Obama Using the UN to Bully Israel
The UN made me do it. That’s how Obama officials are explaining Secretary Kerry’s intense efforts to move Israel onto the front burner and shove over the bloody turmoil immediately affecting millions of Israel’s neighbors and the imminent catastrophe of an Iranian nuclear weapon.
Speaking to reporters on July 30, 2013, senior officials said the administration was seeking “to avoid a train wreck” at the United Nations. “Throughout the course of this year Palestinians have been making clear that if they couldn’t see progress on the peace front, their intention would be to seek other elevations of their status… at the UN.” They explained a "new dynamic vis-à-vis the United Nations,” was driving the immediacy for renewed talks.
The comments mirror Secretary Kerry’s remarks in June: “the Palestinians have said that they will go to the UN and seek to join more UN organizations... And the Palestinians have also threatened to take their case to the International Criminal Court.”
Now Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has generously promised to delay those moves during the next nine months of talks.
The claim that the United Nations – and more specifically, the Arab stranglehold over its output – is genuinely intimidating the President of the United States ought to ring major alarm bells for anyone under the impression that elected American representatives set American foreign policy.
So how true is it?
The new faux peace negotiations between Israel and a Palestinian leader who doesn’t control the land or the people he purports to represent follow months of hysterical pressure from UN quarters.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on June 3, 2013 in Washington: “We are approaching a point of no return in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict... This may well be the last chance for the two-State solution.” On June 18, 2013, Ban told a UN Palestinian committee meeting in Beijing: “I cannot stress enough the risk of missing the current window of opportunity.”
No doubt the UN’s goal has been to remove Arabs murdering other Arabs from the top spot on newswires around the world and replace it with stories about Jews constructing apartment buildings.
But the UN noise-making has been neatly dovetailing with the noises coming from Secretary Kerry, who told the Foreign Affairs Committee on April 17, 2013: “I believe the window for a two-state solution is shutting... We have... a year, a year and a half to two years—or it’s over." On June 3, 2013, he said: “We’re running out of time... [I]f we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance.” Events, he said, “could literally slam the door on a two-state solution.”
As Kerry worked over Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, periodic announcements issued forth from the UN Secretary-General, such as: “We all need to support Secretary of State Kerry’s courageous initiative.”
From a UN perspective, the drumbeating makes perfect sense. Settled (and fatuous) UN policy has long been that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” lies at the heart of the failure to deliver world peace. And the nub of that conflict, as Ban Ki-moon repeated in June, was “the occupation, now nearing half a century.” Even the nomenclature of the “Arab-Israeli conflict,” alluding in part to 65 years of Arab rejection of the Jewish state, has been quietly retired.
But what about the American perspective?
When the Palestinians threaten to use the United Nations to act unilaterally, that is a violation of their obligations under the UN’s own Security Council-endorsed Middle East Road Map which demands a negotiated settlement. The supposed Palestinian "gift" of not using the UN to orchestrate another end run around negotiations is really not giving anything at all. It is reneging on the outcome of prior negotiations.
Actually, those prior agreements were already broken by the Palestinians last year. In the fall of 2012 the Palestinians stage-managed a UN spectacle in which they renamed themselves "the state of Palestine" and acquired the status of UN “non-member observer state.” Instead of a major negative response from President Obama, however, they achieved just the opposite.
The administration has been doing its damnedest to get Congress to annul the negative financial fallout experienced merely by the UN agency UNESCO. On every other front, U.S. dollars have just kept flowing, and it is diplomatic business as usual. In fact, the ransom floated before Palestinians grew. In April, Kerry gushed about an economic strategy for Palestinians that would “involve the U.S. Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corp., and U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as American corporations.”
The Palestinians got the message: using the UN was a huge success. President Obama and Secretary Kerry were sufficiently cowed by the prospect of more unilateral UN undertakings that the only possible next step was to come down hard on Israel and force it to release convicted Palestinian murderers from Israeli prisons. A hundred are due to be set free in “exchange” for the Palestinians hitting the UN-pause button.
So let’s get this twisted tale straight. Palestinians have magnanimously agreed not to pursue unilateral UN actions - in direct contravention of their previous promises – and not to attempt to prosecute Israel at the "neutral" International Criminal Court (whose statute has a provision written specifically to target Israel). And the Obama administration pretends it is doing Israel a favor by bringing the Palestinians to the table because Washington’s hands are tied by the UN. That would be the same UN that is dependent on American taxpayer dollars for its next breath.
The reality looks more like this.
The UN and the Palestinians are doing exactly what the President of the United States and his Secretary of State want. Set aside crimes against humanity in Syria. Millions of Egyptians on the streets can wait. Iran’s next terror victims can forget about it.
Just like UN Israel-haters have always said, it turns out that this American administration also believes that Israel is the root cause of the world’s problems. Bludgeoning Israel is the UN’s – and President Obama’s – game.
Follow Anne Bayefsky on Twitter @AnneBayefsky.