Friday, December 23, 2016


I was on a long drive in the rain from Napa to the San Francisco International Airport listening as Secretary of State John Kerry, in the aftermath of Presient Obama's declaration that the Syrian despot had crossed Obama's redline when he used chemical weapons to massacre Syrian civilians, gave a brilliant speech s to the responsibility of the United States to act. As I drove, listening to Kerry's brilliantly organized and logically presented with great emotion, I was so proud of my country, my disillusionment with President Obama, at whose victory celebration in Chicago's Millennium Park in 2008, I cried with hope and joy at the symbolism and potential of his election. Listening to Kerry I had that sense of pride restored...momentarily.

Of course, days later, the President walked away from this moral commitment he had made and surrendered America's historic leadership role in the World leading to the literal destruction of hundreds of thousands more Syrians and the refugee crisis that affects our world and our politics and will for years to come.

Now, in the last 30 days of his Administration, this most lame duck of lame duck Presidents in an act of what can only be described as settling the score with the Prime Minister of Israel, reversing decades of United States Presidents standing up for its ally, our beloved Israel, by vetoing United Nations resolutions that would place Israel in the crosshairs of its enemies while doing nothing to further any efforts at peace, abstained from a UN resolution proferred by the Palestinians in their effort to isolate Israel. There is no other rational justification for the President's mandated abstention and there is no denying the reality that this refusal to veto is wholly inconsistent with the President's own words on an almost identical Resolution as he authorized its veto just a few years ago.

Since its creation with the historic support of President Harry Truman, no matter the infrequent policy or personal issues that a succession of Presidents may have had with leaders of Israel from time-to-time, no President...not one...ever abandoned  the State of Israel, the People of Israel, as this President did in one abstention. This is not to argue with those who have already asserted, correctly, that no President has supported Israel's defense as did President Obama -- the Iron Dome, the largest defense authorization in history, the delivery of the F-35s -- it is to state that no President in history had offered more succor to Israel's enemies than did this one in a single abstention.

Every student of history is aware that, no matter one's cynicism about whether or not this Israeli Government will negotiate peace, there can be no argument that, unlike Egypt or Jordan, those in leadership of the Palestinians have slapped away Israel's outreaching hand  every time it has been offered -- most recently when the Netanyahu government halted any and all settlement construction for months and Abbas and his henchmen refused to even enter negotiations during the suspension. And the Obama administration...silent. And few should doubt that Israel has no "partner for peace"...period.

In Dennis Ross's brilliant 2016 history, Doomed to Succeed, he made the case that in fact, over the decades since the first development was constructed in Judea and Samaria, contrary to the mantra, settlements have not been "an obstacle to peace;" not even a major point in negotiations with Arab Governments and the United States. This President is certainly smart enough and enough of a student of history to know that to be true. Yet, in retrospect, one can draw an almost straight line from Obama's Cairo Speech in June 2009 through this UN abstention -- a line that might have been scored in bold thanks to the obvious friction and personal animus between the President and the Prime Minister -- an animus well-earned in the Iran Deal and the Trump outreach, if not at other times over the past 8 years. 

But we Americans expect our President to act in a manner at all times consistent with American values, not out of pique or personal frustration. And we have reason to expect our President to act consistent with his own words. In abstaining on this Resolution, President Obama has abandoned the high moral position he, in his arrogance, constantly claims to be his, America's friends around the world be damned. 

Friends, in this writer's view, it is not alone that President Obama abandoned Israel in this single act of abstention, it is that he as well abandoned America's historic support of the only democracy in the Middle East and in doing so, abandoned the moral imperative that has been our country's. Senator Schumer has certainly said it well:
"Extremely frustrating, disappointing & confounding that the Administration has failed to veto the UN resolution."
"Confounding" indeed.

A sad, sad moment. 



Paul Jeser said...

