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Obama's Final Warning To Israel

by David D. Eisenhower (Principles: Military Restraint, Bipartisanship) - 2 year ago

Obama's incendiary, but probably harmless, decision to allow the U.N. to condemn Israel's settlement activities sends a message which Israel ignores at its own peril.

“You need us more than we need you.”

This is the message that President Obama sent to Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by abstaining on the U.N. Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlement activity in areas outside of those held by Israel before 1967.  This past August, Obama signaled his intention to allow this resolution to pass by announcing that “prior to the election,” America would veto any anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N. Left unsaid, but fully understood, was that after the election, all bets were off.

Israel heard that message and had to choose between two methods of preventing the resolution from passing. Choice one was to take steps to demonstrate that they were making progress toward reducing settlement activity. Choice two was to use all of their political power in the U.S. to intimidate Obama into not following through on the implied threat.

They chose the latter approach. Right wing newspaper columnists began excoriating Obama for the coming “betrayal” months before a resolution was even introduced. Letter writing campaigns to Senators and Congressmen from both parties were organized by pro-Israel lobbying organizations to get them to put pressure on Obama. They obliged in no uncertain terms both publicly and privately . When it became clear that this was not enough, Netanyahu played what he thought was his trump card by activating President Elect Trump to promise who knows what to Egypt if they would withdraw the resolution.

In the end, it all failed.  Egypt gladly accepted whatever Trump offered but 4 other countries reintroduced the resolution and it passed 14-0 with the U.S. abstaining.  Obama was accused by his enraged opponents in Israel and America of abandoning an ally, tarnishing his legacy forever, and even of being an anti-Semite. He has shrugged it off and moved on to other priorities.

It is critical to note though, that nearly every angry diatribe against Obama ends with the same message. With Obama leaving and Trump coming in, this resolution will have no practical effect on anything.  The U.N. has imposed no punishment on Israel nor has it mandated a solution to the Palestinian issue. Negotiations will continue, or not, exactly the same way as they did before. Trump will come in on January 20 and, at least initially, he will support Netanyahu in whatever he wants to do.

So what was the point? Why was Obama willing to absorb all this abuse when he had to know the resolution was meaningless? The answer is he was sending a warning. For the past 8 years, Netanyahu has sought to undermine Obama while strengthening ties to the Republican Party. Right now that strategy looks brilliant. However, the U.S. will have another election in 4 years and a Democrat may well win. If that happens, Israel now knows that Democrats will not cave to their political pressure. They ignore and attack Democrats at their own risk because the next time an anti-Israel U.N. resolution passes, it will pass at the beginning of an administration, when it can really do some harm, rather than at the end.

Israel needs the Democratic Party more than the Democratic Party needs Israel. 

Comments and Responses (1)

By  Hickory Jackson - 2 year ago
Sorry but I don't buy it. As I read this you're saying that Obama is actually sending a friendly message to Israel and is willing to pay a political price to do so. You've got it precisely backwards. Obama never liked Israel but until now, he always caved to the Israel lobby. Now that the election is over, and he had nothing left to lose, he finally let his true feelings be known. The whole situation with Israel is just further proof that we need to stay out of the affairs of other countries and spend our money and political capital here at home, where we need it the most.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is interesting but not directly relevant. (It might be a good topic for a new discussion)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Please feel free to start a new discussion on why the Israel situation is proof that we need to stay out of the affairs of other countries. I really didn't see how that logically followed from your prior statements. As to my having it backward, I did not say that this was a "friendly" message. This was a hostile challenge both to Israel and to Trump. Obama has drawn a distinction between the country which he still sees as a vital American ally and it's leaders who he sees as getting too big for their britches. He slaps the leaders but leaves the country alone. His next Democratic successor may not be as gentle. A side benefit for Obama was the lesson it sent to Trump who thinks he can solve everything through bi-lateral negotiation. It doesn't work that way. Make a deal with one country and another country is going to step forward and screw it up. The world is a complicated place and our President-Elect needs to understand that.