The Obama administration is using Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remark on the campaign trail about the impossibility of a Palestinian state as an excuse to increase diplomatic pressure on Israel for deep concessions at the UN. Though Netanyahu has made efforts to smooth over the dispute, the White House is refusing to forgive him, suggesting that it is pursuing a plan for retribution, regardless. The result will be to deny Israel strategic depth as it faces new threats.
The type of UN action that the Obama administration has previously blocked would be an international declaration of Palestinian statehood, even though there are no clear Palestinian borders and Palestinian leaders refuse to negotiate with Israel. Effectively, the UN Security Council would impose a solution on the two parties, nullifying the Oslo peace process and previous Security Council resolutions in order to push Israel’s frontiers back to the 1949 armistice lines (1967 borders).
That will put Israel in a precarious position. It could ignore the UN Security Council resolutions–and should, given the threat of a terrorist state on its borders, plus the need for territorial depth against an invasion by Iran or ISIS. However, it will then provoke calls for international sanctions and isolation, and perhaps–as U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power suggested in a previous life–invasion by an American-led peacekeeping force to impose international demands.
So the new Obama policy will deny Israel strategic depth–diplomatically, economically, and militarily. Israel now has a far greater incentive to act pre-emptively by carrying out a unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank where the risk is lowest. Israel will also have a greater incentive to attack Iran pre-emptively before it is cornered, with or without a “bad deal”–though there, too, the Obama administration has denied Israel options for attack by leaking its past military plans.
From Obama’s perspective, the Israeli electorate has rejected him, and deserves to be punished. Personal ego is a bizarre lend through which to conduct international relations–one more befitting a tyranny than a free nation. What Obama does not foresee is that the abuse of the UN to pressure Israel will only embolden America’s rivals, especially China and Russia, They will feel emboldened to re-frame international law and legitimacy to restrict future U.S. national security policies.
Earlier this month, National Security Advisor Susan Rice told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that defending Israel at the UN is essential because “its obsession with Israel risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization.” In a very short few days, that position has changed, and the Obama administration seems eager to join the UN’s obsessives. That is bad for Israel–and, in the long term, bad for the U.S., and bad for international peace and security.