Today, the U.N. Security Council was poised to pass a resolution condemning the construction of Israeli settlements. Proposed by Egypt, the resolution called settlements “a flagrant violation under international law” and “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution.” It called on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities” in the occupied West Bank.
The U.S. has a veto in the Security Council. It could have killed the resolution. However, the Obama administration, from all that appears, decided to abstain on Egypt’s resolution. This meant that the one-sided, anti-Israel resolution would pass. The U.N. would throw whatever weight it has behind requiring Israel to make a major concession in exchange for. . .nothing.
Enter Donald Trump. The president-elect stated his opposition to the resolution, while Israel lobbied Egyptian president Sisi. Israel also lobbied the Obama administration, apparently without success.
Fortunately, Egypt blinked. It requested a delay of the vote, purportedly to allow for additional consultation with Arab League’s foreign ministers to work on the resolution’s wording. No new date for the vote was set, and there is speculation that it might be postponed “indefinitely.”
Trump’s statement is believed to have been decisive. Gregg Carlstrom, a correspondent for the Economist, tweeted: “Diplomats in Tel Aviv speculating that Sisi didn’t cave because of Israel, but rather because he didn’t want to piss off incoming president.” In all likelihood, that’s just how this went down.
Isn’t it nice to have a president who is willing to throw his weight around in this manner? One senses that under Obama, the U.S. has left plenty on the table when it comes to dealing with foreign powers (other than Israel). I’m guessing that under Trump, we no longer will.
The mainstream media has been pushing the theme that Trump is breaking with decades of U.S. policy on various foreign policy matters — e.g. Taiwan, the Middle East (by appointing David Friedman), etc. However, President Obama’s apparent decision to let the Security Council adopt Egypt’s resolution condemning Israel departs radically from past bipartisan American policy.
Indeed, Obama himself had the U.S. veto a similar resolution in 2011. And Senator Richard Blumenthal, a liberal Democrat, said that the latest U.N. resolution directly contradicts a Senate resolution he authored last year, which passed unanimously.
The United States has vetoed 30 resolutions regarding Israel and the Palestinians, plus a dozen more regarding Israel and Lebanon or Syria. These amount to more than half of our vetoes since the founding of the U.N. in 1946.
It looks like President Trump will adhere to this important way of supporting beleaguered Israel, a practice from which Obama decided to depart.
JOHN adds: It is an extraordinary thing: for many purposes, Donald Trump is our president, even though his inauguration is weeks away. Our nominal president, Barack Obama, is golfing in Hawaii, or was last I knew. It is Trump who acts, who decides, who has influence, who exercises power. Obama shrinks, day by day, while Trump takes over the stage. If he can accomplish this much as president-elect, what might he do as president?
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