Outgoing Secretary of State John F. Kerry has maintained that the US abstention in a UN vote banning further construction of Jewish settlements was in strict accordance with US values. Sec. Kerry said the US allowed the passage of the vote — which condemned Israel’s settlement policies — as the only way to preserve a two-state solution to the crisis because it is on the verge of being destroyed.
On December 23, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution which demanded a halt to all Israeli settlements in the occupied territories following Obama administration’s refusal to veto the vote, further straining an already strained relationship between the Obama administration and Israeli PM. The resolution passed by a 14-0 vote in the absence of a veto by the US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Powers. Every other member of the Council, including the United Kingdom, voted in support of the Resolution.
Egypt drafted the Resolution and held-off under pressure from Israeli foreign policy officials, but the vote was requested by New Zealand, Senegal, Malaysia, and Venezuela leading to Israel’s recall of its Ambassador to New Zealand. One of the demands of the resolution was as follows.
“… Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”
In response to the vote, the Israeli government leveled criticisms against the Obama administration in what it described as the abandonment of the US’ greatest ally in the Middle East. To this, Kerry maintained the following.
“The vote in the UN was about preserving the two state solution. That’s what we were standing up for: Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors. That’s what we are trying to preserve, for our sake and for theirs.”
He further buttressed his point with the fact that the current Obama administration recently approved a $38 billion military assistance over the course of the next ten years, larger than any military assistance signed in US-Israeli history.
However, the Israeli Prime Minister described Kerry’s speech as “skewed.”
“Like the Security Council resolution that Secretary Kerry advanced in the UN, his speech tonight was skewed against Israel. For over an hour, Kerry obsessively dealt with settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict — Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries.”
He also maintained that the “Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by foreign leaders” in an apparent reference to the various sufferings that the Jewish people have experienced throughout history culminating in the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany.
Other prominent political aficionados have joined in condemning the abstention. President-Elect Trump tweeted as follows.
We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but.......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2016
not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2016
Trump has vowed to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and tapped David Friedman, well-known for his support of Israeli settlements and even raised money for a major Jewish settlement. He won’t be the first president to make such claims. Presidents Bush and Clinton also promised the same, but backed off once in office.
In the same vein, House Speaker Paul Ryan not only condemned the abstention but also questioned the “credibility” of Secretary Kerry to speak on the matter.
After allowing this anti-Israel resolution to pass the UN, Secretary Kerry has no credibility to speak on Israeli-Palestinian peace.— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 28, 2016
According to an analysis by Arutz Sheva, an Israeli-based online news portal, the resolution has no mandatory effect on Israeli politics. This is because it was adopted under the sixth chapter of the UN Charter (Pacific Settlement of Disputes). Due to this, the resolution is not a law, rather a declaratory document.
However, the new document is littered with phrases which have been used or inspired by Obama administration officials, including Barack Obama himself, Vice-President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry. What this suggests is that certain principles which were not part of previous resolutions can be seen in the tenth preambular paragraph. These include “the status quo is not sustainable” and “entrenching a one-state reality.”
[Featured Image by Zach Gibson/Getty Images]