Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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The United Nations Resolution on Israel

by Elliott Abrams
December 27, 2016


Since the adoption last week the Security Council resolution on Israel, I’ve had my say in The Weekly Standard and The Washington Post condemning the Obama administration’s decision to allow the resolution to pass. The resolution rewards the PLO for refusing to negotiate and adopts its tactic of replacing serious, face-to-face negotiations with useless dramas in New York. It is a danger to Israel. And by refusing to veto, the Obama administration abandoned the usual American practice of defending Israel from what Jeane Kirkpatrick called “the jackals” at the United Nations.

Over this past weekend, administration spokesmen have tried to defend this abandonment of Israel in truly Orwellian terms, inverting the meaning of their action. This was done to help Israel, you see, and to defend it; we know better where its interests lie than does its elected government (and main opposition parties); we abandoned Israel because we are its friend.

These were main themes of the President’s aide Ben Rhodes when he spoke to reporters Friday, and among other things said the following, describing:

a resolution that expresses the consensus international view on Israeli settlement activity….this is consistent with longstanding bipartisan U.S. policy as it relates to settlements….one of our grave concerns is that the continued pace of settlement activity — which has accelerated in recent years, which has accelerated significantly since 2011….

let’s be clear here: We exhausted every effort to pursue a two-state solution through negotiations, through direct discussions, through proximity discussions, through confidence-building measures, through a lengthy and exhaustive effort undertaken by Secretary Kerry earlier in the President’s second term. We gave every effort that we could to supporting the parties coming to the table.

So within the absence of any meaningful peace process, as well as in the face of accelerated settlement activity that put at risk the viability of a two-state solution, that we took the decision that we did today to abstain on this resolution….

where is the evidence that not doing this is slowing the settlement construction?

If you enjoyed the children’s exercise where the child is asked to find all the things wrong in a picture–signs upside down, dogs with horns, etc–you will enjoy pondering Mr. Rhodes’s misleading narrative.

Yes, the resolution “expresses the consensus international view on Israeli settlement activity,” which calls them illegal, and that is the point: until the Obama administration, the United States’s position was that they were unhelpful but not illegal. Therefore the resolution is not “consistent with longstanding bipartisan U.S. policy.”

As to the pace of settlement activity, Mr. Rhodes is simply wrong. I’ve reviewed the statistics here, in Foreign Policy. There, Uri Sadot and I concluded that

A careful look into the numbers shows that neither the population balance between Jews and Palestinians, nor the options for partition in the West Bank have materially changed….Israeli population in the settlements is growing, but at a rate that reflects mostly births in families already there, and not in-migration of new settlers.

In fact settlement growth has not “accelerated significantly” since 2011, whatever Mr. Rhodes says.

His most disingenuous remark is about the failure of negotiations. Indeed the Obama/Kerry efforts failed, because the Palestinians refused to come to the table even when Israel undertook a ten-month construction freeze. One of Mr. Obama’s officials, Martin Indyk, said this in 2014 about those negotiations:

“Netanyahu moved to the zone of possible agreement. I saw him sweating bullets to find a way to reach an agreement,” said Indyk. Abbas, for his part, did not show flexibility, Indyk added. “We tried to get Abu Mazen to the zone of possible agreement but we were surprised to learn he had shut down.”

So what is to be done when the Palestinians refuse to negotiate? Punish Israel. Join the jackals in Turtle Bay. Adopt the PLO view that action in the United Nations will replace face-to-face talks. That was Mr. Obama’s decision.

Mr. Rhodes’s twisted formulation “where is the evidence that not doing this is slowing the settlement construction?” is a kind of epitaph for Obama policy. He explained: “we have a body of evidence to assess how this Israeli government has responded to us not taking this kind of action, and that suggests that they will continue to accelerate the type of settlement construction that puts a two-state solution at risk.” Settlements expand if we veto resolutions, he is saying, so we have decided not to veto resolutions.

This is precisely wrong, a true inversion of the truth. The Obama account of settlement expansion is invented and avoids the facts to build a case against Israel. Netanyahu is not popular among settlers exactly because he has restrained settlement growth and as noted adopted a ten-month freeze. In 2009 Hillary Clinton said “What the prime minister has offered in specifics on restraints on a policy of settlements … is unprecedented.” What has been the Obama reaction to his restraint, to his freeze, to the PLO refusal to negotiate?