Well said, but should not have been a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Israeli supporters in the US – both senators and lobby groups – used even stronger language. Morton Klein, president of the right wing Zionist Organization of America, railed in unequivocal terms: “Obama has made it clear that he’s a Jew hating, antisemite.”
Leading pro-Israel Republicans also weighed in including House Speaker Paul D Ryan, who denounced the US abstention as “absolutely shameful,” and promised that “our unified Republican government will work to reverse the damage done by this administration, and rebuild our alliance with Israel”.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

By Leon Wieseltier December 15
Leon Wieseltier is the Isaiah Berlin senior fellow in culture and policy at the Brookings Institution.

Contemplating the extermination of Aleppo and its people, I was reminded of a sentence that I read this summer. It appeared in an encomium to Elie Wiesel shortly after his death. It was a sterling sentence. It declared: “We must never be bystanders to injustice or indifferent to suffering.” That was Wiesel’s teaching, exactly. The problem with the sentence is that it was issued by the White House and attributed to President Obama. And so the sentence was not at all sterling. It was outrageously hypocritical.

How dare Obama, and members of his administration, speak this way? After five years and more in which the United States’ inaction in Syria has transformed our country into nothing other than a bystander to the greatest atrocity of our time, they have forfeited the right to this language. Their angry and anguished utterances are merely the manipulation of the rhetoric of conscience on behalf of a policy without a trace of conscience. You cannot be cold-hearted and high-minded at the same time. Historians will record — they will not have to dig deeply or interpret wildly to conclude — that all through the excruciations of Aleppo, and more generally of Syria, the United States watched. As we watched, we made excuses, and occasionally we ornamented our excuses with eloquence. The president is enamored of his eloquence. But eloquence is precisely what the wrenching circumstances do not require of him. In circumstances of moral (and strategic) emergency, his responsibility is not to move us. It is to pick up the phone. “Elie did more than just bear witness,” Obama said in his eulogy, “he acted.” And he added: “Just imagine the peace and justice that would be possible in our world if more people lived a little more like Elie Wiesel.” Just imagine.

If Obama wants credit for not getting us into another war, the credit is his. If he wants credit for not being guilty of “overreach,” the credit is his. If he wants credit for conceiving of every obstacle and impediment to American action in every corner of the globe, the credit is his. But it is a shameful and incontrovertible fact of our history that during the past eight years the values of rescue, assistance, protection, humanitarianism and democracy have been demoted in our foreign policy and in many instances banished altogether. The ruins of the finest traditions of American internationalism, of American leadership in a darkening world, may be found in the ruins of Aleppo. Our ostentatious passivity is a primary cause of that darkening. When they go low, we go home. The Obama legacy in foreign policy is vacuum-creation, which his addled America-First successor will happily ratify. Aleppo was not destroyed by the Syrian army. It was destroyed by a savage coalition led and protected by Russia. While they massacred innocent men, women and children, we anxiously pondered scenarios of “deconfliction.”

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...


Updated Dec. 23, 2016 5:54 p.m. ET

The decision by the United States to abstain from a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel over its settlements on the West Bank is one of the most significant, defining moments of the Obama Presidency.

It defines this President’s extraordinary ability to transform matters of public policy into personal pique at adversaries. And it defines the reality of the international left’s implacable opposition to the Israeli state.

Earlier in the week, Egypt withdrew the Security Council resolution under pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. President-elect Donald Trump also intervened, speaking with Egypt’s government and, via Twitter, urging Mr. Obama to block the resolution, as have past U.S. Administrations and Mr. Obama himself in 2011.

As was widely reported Friday after the U.N. vote, the White House decided to abstain—thereby allowing the pro-Palestinian resolution to pass—in retaliation against the intervention by Messrs. Netanyahu and Trump.

Mr. Obama’s animus toward Prime Minister Netanyahu is well known. Apparently Mr. Obama took it as an affront that the President-elect would express an opinion about this week’s U.N. resolution.

It is important, though, to see this U.S. abstention as more significant than merely Mr. Obama’s petulance. 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.

No effort to rescind the resolution, which calls the settlements a violation of “international law,” will succeed because of Russia’s and China’s vetoes.

Instead, the resolution will live on as Barack Obama’s cat’s paw, offering support in every European capital, international institution and U.S. university campus to bully Israel with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer implored the Administration to veto the resolution, noting rightly that it represents nothing more than the “Zionism is racism” bias at the U.N. Let Senator Schumer note the true nature of his party’s left wing.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called the Administration’s action “shameful.” Senator Lindsey Graham said he will form a bipartisan coalition to suspend or reduce U.S. financial support for the U.N. That should proceed.

