WASHINGTON — The United States turned its back on Israel during a United Nations Security Council vote on settlements in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “shameful” vote.
“The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against the UN’s obsession with Israel, it collaborated with the UN behind Israel’s back,” the statement continued.
The vote on the resolution drafted by Egypt, which demands Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the ‘occupied’ Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem,” was 14 in favor and the U.S. abstention.
Netanyahu immediately began taking countermeasures, canceling foreign aid to Senegal as well as nixing a planned visit to the Security Council member. He also recalled Israeli ambassadors from Senegal and New Zealand for consultations.
During the Friday meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power quoted President Reagan from 1982 saying settlements were “in no way necessary for the security of Israel”; she added that “a routine vote for the U.S. to allow the passage of a resolution with the elements in this one” would be consistent with “familiar, well-articulated components of U.S. policy.”
“It is because this resolution reflects the facts on the ground – and is consistent with U.S. policy across Republican and Democratic administration throughout the history of the State of Israel – that the United States did not veto it,” Power said, even though the administration used its veto power in 2011 to kill a similarly worded resolution.
“The United States has consistently said we would block any resolution that we thought would undermine Israel’s security or seek to impose a resolution to the conflict,” she said. “We would not have let this resolution pass had it not also addressed counterproductive actions by the Palestinians such as terrorism and incitement to violence, which we’ve repeatedly condemned and repeatedly raised with the Palestinian leadership, and which, of course, must be stopped.”
Power added that despite refusing to veto the resolution “Obama and this administration have shown an unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security because that is what we believe in.”
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters on a conference call today that the administration decided to take the course it did because “one of our grave concerns is that the continued pace of settlement activity, which has accelerated in recent years.”
“We therefore thought that we could not in good conscience veto a resolution that expressed concerns about the very trends that are eroding the foundation for a two-state solution,” Rhodes said. “…For us, the question here has always been about what is the best way to pursue the security that the Israeli people deserve. And we cannot simply have a two-state solution be a slogan while the trend lines on the ground are such that a two-state solution is becoming less and less viable.”
“…But, in fact, I’d take umbrage at language that suggests that this was our preferred course of action and that we initiated it. The fact of the matter is, we’d been warning — President Obama and Secretary Kerry publicly and privately for years — that the trend line of settlement construction and settlement activity was just increasing Israel’s international isolation.”
The administration’s action drew scorn from the soon-to-be highest-ranking Democrat in Congress. “Extremely frustrating, disappointing & confounding that the Administration has failed to veto the UN resolution,” tweeted Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Schumer was on the phone as recently as this morning trying to persuade the White House to use America’s veto power.
“Since the days of ‘Zionism is racism,’ the UN has long shown its anti-Israel bias, and the U.S. government — both Democrats and Republicans — have admirably kept the UN out when it comes to negotiations. That tradition should continue,” Schumer said before the vote. “…An abstention is not good enough.”
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who has been at odds with the administration on Iran and Cuba policy, said he was “disappointed but not surprised that the administration chose to go along with this maneuver, walking away from longstanding principles and practices that advance the goal of peace and stability.”
“The United States must use its influence and posture at the United Nations to promote our values and support our allies,” Menendez said. “It has long been a bipartisan sensible policy of the United States to support direct bilateral negotiations between the parties to find an agreement. We have long stood beside Israel in the face of these kind of politicized resolutions whose only goal is to undermine confidence in a negotiated peace process.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) noted that “Israel can’t get a fair shake at the UN, and that is why Israel has relied on the United States to protect it from the anti-Israel tendencies of some UN Security Council members.”
“This abstention represents a clear departure from convention, and I consider this a break in the Obama administration’s word that they would veto biased or one-sided anti-Israel resolutions,” Engel said.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations said this morning that the Jewish State knew the resolution condemning settlement construction was coming because the Palestinians “want to take advantage of the transition period” in the United States.
“Instead of negotiating with us, it’s easier for them to come to New York, to come to the Security Council,” Ambassador Danny Danon told MSNBC a day after an expected vote on the resolution was tabled.
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement calling himself “a lifelong friend of Israel” and said the U.S. “acted with one primary objective in mind: to preserve the possibility of the two state solution, which every U.S. administration for decades has agreed is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
“That future is now in jeopardy, with terrorism, violence and incitement continuing and unprecedented steps to expand settlements being advanced by avowed opponents of the two state solution,” Kerry said. “That is why we cannot in good conscience stand in the way of a resolution at the United Nations that makes clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.”
StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said that “while both sides in this conflict are subject to criticism, placing most of the blame on Israel while shielding Palestinian leaders from accountability is not a path to peace or justice for either side.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called it “particularly regrettable, in his last month in office, that the president has taken an action at odds with the bipartisan consensus in Congress and America’s long history of standing with Israel at the United Nations.”
“Unfortunately, the UNSC today irresponsibly adopted a ruinous resolution that can only make the goal of peace even more elusive,” the AIPAC statement added.