Thoughts on the US abstention at UN about Israel settlements

Within minutes of the US abstaining on a resolution at the UN Security Council opposing Israeli settlement activity and condemning terror, many voices came out condemning it and wondering what it means.  Others supported it. Many pro-Israel commentators see it as a “betrayal.”  It was a “shameful anti-Israel,” act and Israel would not abide by it said the Israeli Prime Minister in a statement.  Donald Trump said he would reverse it “As to the UN, things will be different after January 20,” he tweeted. Others said that Obama had “defied extraordinary pressure.” The pressure had caused Egypt to withdraw the resolution before New Zealand, Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela brought it back on Friday the 23rd. “Obama threw Israel under a bus,” wrote one man. “”It is a testimony of the catastrophic state of Palestinian human rights and the Palestinian cause that we rejoice at a resolution which does nothing more than affirm what already was basic international law,” writes Samar Batrawi. “Finally Obama grows a backbone,” wrote another. Charles Schumer, the US Senator, said he was frustrated and disappointed by the US abstention.

I wrote two posts on social media reacting to it:

What does the US abstention mean and how is it related to J Street 

“We welcome US abstention on UNSC res. reaffirming need for 2 states while opposing settlements, incitement & terror”- J Street

It seems this was 8 years coming and as some Palestinian voices have pointed out, Obama is actually unique in that no anti-Israel resolutions ever passed the Security Council. This is a relatively parve abstention, condemning what the US and the US State Department has always condemned, settlement building. US policy has been to always oppose Jewish communities expanding in the West Bank.

The Obama administration sent numerous signals over the years that it would eventually abstain, what’s odd is it took so long.

I don’t see the J Street issue as being central. It’s about Obama and his team and his advisers and his pride and legacy.

It’s true that J Street has given a seal of approval to a much more critical of Israel institutional Jewish approach to foreign policy that gives some cover for the administration’s policies, such as the Iran Deal. J Street serves more as a cover though, and on campus as an active extremely critical voice, providing succor to those student activists who already wanted an umbrella group where they could pretend to be pro-Israel while often having a deeply critical, even visceral dislike for much of Israel.

Is it a J Street victory? After 8 years Israel hasn’t been pressured to do anything. Obama has left office with no accomplishments. Israel is as strong as ever. Israel just received another 10 years of US foreign military support which totals some $40 billion. Israel is entrenched and powerful and its former enemies in the Middle East are either now it’s quiet allies, or they have been almost destroyed. Its greatest enemy today which is Iran is now bogged down in numerous sectarian wars and Iran’s actions have deeply angered Sunni Arab states and groups who used to view Israel as the main problem but now view Iran as the real evil.

So what’s the victory. An abstention? The US didn’t support the resolution.

Yes this is a taste of more to come under future Democratic administration, yes Israel is more polarizing an issue. That’s a legacy.

But if one wants to blame countries for supporting the resolution, blame should rest at all the other UNSC members who supported the resolution.

My reply to a comment on Facebook by someone claiming the US betrayed Israel and seeks to make the West Bank “judenrein”:

The abstention isn’t support of the resolution. But leaving that aside, the resolution doesn’t say the West Bank has to be “judenrein”, it says it opposes Israeli settlements.

Why is it the only way that Jews can live in the West Bank is living there as Israeli citizens in a situation where they enjoy rights and passports and a state, and the Palestinians who live there do not. The Palestinians do not receive rights, either a right to self-determination, or a right to an Israeli passport.

For 49 years Palestinians have lived without basic civil rights that everyone commenting here enjoys. The right to vote, the right to a passport and travel. The right not to be judged by military tribunals. A Palestinian born the day that Israel conquered the West Bank if 49 years old. Can you imagine 49 years, without ever knowing the right to choose your own government, your own passport, your own right to fly abroad.

Why do Israeli Jewish rights in the West Bank have to be built on Palestinians having less rights. It’s not “judenrein” to demand equality. Jews aren’t being removed, they are being asked in the West Bank to have EQUAL rights with others. But that’s not the policy of Israel. Just go to Ramallah or Jenin and see for yourself.

And it shouldn’t be that one has to be a “radical leftist” to make this obvious observation. Equal rights are a natural right.

It’s not anti-Israel to ask why Palestinians can’t either have rights to a state, or rights to an Israeli citizenship after being run by Israel in a military administration for 50 years.

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