UN-settling Resolution?

Jewish Light Editorial

The world is still reeling from the surprise failure of the United States to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution last Friday, that strongly criticized Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and which broke with the longstanding usual habit of the United States protecting Israel from being unfairly singled out at the world body.

The St. Louis Jewish Light agrees with the vast majority of Jewish organizations, which expressed dismay that the United States failed to veto a Security Council resolution that was harshlycritical of Israel. The immediate reaction to this development was swift and ranged from the thoughtful analysis to the emotional, even strident, expressions of perceived betrayal.

Among the Jewish organizations to express opposition to the American failure to veto the resolution are the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

David Harris, CEO of AJC, released a statement describing the U.S. failure to veto the resolution “profoundly disturbing,” and noted that the administration’s decision, “for the first time in eight years, not to block an anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. Security Council…only encourages (Palestinian) diplomatic end-runs and diversionary tactics, which hinder rather than advance the prospects for peace.”

The statement represents the centrist mainstream of American Jewish organizations.  On either end of the ideological spectrum, the responses were less representative of mainstream opinion. On the left, J Street, the pro-Israel organization which seeks to represent a progressive view, issued a statement “welcoming” the decision not to veto the resolution on the basis that it would make a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict more likely.

On the far right, Morton S. Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, issued a highly inflammatory statement stating that President Barack Obama is not only anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic. No matter what one might think of Obama’s attitudes towards Israel, calling him an anti-Semite is totally without foundation.

The issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank has long been a bone of contention between the United States and Israel, with presidents of both major parties consistently voicing opposition to geographic expansion of the Israeli settlement activities.  So why, with that backdrop, is this abstention wrong?

It was wrong in both place and time. In place (the Security Council) because of the sordid history of the U.N. treating Israel differently and unfairly, going all the way back to the infamous “Zionism is racism” resolution of 1975.  

It was wrong in time, because this highly disturbing action took place at the very end of eight years of the Obama administration. Given the strained relations between Obama and Netanyahu over the Iran deal and other issues, the abstention created the impression that this was a retaliatory gesture by the United States against its historic democratic ally in the Middle East. Moreover, while settlements are a major issue, the timing looks downright bizarre when juxtaposed against the genocide in nearby Syria, which the Security Council hasn’t even lifted a finger about thanks to Russia’s veto presence.

It had to be especially painful for U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power to be at the table when the resolution was adopted and she withheld a veto at the instruction of the administration. Power is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” which documents atrocities in Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia and Serbia.  To her credit, Power at least stressed that Israel has indeed been unfairly and repeatedly singled out at the United Nations. She also admonished the Palestinian Authority to live up to its promises to stop incitement of violence against Israel and Jews.

Secretary of State John Kerry said that passage of the resolution could make a two-state solution “more likely,” and there have been reports that he will present a detailed peace plan at the Paris Peace Conference focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict. But Times of Israel Editor David Horowitz questions whether the Palestinians really want a state, since they have, as the late Abba Eban famously said, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Things are moving at a dizzying pace with the upcoming Paris deliberations and as the administration of President-elect Donald Trump is about to take office with a pledge to forge a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Such a result would indeed evoke the symbols of the dreidel — “A great miracle happened there.”