A strange euphoria seems to have blinded some Israelis and American Jews concerning the context of President Barack Obama’s veto of a UN resolution.
In the past, blatantly one-sided anti- Israeli resolutions were vetoed as a matter of course. On this occasion, the issue was complicated because of the Obama administration’s disastrous, long-standing obsession with the settlements, which paved the way for the unprecedented Palestinian demand for a settlement freeze as a precondition to negotiations.
Desperate to avoid employing the veto, Obama extended extraordinary concessions to the Palestinians if they agreed to modify the language of the resolution.
He offered a Security Council “presidential statement” expressing identical views to the resolution condemning the Jewish presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem. He was willing to endorse a Russian proposal for a Security Council fact-finding mission on settlements and a proposed expansion of the Quartet’s involvement to cover areas ranging from the 1967 borders to the political status of Jerusalem.
According to The Wall Street Journal, at the last moment Obama phoned PA President Mahmoud Abbas offering to endorse or abstain on the resolution if the Palestinians agreed to replace the word “illegal” with “illegitimate” in relation to settlements.
Normal procedure after such a vote would have been a simple US statement that the resolution was one-sided and that the Security Council was not the venue to engage in this issue. It could also have noted that Israel had frozen settlements for 10 months while the Palestinians still refused to negotiate.
Instead, US Ambassador Susan Rice made a supplementary statement condemning settlements, employing some of the most vehement language against the Jewish state ever used by a senior US official.
THAT ABBAS refused to accept Obama’s extraordinary offers reflects the fact that the Palestinians are now being hoisted by their own petard. Their incitement has been so effective that following the Al Jazeera disclosures of concessions discussed behind closed doors – which they had no intention of ever implementing or even revealing to their people – they cannot now contemplate the slightest compromise without being condemned as traitors.
With global anti-Israeli hostility combining with the seething cauldron of revolution in the Arab world, Abbas is confident that by avoiding negotiations, he will oblige the Obama administration to intensify pressure on Israel.
He also appreciates the effectiveness of engaging in “lawfare” rather than terrorism, with a massive program of demonization, boycott and delegitimization in the UN pipeline where the most outrageously anti-Israeli resolutions are guaranteed an automatic majority. We can anticipate a cascade of resolutions seeking to transform Israel into a pariah state, accusing it of breaching international law, branding its leaders as war criminals and seeking to drag it into the International Court of Justice.
The US relationship now assumes even greater importance to our security, both militarily and diplomatically. In this context, despite harsh criticism from the political Right, full credit should be accorded to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for his diplomatic tightrope walk with the Obama administration.
He made concessions, but succeeded in resisting the most outrageous demands, thus averting a catastrophic breakdown in relations.
It is likely that despite the disastrous consequences of Obama’s failed efforts to engage with rogue states, were he not facing reelection, he would not allow Israel’s security to stand in the way of his efforts to appease the Islamic world.
But despite his groveling to the Palestinians before and after the UN Security Council resolution, he was ultimately obliged to exercise the US veto for the first time since he gained office. He did so only out of a realization that he would have faced widespread condemnation from Congress and even his own party had he failed to do so.
But our problems will intensify in the months to come. It is chilling to contemplate how the administration may seek to “balance” its veto by imposing new pressures on Israel, which could soon be facing rejectionist states on most of its borders.
We must now invest all our resources into strengthening US-Israel ties. We are fortunate that the military support under the Obama administration has been strengthened. But in light of uncertainties with the new Egypt, and Iran’s growing regional influence, that support assumes an even greater importance.
The Netanyahu government must now ensure that the Obama administration does not have a pretext for abandoning us in the diplomatic arena. It must urgently craft strategies to deal with the difficult days ahead.
We need to reiterate our willingness for a two-state regime. But that can only be implemented when the Palestinian leaders are ready for peace, are willing to tell their people the truth, and when it is clear that as the IDF departs, the West Bank will not be transformed into Hamastan.
UNFORTUNATELY, this is unlikely in the foreseeable future. For now, all we can do is continue enhancing the economic status of the Palestinians and seek interim solutions. This may give them the incentive to choose leaders willing to accept peace.
There are difficult decisions to be made on issues that impinge on our national security that can no longer be held in abeyance because of short-term political interests. If we fail to move in this direction, we will face determined efforts to impose a solution which could place our future in jeopardy. We should also identify those territories we would annex if the Palestinians unilaterally abrogate the Oslo Accords and declare an independent state.
Our government – preferably a unity government – can no longer prevaricate; it must now bite the bullet and make the tough decisions about borders, security and settlements that a majority of the nation will endorse.
We must have a comprehensive plan if we are to persuade the American public and Congress to remain steadfast.
Otherwise, the Obama administration might throw us to the wolves.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post