TEL AVIV – In a dramatic departure from the longstanding U.S. policy of vetoing anti-Israel resolutions, the Obama administration on Friday abstained from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a halt to Israeli construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, thereby allowing the measure to pass.
Fourteen member states voted in favor of the resolution; none voted against, and the U.S. abstained.
US Ambassador Samantha Power justified the U.S. decision to abstain by claiming “the settlements have no legality.”
The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent Breitbart Jerusalem the following response to the passage of the resolution:
Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms. At a time when the Security Council does nothing to stop the slaughter of half a million people in Syria, it disgracefully gangs up on the one true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, and calls the Western Wall “occupied territory.” The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes. Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.
Earlier today, an Israeli official told reporters, including this reporter at Breitbart Jerusalem, the Obama administration secretly worked with the Palestinian Authority to craft a “shameful” United Nations resolution behind Israel’s back, an Israeli official told reporters on Friday.
The official told Breitbart Jerusalem by email:
“President Obama and Secretary Kerry are behind this shameful move against Israel at the UN. The US administration secretly cooked up with the Palestinians an extreme anti Israeli resolution behind Israel’s back which would be a tailwind for terror and boycotts and effectively make the Western Wall occupied Palestinian territory. President Obama could declare his willingness to veto this resolution in an instant but instead is pushing it. This is an abandonment of Israel which breaks decades of US policy of protecting Israel at the UN and undermines the prospects of working with the next administration of advancing peace.”
The Obama administration denied the claim. “Contrary to some claims, the administration was not involved in formulating the resolution nor have we promoted it,” an unnamed U.S. official told Reuters.
The text of the resolution repeatedly and wrongly refers to the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem as “Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.” In actuality, the Palestinians never had a state in either the West Bank or eastern Jerusalem and they are not legally recognized as the undisputed authority in those areas.
Jordan occupied and annexed the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem from 1948 until Israel captured the lands in a defensive war in 1967 after Arab countries used the territories to launch attacks against the Jewish state. In 1988 Jordan officially renounced its claims to the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
The text of the resolution declares that the Israeli settlement enterprise has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
It calls for Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”
As the Committee for Accuracy for Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) pointed out in an email blast, international law does not make Israeli settlements illegal.
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which is relied upon by those who claim the settlements are illegal, does not apply in the case of the West Bank. This is because the West Bank was never under self-rule by a nation that was a party to the Convention, and therefore there is no “partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party,” as Article 2 of the Convention specifies. Moreover, even if it did apply, by its plain terms, it applies only to forcible transfers and not to voluntary movement. Therefore, it can’t prohibit Jews from choosing to move to areas of great historical and religious significance to them.
If the resolution is brought to a vote in its current form and Obama fails to veto, the resolution would contradict a Bush administration commitment to allowing some existing Jewish settlements to remain under a future Israeli-Palestinian deal.
That U.S. commitment, which the Obama administration has repeatedly violated by condemning settlement activity, was reportedly a key element in Israel’s decision to unilaterally evacuate the Gaza Strip in 2005.
The UN draft resolution text states that “cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution,” and it “calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-State solution.”
In 2004, just prior to the Gaza evacuation, President Bush issued a declarative letter stating that it is unrealistic to expect that Israel will not retain some Jewish settlements in a final-status deal with the Palestinians.
The letter stated:
In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.
Elliott Abrams, the Deputy National Security Adviser for Global Democracy Strategy during Bush’s second term, was instrumental in brokering understandings between the U.S. and Israel on settlements. In a June 2009 piece published by the Wall Street Journal, Abrams accused the Obama administration of “abandoning” those U.S.-Israel understandings by taking positions critical of all settlement activity.
There were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank … principles that would permit some continuing growth. … They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003. … The prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation – the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank. … For reasons that remain unclear, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the understandings about settlements reached by the previous administration with the Israeli government. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.