members of the American Congress, from Democrats and Republicans alike, that they will fight an all-out war against this resolution with all the power at their disposal. I heard the exact same things from our friends in the incoming administration, who said that they will fight an all-out war against this resolution. And I heard this from across the spectrum of American public opinion and American politics – Republicans, Democrats, Jews and non-Jews. As I spoke yesterday with leaders in Congress and the incoming American administration, they told me unequivocally: ‘We are sick of this and it will not continue. We will change this resolution. We will not allow anyone to harm the State of Israel.’ They are declaring their intention to pass legislation to punish countries and bodies that try to harm Israel. They say that this will also include the UN itself. I remind you that the UN receives a quarter, 25%, of its budget from the US alone.
In my most recent speech to the UN, in September, I said that a storm was expected in the UN before it gets better there. We knew that this is possible and we expect that it will come. The resolution that was passed at the UN yesterday is part of the swan song of the old world that is biased against Israel, but, my friends, we are entering a new era. And just as President-elect Trump said yesterday, it will happen much sooner than you think. In the new era there is a much higher price for those who try to harm Israel, and that the price will be exacted not only by the US, but by Israel as well.
Two countries with which we have diplomatic relations cosponsored the resolution against us at the UN; therefore, I ordered yesterday that our ambassadors be recalled from, Senegal and from New Zealand. I have ordered that all Israeli assistance to Senegal be halted, and there’s more to come. Those who work with us will benefit because Israel has much to give to the countries of the world. But those who work against us will lose – because there will be a diplomatic and economic price for their actions against Israel. Additionally, I have instructed the Foreign Ministry to complete, within a month, a reassessment of all of our contacts with the UN, including Israeli financing of UN institutions and the presence of UN representatives in the country. But I am not waiting; already now I have ordered to halt approximately NIS 30 million in financing for five UN institutions, five UN bodies that are especially hostile to Israel. I have already ordered that this be stopped, and there is more to come.
We are on a campaign of improving our relations with the nations of the world. And it will take more time, and I have said this as well, until our improved relations with countries on five continents are also reflected in their decisions in UN institutions. But I would like to tell you something else, and listen closely to what I’m saying. Contrary to what you might expect, it is very likely that last night’s scandalous resolution will accelerate this process, because it is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Last night’s resolution is a call to arms for all of our many friends in the US and elsewhere around the world, friends who are sick of the UN’s hostility toward Israel, and they intend to bring about a fundamental change in the UN. Therefore, this evening I tell you in the language of our sources, the sweet will yet come forth from the bitter and those who come to curse will yet bless.
Here, on the first night of Chanukah, I stand next to the Maccabees of our times, IDF soldiers and wounded IDF heroes. I salute you and I say to you clearly: The light will dispel the darkness. The spirit of the Maccabees will overcome. Happy Chanukah.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, slammed the UNSC for its biased vote, and reminded the plenum of the interesting timing – the eve of Chanukah, when the Jews defeated a world power and regained its sovereignty in Jerusalem:
Binyamin Netanyahu recalled the ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal, both of whom co-sponsored the resolution. He also summoned the ambassadors of all the members of the UNSC for a dressing down after they all voted for the shameful resolution. He even called in the UN envoy for “clarifications”. The upcoming visit of the Ukrainian PM was cancelled as well.
Netanyahu has apparently instructed Foreign Ministry staff to “suspend all working ties with 12 of the countries that voted in favor of the decision”.
According to Army Radio, Liberman ordered the IDF and the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, which is responsible for implementing Israel government policies in the West Bank, to cease all contact with political representatives of the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian civilians, as well as end all cooperation on political and civilian matters.
However, the defense minister instructed the IDF to continue to work with the Palestinian security services to coordinate on security matters, which is seen as vital to ensuring calm in the West Bank.
However the PA denies any such scaling back is taking place. I would say to them “give it time” and fervently hope they are wrong.
In similarly confusing messaging, it had been announced that Netanyahu was cancelling an upcoming meeting with British PM Theresa May. That has now been denied by the PM’s spokesman who said the PM had not been planning to attend in the first place.
The conclusions that can be drawn from the resolution, from the anti-Israel bias inherent in the UN and its institutions, and the hypocrisy of the nations of the world who turn a blind eye to almost every evil but focus on Israel with a blackened microscope, are obvious and sickening.
Edited to add: Via Shirlee Finn: Shalom Kiwi explains the mindset of the New Zealand ambassador to the UN and describes his ongoing hostility to Israel, which helps explain their sponsorship of the resolution.
We well know that “nations have no friends, only interests”, but surely the UN has gone too far? Even the UN’s Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon himself, admitted – finally! – after 10 long years in the job, a minute before he steps down, that the UN is biased against Israel. In which case one has to ask why on earth he supported such a one-sided resolution?
And of course the other question that simply begs to be asked is this: Why does Israel still belong to the UN? Any possible usefulness that could have come out of this institution has long ago melted away in the vitriol of the constant attacks and demonisation of Israel.
I bring you here some further reactions and commentary, both on the diplomatic fallout of the vote itself and the practical ramifications on the ground.
Law Professor William Jacobson notes:
The Resolution in question is pernicious. It declares any Israeli presence beyond the 1949 armistice line (the so-called pre-1967 line) illegal. That means Israeli control of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City would be illegal, as would the presence of Jews in the Jewish Quarter, which Jordan had ethnically cleansed of Jews and ransacked. It also would mean Israeli control of the Western Wall would be illegal.
If Obama abstains, he will have allowed the UN to strip Jews of their history.