The reaction has been to blame Israel and assault Netanyahu year after year, including with childish epithets. And this attitude culminated finally in the abandonment of Israel at the United Nations. Supporters of strong Israel-American relations can only be glad that the 22nd Amendment limits presidents to two terms in the White House.

Post a Comment 9 Comments

  • Posted by L.S.

    Who Lost:
    1. The U.N. Security Council; once again demonstrated as a toothless committee which is irrelevant to the world we live in.
    2. The peoples of Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and the nations bordering the South China Sea who needed the U.N. but it was busy with empty gestures.
    3. The US Democratic Party which must act rapidly to purge itself of the Sanders and the Ellisons before it too becomes an empty joke.
    4. The Palestinian people who will continue to suffer from their incompetent and delusional leadership.
    5. The governments of Venezuela, Malaysia, NEW ZEALAND and Senegal who will be long remembered for this act.
    6. The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which after Arafat and Obama is a laughingstock.
    7. John Kerry and Samantha Power, who well demonstrate why critical ambassadorships must be chosen with wisdom.
    8. Israel.

    Who won:
    1. Egypt which has shown that it understands realpolitik.
    2. President Obama who has assuaged his bruised ego and positioned himself for his next career.

  • Posted by A.T. Halmay

    I welcome Obama’s back stabbing because it should lead to some decisive moves on the part of Israel and America, particularly because the Trump Administration will distance itself from the namby-pambiness of past attempts. Hopefully it will lead to a total divorce from the UN and a cessation of pulling punches by Israel.
    One doesn’t negotiate with stones or mad dogs.

  • Posted by Kyle Derozen

    Why is it that Abbas is going to France to participate in the development of a framework for peace, and Netanyahu refuses to go? Because Netanyahu is not interested in a peace agreement, just stealing more land.

    For goodness sake, all the UN resolution does is call the land stealing wrong. It is indisputably illegal (see Geneva Convention IV) and every country on Earth considers it illegal, except Israel.

    Your article is a pompous pile.

  • Posted by Joseph Berk md

    In fact, I call President Obama’s and Secretary Kerry’s actions genocide: negotiations for decades have operated under UN Resolution 242 for the goal of guaranteeing secure borders in the area through a negotiated settlement (the UN did not want to micro manage but allow each party to reach their own settlement together).
    However, even when offered the majority of land they desire multiple times the Palestinians walked away from the peace table and fought murderous Intifadas, wiping out countless Israeli woman and children, who died defending the hope that both parties could reach conciliation, all reinforcing the wisdom of this resolution with the practical need to create a wall of defensive “Settlements” as a first line of invasion now from a combined PLO-Hamas-Iranian government, which would cut Israel in through it’s six mile width (who will defend Israel with this lightning strike over in hours-Venezuela?).
    And now, the US, under two very vindictive people with real personal problems has changed direction midstream and is now clearly responsible for the past deaths of thousands of human beings setting the scene for another future Holocaust, for sure, buoyed by the knowledge that their actions will always be supported with real world historical Jew hatred, very, very predictable..

  • Posted by hussein

    Mr. Abrams, in your Dec.3 article “the United Gen. Assembly, the Golan and the Absurd” you complained the absence of EU including 56 absentees and said “Not one EU country would bring itself to acknowledge the truth”. Well now all 15 showed up for the truth.
    With this UN Res # 2324 the world community has rejected all Israeli and Zionist arguments about the settlements. The world community and the UN with several resolutions has been telling the same thing over 50 years but it has been disregarded by Israel as “Hoag wash from United Nothings”.
    Sorry, I can not agree with your arguments because in every peace efforts trips of US Secretaries of the state Israel obnoxiously declared construction of new settlements. One Secretary, James Baker, had loudly complained about Israeli actions and even threatened for UN vote. By the way even the so called “outposts” are illegal under the Israeli Law .

