The U.S. essentially admitted that its unyielding defense of Israel in the diplomatic arena was a disastrous strategy. With Obama bowing out, Europe will need to act on this lesson.
Shortly after the UN Security Council passed its resolution criticizing Israeli settlements on Friday, the U.S. State Department issued a press statement by John Kerry explaining Washington’s decision to abstain from the vote. Kerry said that their goal was to “preserve the possibility of the two state solution,” adding that “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.”
Had they made that decision a year ago, Kerry and Obama might have left a meaningful legacy on the conflict; but this is not the case. Palestinians and Israelis have watched previous American presidents launch dramatic peace moves in the twilight of their administrations: Clinton with Camp David in 2000, and Bush with Annapolis in 2007. The late timing of these initiatives proved to be ineffective and even detrimental: they heightened the tensions and the stakes for the parties to agree on a rushed solution, and cast heavy doubt that any major decisions would survive under the next presidency (or under a new Israeli premiership).
This is why, contrary to what my colleague Dahlia Scheindlin argues, the Left has every reason to remain critical of the U.S.’s abstention. It is a failure of policy to be eight years late to a diplomatic move that could have had a significant impact on the conflict’s developments. It is a failure of principle to wait 36 years before allowing the Security Council to re-echo the U.S.’s own position that settlements violate international law. And it is a failure of political will to do all this just a month before the curtain closes on Obama’s presidency.
That being said, the abstention may still mark an important moment for the conflict. By withholding the veto, the Obama administration essentially admitted – intentionally or not – that its unyielding defense of Israel in the diplomatic arena was a disastrous strategy. Not only did the Israeli government personally disrespect Obama on a regular basis, it openly undermined U.S. policy by continuing to expand settlements and disparaging the very idea of a two-state solution. Now, with the incoming inauguration of Donald Trump, Obama...Read More