President Barack Obama delivered a stern rebuke to long-term ally of U.S. interests, Israel, weeks before he is set to leave office.
On Friday, the United States abstained from using its veto vote on a U.N. Security Council resolution that called on Israel to stop its encroachments into Palestinian land. The resolution declared Israeli settlements on the West Bank to have “no legal validity,” further emphasizing the need for both Israel and Palestine to work out a two-state solution through diplomatic means.
While the U.S. has long been an Israel ally, often protecting the country from action at the United Nations which has tended to view Israeli state policy towards Palestine in critical terms, the abstention from U.S. ambassador Samantha Power came as a major surprise for the international community. Applause broke out at the 15-member U.N. Security Council meeting as Power’s lone abstention meant that the resolution condemning Israeli aggression into the West Bank passed unanimously 14-0.
“It is because this resolution reflects the facts on the ground — and is consistent with U.S. policy across Republican and Democratic administrations throughout the history of the state of Israel — that the United States did not veto it,” Power said, citing a 1982 statement by then-President Ronald Reagan that the United States “will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements” and that “settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel.”
The abstention is a major break in U.S. policy towards Israel, with the former having largely maintained a non-interventionist approach towards Israel over the years even as it sped up its settlement endeavors in East Jerusalem.
Although the passing of the resolution is not expected to have an immediate political impact on Israel-Palestine relations, as reported by the New York Times, the symbolic gesture on part of the Obama administration could increase Israel’s isolation in the geopolitical sphere. President Barack Obama, who has twice failed to broker peace talks between Israel and Palestine even after long-drawn efforts, appears to have made a last-ditch effort through the United Nations to push Israel into seriously considering the viability of forming an independent Palestinian state free from its heavy-handed interference.
The move also sheds a light on President Barack Obama’s sour relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has often been at odds with the American president because of his emphasis on resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict through peaceful means.
It was no surprise, then, to see Netanyahu strongly criticize the U.S.’ decision not to veto on the UN Security Council resolution, terming the abstention “shameful.”
“Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms. The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes.”
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump also strongly criticized the move, especially after having urged the Obama administration to veto the move. Trump took to Twitter to vent his anger and also hinted that the U.S. will be far more sympathetic to Israel once he assumes office on January 20, 2017.
President Barack Obama’s decision to abstain from voting also drew widespread ire from both Republicans and Democrats in Washington, while a section of the American media also denounced the move in no unclear terms.
“This obscenity, on the eve of Chanukah, when the ancient Israelites freed the Holy City and the Second Temple from pagans, should have been immediately vetoed by Israel’s ally, the United States. Instead, President Obama stood aside as the UN Security Council voted unanimously for a measure which has the force of international law,” wrote the New York Daily News, adding that Jews would be asked to leave Tel Aviv next.
But the decision by President Obama has to be applauded because his administration went ahead with it despite knowing that it will be widely censured. And while President-elect Donald Trump might say that the White House will have a different approach towards Israel once he comes to power, the bottom-line is that the overwhelming international line of support now speaks of a two-state solution, and now even the UN is behind it. The sooner Israel comes to terms with this development, the better it will be for the long-term peace of the region.
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]