As I wrote on Saturday, Obama’s decision that the US should abstain in the UN and allow a vote against Israel on measures very similar (and even worse) than those he had vetoed in the past was possible—and to him, desirable—because he no longer has to answer to the American voter. All their voting is done, as far as he’s concerned: his own election and re-election as president, and then the defeat of his designated successor, Hillary Clinton, who will not be carrying on his legacy.
So he’s free now to gum up the works as much as he wants.
And free now to stick it to Donald Trump, his actual rather than his preferred successor. But that hardly would seem to be his primary motivation; he’s also interested in punishing Israel and Netanyahu. This action does it all.
And Obama probably has a few more tricks up his sleeve before January 20, although some of them may involve topics other than Israel. Something about Guantanamo, perhaps, one of the pieces of unfinished business of his presidency?
But Obama may discover something about the law of unintended consequences. There has been a backlash of outrage to his move, and some of it has come from a group of Republicans and Democrats who don’t often agree on all that much. Among the Republicans, this backlash has taken a particular form that is somewhat more extreme than usual: the desire to withdraw US financial support of the UN, which is crucial to its activities.
I doubt Obama intended that result, and I’d wager he didn’t expect that unified a reaction either. He is used to a more powerless GOP in Congress, either because Republicans didn’t control the Senate (they only regained it in 2015, and even then there was the filibuster), or because Obama and the GOP knew he’d be vetoing anything the Republicans tried to pass that he didn’t like.
Now things are about to be different in terms of who holds power in Washington. And people as disparate as Lindsay Graham, John McCain, and Ted Cruz are all supporting a move to cut funds to the UN. No Democrats have joined that call yet (and I doubt any will actually go that far). But many of them certainly don’t seem happy about what Obama did in the UN:
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said it was “extremely frustrating, disappointing and confounding” that the Obama administration failed to veto the UN’s vote.
Schumer called out the UN as a “fervently” anti-Israel body…
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, called the US’s abstention from the vote “unconscionable.”
“A two-state solution must be negotiated directly between the Israelis and Palestinians”…
He also said support for Israel must remain “bipartisan,”…
Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said that he was “deeply disappointed” that the Obama administration allowed such a “one-sided” resolution to pass…
And Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia said “one-sided resolutions” at the UN are counterproductive to the peace process and “achieving a two-state solution.”
Rep. Eliot L. Engel, a Democrat from New York and the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was “very disappointed” by the US’s “acquiescence to a one-sided, biased resolution at the United Nations Security Council.”
Lindsay Graham also is quoted in that article as saying he’s going to work to make the move to stop or greatly reduce UN funding bipartisan. It will be very interesting to see where that may go.
So, what about this UN resolution are they all riled up about? Charles Krauthammer explains what was different about this UN vote:
To give you an idea of how appalling this resolution is, it declares that any Jew who lives in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, the Jewish quarter, inhabited for 1,000 years, is illegal, breaking international law, essentially an outlaw, can be hauled into the international criminal court and international courts in Europe, which is one of the consequences. The Jewish quarter has been populated by Jews for 1,000 years. In the war of Independence in 1948, the Arabs invaded Israel to wipe it out. They did not succeed, but the Arab Legion succeeded in conquering the Jewish quarter. They expelled all the Jews. They destroyed all the synagogues and all the homes. For 19 years, no Jew could go there. The Israelis got it back in the Six-Day War. Now it’s declared that this is not Jewish territory.
You can’t quite call the following a backlash to the UN vote, because it preceded it. But Donald Trump is on record as saying that he plans to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Here are some of the reactions from opponents:
Those who’ve worked on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations say that moving the embassy would effectively kill the peace process.
“It would essentially validate the view that all of Jerusalem now belongs to Israel,” said Aaron David Miller, a former peace negotiator and scholar at the Wilson Center.
But here’s my question for Miller: what peace process?
There is no peace process. It was revealed to be a farce when Arafat walked out of it in 2000 after being offered just about everything, and the Second Intifada was begun. The “peace process” was once the hope of Israelis, but by now even many of the leftists in Israel who used to support it have reluctantly concluded that they have no “partner” for peace.
The idea of the embassy move to Jerusalem is not a new one, either; for example, George W. Bush promised as much during his campaign. But something intervened:
After 9/11, the Bush administration’s concern was that moving the embassy would antagonize Arab countries whose support it needed in the War on Terror.”
I wonder whether it still matters to them. It seems to me that the main reason some countries in that area still support US efforts in the War on Terror (which is no longer called that) is that such support is in their own self-interest, since they are internally threatened by terrorists, too. Therefore, they might continue to support our efforts, under the table, even after a US embassy move to Jerusalem.
As for Obama:
Unlike his two immediate predecessors, Obama never promised to move the embassy.
“It was not something that was seriously considered in the context of what the Obama administration was trying to do,” said James Cunningham, the ambassador to Israel from 2008 to 2011.
Now we know even more about what the Obama administration has been trying to do.
Here’s another opinion on the effect of the proposed move (from the man who was ambassador to Israel under George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton):
“Such a move would fuel the radical jihadists. It would give them a new cause to gain adherents,” Djerejian said.
Ah, but what doesn’t “fuel the radical jihadists”? Concessions fuel them, defiance fuels them—it seems as though everything fuels them.
Another opinion here:
“Given how important the issue of Jerusalem is for Muslims around the world, and especially at a time when Islamist terrorist groups systematically exploit the Palestine issue, this will also constitute a potentially explosive provocation,” said Rashid Khalidi, director of Columbia University’s Middle East Institute.
Did you hear a faint bell ringing in the background when you read the name “Rashid Khalidi”? You should have, because Khalidi was the subject of the famous but never-revealed 2003 video of Obama at a function honoring him, a video that the LA Times had possession of but refused to release.
And Khalidi and Obama will be the subject of Part II, coming soon.
[ADDENDUM: Also see this, by Charles Hill [emphasis mine]:
The first thing Obama did when entering office was to derail all hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement by declaring all settlements to be illegal. Now the last thing (if only…) he’s done is to enshrine that anti-Israel position into international law in language that can be followed up with sanctions to delegitimize Israel’s existence itself. From anti-settlement to anti-Zionism to anti-Israel to anti-Semitic is the logic chain at work here.
That’s the significance of the resolution—it can be used as a springboard around which to rally the international community to further boycott and punish Israel.
And Alan Dershowitz weighs in here.]