Human rights activist Anne Bayefsky, a long-time adversary of the UN writing at Fox News, calls the US abstention “diplomatic terrorism”:
Let’s be absolutely clear about what has just happened. The Palestinians have completed the hijacking of every major UN institution. The 2016 General Assembly has adopted nineteen resolutions condemning Israel and nine critical of all other UN states combined. The 2016 Commission on the Status of Women adopted one resolution condemning Israel and zero on any other state. The 2016 UN Human Rights Council celebrated ten years of adopting more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than any other place on earth. And now – to the applause of the assembled – the Palestinians can add the UN Security Council to their list.
Resolution sponsors Malaysia and New Zealand explained UN-think to the Council this way: Israeli settlements are “the single biggest threat to peace” and the “primary threat to the viability of the two-state solution.” Not seven decades of unremitting Arab terror and violent rejection of Jewish self-determination in the historic homeland of the Jewish people.
This is not just any lie. This is the big lie of modern antisemitism. This is the lie that drove a Palestinian teenager in June of this year to creep into the home of 13-year old Hallel Ariel and butcher her with a knife in the back as she slept in her bed.
The bed was located in the “settlement” of Kiryat Arba – on Arab-claimed territory whose ownership – by agreement – is subject to final status negotiations instead of back-stabbing UN resolutions. So to skip the UN-eze, today’s hate fest was diplomatic terrorism.
Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich notes how Obama has harmed the UN and not helped peace by not vetoing the resolution:
The proposed resolution denounces any Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank as illegal and demands that Israel immediately choke off such communities. These areas had been entirely cleansed of their ancient Jewish populations during the Jordanian invasion and occupation in 1949. The standard diplomatic position of the U.N. is that Israel, upon retaking these areas in 1967, was obligated to indefinitely forbid Jews from living in these areas (but the U.N. has amazingly avoided applying these supposed rules anywhere else).
The legal effects of such a resolution would be murky — the Security Council is neither a court nor a legislature and cannot create rules of international law. Nor do the resolutions invoke the council’s power under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter to call for mandatory measures, such as sanctions. What is clear is that a Security Council resolution will reinforce all the dynamics that have made a solution more remote despite eight years of pressure on Israel by Obama.
He goes on to list all the negative ramifications of the US’s abstention, particularly the wrong lessons that will be learned by the Palestinians, for example that they will always do better by involving the international community rather than negotiating directly with Israel, and never suffering a penalty for refusing to negotiate.
Jonathan Tobin at Commentary Magazine also writes of Obama’s betrayal of Israel:
The excuse given by the U.S. was that increased building in the territories and Jerusalem is endangering the chances of a two-state solution. But, as I noted yesterday when the vote on the resolution was postponed, this is a canard. The reason why a two-state solution has not been implemented to date is because the Palestinians have repeatedly refused offers of statehood even when such offers would put them in possession of almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem. The building of more homes in places even Obama admitted that Israel would keep in the event of a peace treaty is no obstacle to peace if the Palestinians wanted a state. Rather than encourage peace, this vote will merely encourage more Palestinian intransigence and their continued refusal to negotiate directly with Israel. It will also accelerate support for efforts to wage economic war on Israel via the BDS movement.
This lame duck stab in the back of America’s only democratic ally in the Middle East should only further encourage President-elect Donald Trump to make good on his promise to move the U.S. embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and let the world know that the new administration not only repudiates his predecessor’s betrayal but that the alliance is as strong as ever.
Indeed President-elect Donald Trump said that the vote will make peace talks much harder.
Even Senate Democrats blasted Obama for the vote:
Leading Democrats from both houses called out the UN as an inappropriate venue for rejuvenating the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. They objected to the Obama administration’s departure from what they view as decades of established US policy of vetoing UN resolutions regarding Israeli settlements.
However, one excellent post by Israeli blogger Sheri Oz brought the whole fiasco into perspective, enabling us to face this upsetting turn of events with a clearer mind. She writes “I am glad the US abstained, and here’s why“:
The US has served as a fig leaf for the UN Security Council (UNSC) for far too long. When the US would veto resolutions, the names of all those countries who voted in favour of the resolution would fade into the dungeons of unnecessary details that need not be filed or remembered.
Not so now!
Had the USA vetoed the resolution, Netanyahu would not have come down hard on Senegal and New Zealand for having put it up for the vote. In my opinion, it should not have needed to pass for him to recall our ambassadors from these two countries and cease development aid to Senegal. But the veto would have made the resolution slide into oblivion with no accountability on the part of those who proposed it. I hope this changes the game. I hope from now on, an ally or beneficiary who proposes such shameful resolutions will find themselves banished from our sight. (I know, realpolitik does not allow for such righteousness.)
We will remember that supposed friends and allies — the UK and France — permanent members of the UNSC, voted in favour of this resolution. We will remember that permanent members China and The Russian Federation, both looking for ways to increase cooperative ventures with Israel, voted in favour of this resolution.
We will remember that those who seek our help in various technological, agricultural, security, medical spheres, and more, and who happened to be temporary members of the council at this time voted to unfairly tie our hands behind our backs in our dealings with the Palestinian Authority — Angola (Israel provides much development aid), Egypt (security cooperation), Japan (trade and research-and-development agreements), Ukraine (that signed an employment agreement with Israel in June), Uruguay (which has in recent years voted in support of Israel in various UN bodies and that has development agreements with Israel).
I just hope that Sheri is not being overly optimistic in our ability to remember the slights committed against us, and that we have the intestinal fortitude to take the necessary actions to protect our own legal rights.