Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Ambassador Samantha Power are being credited for their efforts in lobbying members of the UN Security Council to vote against a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. The resolution fell one vote shy of the 9 needed, dealing the Palestinians a major diplomatic embarrassment. No doubt Kerry and Power deserve some credit, both for their diplomacy and strong public statements. Yet if they had been on top of their game, the vote never would have been held.
The U.S. wields veto power at the Security Council. Merely by threatening to use that veto, the U.S. has been able to discourage such resolutions from being proposed in the first place. In this circumstance, however, the U.S. sought to avoid having to use its veto. The Obama administration is particularly sensitive about being perceived as too close to Israel. Being forced to veto as the only way to stop the Palestinian resolution would have complicated its attempt to refashion America’s image on the world stage.
It is also not entirely clear that the Obama administration would have vetoed the Palestinian state resolution. Like France, which tried to convince the Palestinians not to bring the resolution to a vote, yet voted for it anyway, the pro-Israel commitment of the Obama administration is usually in doubt. Recently, the White House even floated the idea of enacting sanctions against Israel.
Regardless, the fact that the Palestinians pressed the issue at all is a sign of declining U.S. influence under Obama’s leadership.
What ultimately tipped the scales against the resolution was the surprise decision by Nigeria, long a pro-Palestinian vote at the UN, to abstain. Israeli news sources credit a crucial phone call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Yet the reality is that Nigeria is facing an urgent Islamist terror threat of its own in Boko Haram. That, more than any other factor, may have swayed Nigeria’s decision. It is a threat the Obama administration still dare not call by its name.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak