To President Obama's legacy of foreign policy debacles, we can now add his landmark betrayal of Israel, carried out Dec. 23rd at the United Nations. By declining to wield the U.S. veto at the Security Council, by choosing instead to abstain — by Vanishing-from-Behind — Obama allowed the passage, by a vote of 14 in favor, 1 abstaining, of Resolution 2334. In the guise of condemning Israeli settlements, this resolution is configured to delegitimize and imperil Israel itself, America's longtime ally and the only democracy in the Middle East.
With that signal abstention, Obama abandoned decades of U.S. practice of defending Israel against the bigots and thug governments that routinely sit on the Security Council, including permanent members Russia and China, and their rotating sidekicks, such as Venezuela. As a Wall Street Journal editorial accurately put it, referring to the U.S. abstention: "What it reveals clearly is the Obama administration's animus against the state of Israel itself. No longer needing Jewish votes, Mr. Obama was free, finally, to punish the Jewish state in a way no previous president has done."
It is not only Israel that Obama is punishing. It is America itself, and the voters who had the audacity at the polls to choose, over Obama's heiress-designate, a candidate who clearly stated his intention to restore American power, and reverse Obama's policies of coddling enemies, such as Iran, and snubbing allies, such as Israel. President-elect Donald Trump urged Obama to veto this resolution. Obama, with less than four weeks left in office, instead took time out from his Hawaiian holiday to order that the U.S. — to borrow one of the notorious phrases from the 2012 debacle in Benghazi — stand down.
Then, in a series of scenes that could have been scripted by George Orwell, Obama's senior functionaries blurred, fudged or outright lied about what his administration had just done. Officially, the body blow to Israel at the UN was presented as tough love, a farewell gesture of support to Israel's peace and security from a caring President Obama.
At the UN Security Council, Ambassador Samantha Power delivered an "Explanation of Vote," in which, in dulcet voice, she included some of the phoniest baloney ever dished out by a U.S. ambassador to the UN. She began by appropriating as a moral authority for Obama's perfidy none other than President Ronald Reagan, circa 1982. Power quoted Reagan at some length, but here's the gist:
The United States will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements during the transitional period.
As Power then noted, Reagan at the time was floating a proposal that "was not realized." As she did not bother to mention, there is also a vast difference between the U.S. not supporting settlements, and the U.S. consigning Israel, undefended, to the condemnations, bigoted tilt and largely indelible resolutions of the UN Security Council. For that matter, for all Reagan's brilliant handling of the Soviet Union, his weak spot was Middle East policy, including his retreat from Lebanon a year after the 1983 terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. But for Power's purposes, none of these realities intruded. Having conjured Reagan as a moral anchor for Obama's abdication of American integrity and leadership, she assured her audience that Reagan's words (never mind how they get fed through the Obama administration meatgrinder) "are still illuminating."
If Power's aim was illumination, she could more honestly have cited the words of Reagan's trusted first ambassador to the UN, the late Jeane Kirkpatrick, who served from 1981-1985. In 1989, Kirkpatrick published in Commentary magazine an essay of scorching clarity, on "How the PLO Was Legitimized." Kirkpatrick described Yasir Arafat and the PLO as "attempting to come to power through international diplomacy — reinforced by murder."
In richly documented detail, Kirkpatrick explained how the UN had become the prime vehicle for this odyssey. She wrote about the duplicities this entailed, and the dangers:
The long march through the UN has produced many benefits for the PLO. It has created a people where there was none; a claim where there was none. Now the PLO is seeking to create a state where there already is one. That will take more than resolutions and more than an 'international peace conference.' But having succeeded so well over the years in its campaign to delegitimize Israel, the PLO might yet also succeed in bringing the campaign to a triumphant conclusion, with consequences for the Jewish state that would be nothing short of catastrophic.
Plenty has happened in the 27 years since Kirkpatrick wrote those words. But the Palestinian duplicities, diplomatic manipulations and acts of terror persist, including the campaign — with UN complicity, now abetted by Obama — to delegitimize Israel.
To be sure, Power in her remarks to the Security Council made mention of "counterproductive actions by Palestinians." She even reminded the Council that "the most recent wave of Palestinian violence has seen terrorists commit hundreds of attacks — including driving cars into crowds of innocent civilians and stabbing mothers in front of their children." She mentioned the UN's "double standards," including "the 12 Israel-specific resolutions adopted this year in the Human Rights Council — more than those focused on Syria, North Korea, Iran and South Sudan put together."
