Obama’s legacy and the UN vote

What people fail to grasp is that this is not about settlements; this is about an international body that has passed 223 resolutions condemning Israel, while only 8 condemning the Syrian regime that massacred its citizens brutally and indiscriminately, the past six years. In fact, outgoing Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, stated earlier this month that: “During the past ten years, I have argued that we must never accept bias against Israel within UN bodies. Decades of political maneuvering have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports, and conferences criticizing Israel. In many cases, rather than helping the Palestinian cause, this reality has hampered the ability of the UN to fulfill its role effectively.” Unfortunately, he waited until his last month in office to forcefully speak out against this bias, although with little effect as evidenced by this latest vote.

The Obama team, such as his Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes, likes to point out that other US President’s have voted similarly in the past. Firstly, why does that justify the Obama Administrations vote? Secondly, not since Jimmy Carter has an American President voted against Israel on a broad resolution such as this. Subsequent votes were constrained to specific incidents of condemnation (ie: the Gaza war).

Once again this is beside the point. Where is the American Security Council resolution condemning the Russia massacre against innocent people in Aleppo, a resolution against Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines who is carrying out extrajudicial killings of thousands of people there right now, against Saudi Arabia for carrying out indiscriminate attacks in Yemen and repressing their female population; we can go on and on.

By going along with this vote Obama does nothing for the peace process, but rather, it just justifies the United Nations as an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel body. Obama is once again more concerned with his legacy, to go on record as opposing Israel, than with anything else.

We must remember, in 2009 Obama visited the Middle East on his first visit to the region as President and skipped visiting Israel. He then called on Israel to freeze building in the West Bank as a precondition to peace talks. Despite always maintaining that negotiations should be conducted without preconditions, Israel actually did comply with Obama’s request, yet after 10 months, the Palestinians still refused to come to the negotiating table.

I am no fan of the settlements, but to make that one issue a precondition to negotiations will, and clearly did, hinder the two sides even coming to the table. Why did Obama single out this particular issue? Why did he not demand that the Palestinians give up the right of return as a pre-condition? Obama’s action on this vote and his statements that the settlements are the main issue that has stalled negotiations is just not true. The Palestinians have been offered a full-fledged state on at least three separate occasions (in 1947 by the UN, in 2000 by Barak and Clinton and then in 2008 by Olmert) and they turned it down every time. In fact, the settlements are probably the least of the obstacles to a peace deal, as we saw when Israel gave back Gaza to the Palestinians and the Israelis physically removed the settlers and the settlements from Gaza themselves. What did Israel get in response? A bloody coup to over throw the Palestinian Authority and then missiles fired regularly by Hamas at their homes and schools.

This vote also wasn’t just about settlements; but rather, it stated that Jerusalem itself is an occupied territory. Before 1967 Jews were not able to pray or visit their holiest site, yet after 1967 everyone, from all religions, are able to pray and visit the Old City in Jerusalem. Should Israel go back to the way it was pre-1967? This vote also gives further ammunition for the BDS movement as it calls for the legitimacy of boycotting Israel. If the Palestinian Authority wouldn’t come to the negotiating table when Israel did freeze the settlements, what makes Obama think this will bring them to the table now? Once again, this vote was not about settlements, it was about condemning Israel above every other country and nation, and the Obama administration is complicit in that. While the Arabs enjoy living on over five million square miles of land, the Jews are still not allowed to live on even a mere 8,000.

About the Author
Ari Ingel is an international attorney and foreign policy analyst. Follow him on twitter at
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