For Donald Trump, meet your State Department. This is what State’s permanent bureaucrats believe, this is what they want, and Barack Obama delivered it to them.

Tweets won’t change this now-inbred hostility to America’s oldest democratic ally in the Middle East. Mr. Obama’s pique, however, has made it crystal clear to the new Administration where the lines in the sand are drawn.

bob hyfler said...

It would behoove us all to read carefully the resolution in its entirety and Ambassador Power's speech to the Council before screaming "Jew hatred". It is also essential that we address the significant divide among Jews, Zionist Jews, on the issues surrounding the occupation, the future of the shtachim and the settlements - lest events back Israel into a one-state solution guaranteed to bring conflict and pain to Jews and Palestinians alike. We cannot, of course, even agree on the language of our discourse. Yet without a sober, respectful and eyes wide open conversation on the issues we risk a political outcome and an internal schism of tragic proportions.

Anonymous said...

The resolution demands "that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem." This presumably includes construction adjacent to the Western Wall. It adds that "the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law." So when we put a few shekels in the tzedaka box at the Kotel are we accomplices to a crime?

If we shouldn’t scream “Jew hatred”, are we at least allowed to whisper it?

Anonymous said...

A guide for the perplexed. Since 1967, every US President has allowed UN Security Council Resolutions directed against Israeli *policies* (not its statehood) to pass. Barack Obama has allowed the fewest: 1. I'm not here to defend Barack Obama on his Israel policy. I believe his foreign policy has been disastrous. But I refuse to allow a fallacious caricature to run amok, about what is and is not pro-Israel or anti-Israel. We need a new center ground in which it is deemed normal and acceptable for American Jews to criticize Israeli policy without being deemed radical leftists or pro-Palestinian, when most are neither.

LBJ - 7
Nixon - 15
Ford - 2
Carter - 14
Reagan - 21
GHW Bush - 9
B. Clinton - 3
G W Bush - 6
Obama - 1

George W did not veto a condemnation of Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, another lack of veto for condemnation destruction of Arab homes and another failure to veto condemnation of settlement construction.

I would have wanted Omama to veto. But. If Obama does not ask for seconds on the noodle kugel or another piece of gefilte fish, it does not prove that he is a Muslim, anti-Israel , anti-Semite

Anonymous said...

The numbers of vetoes are interesting but probably not that meaningful. The context matters here, and the context, as Anon 1:40 makes clear, is the disaster of a foreign policy. Comparing W's 6 to O's 1 means very little against the background of W's and Clinton's approaches vs. Obama's. It's pretty clear that W's (or Clinton's) vetoes/abstentions were corrections in the context of a pro-Israel stance, while Obama's is in keeping with "creating daylight," Middle East realignment, etc. Anyone who is surprised by all this hasn't been paying attention.

Anonymous said...

Daylight? Obama has delivered more defense support than any other president. If you haven't noticed all our community has done is call anyone who disagrees with any position of the State of Israel an enemy. The US has consistently opposed settlements. Every single US administration has spoken out against settlements since LBJ

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Anon 4:49.

"Abandoned Israel"? Try "saving its Israel from itself" (or at least its PM). And for as much as I admire Truman and what he did at Israel's founding, he also announced an arms embargo to that area which really put Israel at risk. Contrast that to the unprecedented assistance our current President has given to Israel, and then you'll want to walk back your statement, I believe.

Anonymous said...

To my knowledge, the US has never permitted as resolution of the security council that declared settlements a violation of international law. Lots of other negative adjectives (unhelpful, illegitimate) but not illegal. As many scholars have observed, there are strong arguments against the position the Security Council has taken.

RWEX said...

Last night, at 9:34 p.m., an Anonymous Commentator sent the single ugliest attack on the President and his wife that the Blog has received since we began publication. I rejected the so-called "Comment" and would suggest that the sender look himself/herself in the mirror and do so now. Shame on you.