Quite true. But what really matters here — what sticks — is Resolution 2334, to which Obama, via Samantha Power's abstention from the vote, had just given the green light. Not only does this resolution enshrine these UN double standards, effectively encouraging yet more UN prejudice and Palestinian acts of terror; it also guarantees that this toxic stew will remain on the boil, with a provision requesting the UN Secretary-General "to report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the present resolution.
Power, in her defense of the Security Council resolution also unloaded some remarkable fabrications. She said that America's abstention was "fully in line with the bipartisan history of how American presidents have approached both the issue — and the role of this body." That's a lie. The Wall Street Journal, in a news story, reported that, due to the U.S. abstention, "It was the first time in 36 years the Security Council was able to adopt a resolution addressing the issue of Israeli settlement construction."
Power also said "our vote today does not in any way diminish the United States' steadfast and unparalleled commitment to the security of Israel." (Yes, folks, to the bitter end the Obama administration operates on the premise that Americans are a crowd of gullible idiots.)
Lest anyone question the motives or effects behind Obama's historic abstention, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes — maestro of the Iran-nuclear-deal narrative and keeper of the media echo chamber — weighed in soon after, with an on-the-record press call. Praising Power's vote explanation, and slamming Israel's leaders, Rhodes declaimed that the U.S. was "compelled" to abstain in the UN vote "because of the choices that have been made over years by the Israeli government." Assuring reporters that the resolution was all about protecting Israel's best interests, Rhodes added, in words worthy of The Godfather:
And precisely because President Obama cares so deeply about Israel and its security, he would like to see a return to a meaningful effort to pursue peace.
Perhaps from a luxury vacation estate in Hawaii, that's how it looks to America's Abstainer-in-Chief, if we are generous enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he sprang this UN trap out of stupidity, not malice. In the real world, it looks a lot more likely that Israelis, Palestinians, and — yes — Americans will pay for this resolution in blood.
Trump upon taking office would do well to scrap this last-minute Obama legacy, as far as possible, as quickly as possible. Obama, by reducing the U.S. from a world leader to an abstaining vote, has ensured that won't be easy. At the UN, any attempt to get rid of Resolution 2334 will run up against the veto powers of the other four permanent members of the Security Council — not only France and Britain (which cravenly went with the crowd), but China and Russia. What price might they demand for the favor of defusing this diplomatic landmine which Obama has now allowed them to plant, to Palestinian applause, under the Jewish state?
The better solution is to start cutting loose the UN itself. For far too long the UN has served as a clubhouse for many of the world's chief thugs, while deriving the lion's share of its money and credibility from the United States. Turning the UN itself into an irrelevancy would be a fitting way to redeem, from Obama's betrayal, a real chance of a world made safer for democracy, and decency.
That starts with cutting off Turtle Bay from its annual dole of billions of American tax dollars — for which, say, the U.S. military might find uses far more conducive to security and peace. Congress has tried cutting UN funding before, and the lesson of that experience ought to be, don't think small. Don't prune here and there, trying to micromanage the actions of an organization that while rolling in U.S. money has just provided a whopping reminder that it is morally bankrupt. Cut big. Let member states such as Venezuela, Malaysia, Senegal and New Zealand (all of which co-sponsored Friday's anti-Israel resolution) make up the difference, if they care to. Let Russia divert some of its resources from cyber-warfare, or Iran repurpose some of its funds now budgeted for terrorism. These are among the powers whose ethos pervades today's UN; let them pay for it.
There could still be a role for the UN as a low-rent talking shop, especially if its headquarters can ever be dislodged from its patch of prime real estate in midtown Manhattan. I've long thought that Russia's Novosibirsk would be a more appropriate venue. That might sound surreal. But if Trump, or any successor U.S. president, aspires to secure a civilized 21st century world order, the day is coming when healthier institutions, or coalitions, must replace, or at least sideline, the UN. Obama, with his legacy betrayal at the Security Council, has at least done us the small favor of underscoring the rot at the core of the 71-year-old UN.
In an editorial headlined "A Problem From Hell, Indeed," The New York Sun yesterday mapped the escape route: "The best way for President-elect Trump to view the Obama Administration's betrayal of Israel in the United Nations is as the starting bell for a campaign to defund the world body."