“A vote against peace” (& “More Catholic than the Pope”)

December 29, 2016

* This is a follow-up to last week’s dispatch:

ADL and Trump unite to condemn Obama for anti-Israel move



1. Obama and Kerry dismay Israeli and American moderates
2. “More Catholic than the Pope”
3. Incoming Senate Democratic leader: “Kerry has emboldened extremists”
4. “Kerry … seems disconnected from reality” (ADL statement)
5. Alan Dershowitz: “Obama is one of the worst foreign policy presidents ever”
6. New Zealand, Ukraine reveal they were pressed by Obama to vote against Israel
7. Bloomberg news agency: “Move the US embassy to Jerusalem now to save peace”
8. “A vote against peace” (Editorial, The Times of London)
9. “UN must be an honest broker, not bash Israel” (Editorial, London Daily Telegraph)
10. “Obama’s Fitting Finish” (Wall Street Journal)
11. It will be “double the trouble” now to make peace (Los Angeles Times)
12. “Kerry will have blood on his hands” (Washington Examiner)



[Note by Tom Gross]

There has been widespread criticism, in both the American and European media, of Barack Obama and John Kerry’s latest maneuverings against Israel. For space reasons I attach only a few extracts and comments below.

On the face of it, to some people, Obama and Kerry’s actions may seem benign or even helpful for peace -- which is why some European diplomats have welcomed them. The reality is that they are more likely to embolden not only Palestinian rejectionists (the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, for example, welcomed Obama’s actions) but also Israeli right-wing ones too, by making a two state solution harder to achieve, which is why there is so much dismay about the foolishness of Obama’s actions among many American and Israeli moderates of both left and right.

Dating back to the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, and reflected in the wording of the UN resolution that followed it, the entire idea of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was based on the principle of changed borders and land swaps so that Israel would not have to return to what Abba Eban described as Israel’s indefensible “Auschwitz borders”.

In various negotiations over recent decades, Palestinian negotiators had already agreed to such land swaps.

That principle is now being undone by Obama and Kerry.

As a piece in The Los Angeles Times today (extracts below) points out: “Since Palestinian leaders already have trouble justifying to their people the abandonment of territorial claims to the Jewish quarter in Jerusalem, and so forth, they will have double the trouble now that the United States has endorsed these demands. What Palestinian leader can sign away territory to which Washington and the Security Council have declared Israelis have no legitimate claim?”

With their one-sided assault on Israel, Obama and Kerry seem to care little about Israel’s very real security concerns.

Centrist Israeli journalist David Horovitz writes in The Times of Israel today: “We left south Lebanon. Hezbollah took over. We left Gaza. Now it’s ruled by Hamas. When Secretary Kerry expresses his ‘total confidence’ that Israel’s security requirements in the West Bank can be met via sophisticated multi-layered border defenses, he quite simply loses Israel.”



One senior former U.S. diplomat (a Catholic) wrote in private:

“That was kind of an odd, disjointed speech by Secretary of State John Kerry, basically a big exercise in virtue signaling, ‘more Catholic than the Pope or more Royal than the King’ – divorced from the greater geopolitical reality in the region, much of it caused by an aggressive Iran emboldened by the current Administration’s disastrous policies. Given the reality that he will be gone in three weeks, it just seemed like a very vain, self-involved exercise in revisionism. I almost wondered if he is doing this for his memoirs or hoping for a special envoy job at the UN or Quartet. But America’s senior diplomat giving a 74 minute speech on Israeli settlements - whatever you think about them - as he heads out the door and the world is on fire (often because of the incompetence of US foreign policy) seems more than a bit self-indulgent.”

Obama and Kerry’s actions are “a gift to Netanyahu, who can now more easily argue to Israelis that the bad relationship with America these last eight years wasn’t his fault,” adds the American writer Jonah Goldberg.



Senior Democrats, having criticized Obama last week for the UN vote, yesterday slammed Secretary of State John Kerry for his speech.