  • Posted by hussein

    Mr. Abrams I just got finished reading your comments on Newsweek, Washington Post and Weekly standard where you repeated that:
    The resolution “expresses the consensus international view on Israeli settlement activity,” which calls them illegal, and that is the point: until the Obama administration, the United States’ position was that they were unhelpful but not illegal. Therefore the resolution is not “consistent with longstanding bipartisan U.S. policy.”
    Well, Mr. Abrams yes, US has vetoed similar resolutions before but that did not mean agreeing with Israeli designs. In a very subtle, appeasing and polite way the US was telling the same thing as the rest of the world community that the settlements are illegal and not helpful at all. The US was delivering the same message all along that it disapproves the settlement constructions. But some folks in US and Israel both did not want to comprehend that message ignored it or they took it for granted. Now that message is bluntly relayed.
    After the Oslo agreement was signed, the incoming Netanyahu administration refused to honor Israeli commitments. It regarded the entire process as dead or nil. He repeated several times “No to the two state solutions, no to the ending settlement construction” and even said several times that he would never negotiate peace with Palestinians. Any time US attempted the ajar the door for peace Israel responded with declaring new settlements or worse yet attack on Gaza or Lebanon just to kill the peace initiatives.
    It is convenient for Israel to demonize the US now but, although you may never admit, Israel deserves to be blamed as well and Netanyahu at best has long spent his political usefulness. What is needed now is new political leaders that not afraid of peace, new direction, new hopes for Israelis and Palestinians both because they both deserve a genuine peace and better future.

  • Posted by Bowe Herring

    The Khazar occupying Israel, never had any intention of resolving the two State Solution with the Palestinian People. The palestinian’s have basically become “Refugee’s” in their own land!

    And this is the result of over 70 year’s of terrorism directed against them by Eastern European Khazar Immigrants. From the bombing of the King George Hotel, to the formation of the Irgun and Stern Gangs, which subsequently evolved into the “Mossad, and Likud Party”

  • Posted by jon steelman


    all the equitable or fairness arguments above fade from the simple fact that the UN does not have sovereignty over either Israel or so-called Palestine. it doesn’t even have sovereignty over its headquarters in NYC.

    it is further ironic that the U.S. President self-described as anti-colonialist now exercises – or attempts to – imperial tools over the sovereign state of Israel.

  • Posted by Thomaa

    UN Resolution 2334 is the
    defining moment of the Obama administration’s dying days,more of a rebuke to the Jews and Zionist Christians who have hitherto always had the support of the United States that has always vetoed these anti-Jewish proposals regularly propositioned to the UN Security Council by the “Jackals” who seek to consolidate the permanent division of God’s Holy Land,rather than a serious or even well-intentioned plan for a peaceful conclusion to the decades long Arab-Israeli conflict.
    UN 2334 is also a political stunt to distract attention away from the failure of the Obama administration’s attempt to use so-called “moderate’ proxies to topple Bashar al Assad in Syria.According to some estimates ,the Syrian conflict has resulted in over 450,000 fatalities.
    The Christian communities in Syria are some of the most vulnerable of the minority groups in that wartorn country .All the Christian monitprs on the ground have stated throughout the course of the war that the Syrian government protects the Christian communities whilst the opposition groups are their mortal enemy,proven time and time again,with countless thousands of Syrian Christians forced to flee their homes or face forced conversion or martyrdom at the hands of Islamist militants.By supporting those groups that have fought against Assad,The Obama adminustration’s hands are stained red with the blood of innocent civilians .Having betrayed the Christian communities in Syria,the Obama administration bows out with a final act of betrayal against the Jews in Samaria,Judea and East Jerusalem.
    Israel Breaking News puts the current crisis in a Biblical perspective and makes the valid observation that Obama’s anti-Jewish manoeuvre in the UN is another indication that he is the prophesied Gog,the leader of the armies of Magog,as foreseen by Ezekiel in chapter 38.
    Israel now faces it’s moment of greatest danger since the
    attack by the armies of Egypt and Syria in 1973 on the holy day of Yom Kippor.
    For many Jewish and Christian believers alike,we believe that the whole world has now gone against the Covenant of God with his people Israel at the behest of the enemy of God, Barack Hussein Obama.
    Now that the United States has refused to defend the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria against the “Jackals” in the UN ,we can expect God’s hand of protection over the gentile nations of the world to be withdrawn,especially those nations that are formally Christian ,including the United Kingdom,New Zealand and the United States that was dedicated to God by George Washington in the Declaration of Independence.These countries in particular can now expect
    extreme weather,tsunamis , meteorite strikes,military defeat and even earthquakes in the very near future and also the possibility of Sharia Law as a consequence of the decision not to honour the obligation to help our fellow Christians in Syria and our Jewish brothers and sisters in the West Bank .
    The God of Israel will not b mocked.

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