Incoming Senate Democratic leader, Senator Chuck Schumer said: “While he may not have intended it, I fear Secretary Kerry, in his speech and action at the UN, has emboldened extremists on both sides.”

Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the most senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he would now be “exploring congressional action that can mitigate the negative implications” of Obama’s policies against Israel.

Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Kerry’s speech “gratuitous” and “wrong.” “There doesn’t seem any purpose to this other than to embarrass Israel. It just pained me to watch it,” he said.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said: “Secretary Kerry’s speech today was at best a pointless tirade in the waning days of an outgoing administration. At worst, it was another dangerous outburst that will further Israel’s diplomatic isolation and embolden its enemies.”



Moderate and centre-left organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee also expressed dismay at Kerry’s speech.

The ADL, led by former Obama loyalist Jonathan Greenblatt, said: “We are deeply disappointed by elements of Kerry’s speech. Despite Secretary Kerry’s explanation, the U.S. abstention has the potential to set in motion many initiatives that delegitimize and demonize Israel, rather than advancing the peace process.

“Kerry’s remarks … seem to be disconnected from reality that there are two parties involved in this process, both of whom will need to make difficult choices to resolve the conflict.

“The speech and the resolution will strengthen the belief among Israelis – even those most supportive of negotiations – that the Palestinian leadership would prefer symbolic protest and unilateral measures rather than the hard work and difficult choices associated with direct negotiations with Israel. Further, they reinforce the unhelpful perception that the international community is dictating terms to Israel with the demands of the Palestinians.

“As an organization committed to a two-state solution, we want to see trust and confidence nurtured among the parties so that we can achieve this outcome.

“However Kerry’s speech – combined with the recent UNSC abstention – only pushes those prospects farther out. It is a truly upsetting final note from this administration on this issue of critical importance.”



Many other liberals have also criticized Obama.

For example, Alan Dershowitz, in this video clip, says “Obama stabbed Israel in the back”.



There are also now many press revelations that Obama personally “cooked up” the vote against Israel.

The New Zealand Herald reports that New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully was leaned on by John Kerry last month to sponsor the anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council.

The Ukrainian media report that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden personally called Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and persuaded (or threatened) him to change Ukraine’s vote on the UN resolution to a “yes.”

Obama is said to have needed a 14-0 vote to justify “the theatre” of its own abstention, when in fact the whole vote against Israel was orchestrated by Obama and his aides.



In an editorial titled “Obama’s Betrayal of Israel at the UN Must Not Stand”, the Bloomberg news agency writes:

“Obama’s ill-advised decision to order the U.S. to abstain on a United Nations resolution… breaks with past U.S. policy, undermines a vital ally and sets back the cause of Middle East peace….

“If the Palestinians want a lasting peace based on a two-state solution, they must accept that Israel, not the UN or the “international community,” is their negotiating partner. That means negotiating in good faith, not embracing empty resolutions that ignore agreements they have already reached to redraw Israel’s borders…

“Fortunately, the bipartisan uproar sparked by Obama’s UN decision provides an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to rally around a more constructive policy. They should start by agreeing to President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem -- a step envisioned but never taken by presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. That would provide a powerful reaffirmation to Israel –- a nation born after the slaughter of six million Jews, and under siege since its birth -- of the U.S.’s enduring commitment, and to the world of Israel’s right to exist. That reaffirmation, in turn, is essential in providing Israel with the confidence to move ahead with a two-state solution.”



In its lead editorial (December 27, 2016), titled “A vote against peace,” The Times of London writes:

“The vote will embolden Palestinian hardliners, and enemies of Israel in the region and beyond. Within Israel it will force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu further to the right as he shores up his coalition among pro-settler parties in the Knesset. The two-state solution is the most likely victim…

“The vote wrong-footed Israel, for which it has a right to feel aggrieved. As Mr Netanyahu implied, America’s abstention was hardly the act of an ally.”



In its lead editorial, December 28, 2016, titled “UN must be an honest broker, not bash Israel,” the (London) Daily Telegraph writes:

The UN vote will do nothing to advance the cause of the Palestinians while making a peaceful settlement in the region even harder to achieve.

The fact that the Americans abstained when in the past it could be relied upon to use its Security Council veto was a deliberately provocative act by the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama – who has signally failed to achieve any of the fulsome foreign policy objectives he set himself on taking office in 2009.

His speech that year in Cairo, grandly titled “A New Beginning”, promised much but – like much of his presidency – delivered little. The power of rhetoric could not overcome the intractable problems that beset the region. The Middle East has been in turmoil ever since…

During Ban Ki-moon’s tenure as UN secretary-general, there have been over 200 resolutions condemning Israel and only eight critical of Syria…



Bret Stephens, writes in The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 27, 2016):

“Obama’s decision to abstain from, and therefore allow, last week’s vote to censure Israel at the U.N. Security Council is a fitting capstone for what’s left of his foreign policy. Strategic half-measures, underhanded tactics and moralizing gestures have been the president’s style from the beginning. Israelis aren’t the only people to feel betrayed by the results.

Also betrayed: Iranians, whose 2009 Green Revolution in heroic protest of a stolen election Mr. Obama conspicuously failed to endorse for fear of offending the ruling theocracy.

Iraqis, who were assured of a diplomatic surge to consolidate the gains of the military surge…

Syrians, whose initially peaceful uprising against anti-American dictator Bashar Assad Mr. Obama refused to embrace, and whose initially moderate-led uprising Mr. Obama failed to support, and whose sarin- and chlorine-gassed children Mr. Obama refused to rescue…

Most betrayed: Americans. Obama promised a responsible end to the war in Iraq. We are again fighting in Iraq. He promised victory in Afghanistan. The Taliban are winning. He promised a reset with Russia. We are enemies again. He promised the containment of Iran. We are witnessing its ascendancy. He promised a world free of nuclear weapons. We are stumbling into another age of nuclear proliferation. He promised al Qaeda on a path to defeat. Jihad has never been so rampant…



Gregg Roman writes in today’s Los Angeles Times (Dec. 29, 2016)

… The first assumption Kerry outlined in his speech, is that a freeze on Israeli settlement growth makes it easier for Palestinian leaders to make painful compromises at the negotiating table. It supposedly does this by easing Palestinian suspicions that Israel either won’t make major territorial concessions, or won’t implement these concessions once made.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put this assumption to the test in November 2009 when he imposed a 10-month moratorium on new housing construction (East Jerusalem excepted) at the urging of the Obama administration.

What happened? Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to return to talks until the very end of the moratorium and remained every bit as intransigent as before.

The main impediment to Palestinian compromise is not Palestinian suspicion; it is the fundamental unwillingness of Palestinian leaders across the spectrum to accept the existence of a Jewish state…

The Obama administration’s second assumption is that pressure from the international community or from the United States will bring about this supposedly desirable settlement freeze.

However, by collapsing the distinction between East Jerusalem and bustling Israeli towns just inside the West Bank – which no major Israeli political party will contemplate abandoning – and the remaining settlements, most of which Israelis are willing to give up, this policy does the opposite…

Since Palestinian leaders already have trouble justifying to their people the abandonment of territorial claims to Ma’ale Adumim, the Jewish quarter in Jerusalem, and so forth, they will have double the trouble now that the United States has endorsed these demands. What Palestinian leader can sign away territory to which Washington and the Security Council have declared Israelis have no legitimate claim? …



Michael Rubin writes in the Washington Examiner:

“… It is deeply ironic that Kerry seeks to make peace between Israel and Arabs when ties have never been better between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and the Gulf Cooperation Council states despite the U.S. rather than because of it. What Obama and Kerry have achieved is manna for rejectionists and a huge setback for those who seek to build upon diplomatic precedent. Kerry’s ban on settlements, if confirmed by the United Nations, will be the death blow to diplomacy and a guarantee that unilateral actions determine the future of the region. Kerry will have blood on his hands.”

(His full piece is here.)


(Many of those quoted are subscribers to this list.)


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