Wide Range of Opinions on Obama’s Move at UN

The following is a wide range of opinions on who will be the biggest long-term loser from Friday’s action against Israel at the UN Security Council:

Dr. Dore Gold, former Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry: “The resolution calls on states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” This will give a shot in the arm to the EU policy of labeling products in Israel according to whether they are produced beyond the 1949 Armistice Line. Israeli diplomats have been battling this policy for years now, particularly because it is discriminatory and not applied in other cases of territorial disputes–i.e. Western Sahara, Cyprus, Kashmir, and across the former Soviet Union. We will see BDS activists attacking supermarkets that carry Israeli products with greater intensity than in the past.”

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process — “There are two ways under consideration for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first is a negotiated solution based on compromise. That is Israel’s goal. The second is trying to get an imposed solution using the UN and the international community. That is what the Palestinians are now seeking. The action in the UN Security Council strengthens the Palestinian strategy while weakening the option of a negotiated solution. For even if negotiations are resumed at some point, every time there will be an impasse on other issues like borders or refugees, the Palestinians will go back to the UN Security Council to resolve it.”

Obama’s legacy — “The Oslo II Interim Agreement from 1995, signed in the White House by President Clinton for the United States, established that the only way to resolve the issue of a future permanent status agreement is through negotiations. President Obama, unfortunately, broke with this commitment and has weakened the prospects of future peace talks when they are resumed. This will likely have lasting damage. Prime Minister Netanyahu met the test that he is serious about peace when he accepted Secretary of State Kerry’s framework agreement in 2014. President Obama presented the framework to Abbas in the Oval Office and was told, ‘I will get back to you.’ Abbas never got back. Those facts are not reflected in the administration’s approach, which should have blocked the Palestinian strategy of internationalization at the UN and advanced the common US-Israeli strategy of a negotiated solution.”

Noam Neusner, WH Jewish Liaison in the Bush 43 administration: “This was a continuation of a presidency where everything was personal – he took everything personally, and he acted in the end out of personal pique because he was angry at Israel’s elected leaders. Other presidents have gotten upset with Israel in the past, but have managed to largely contain their own emotion. What was gained for the US? Nothing. What was gained for the cause of peace? Nothing.”

“This was a tantrum – and one which we have come to expect from someone supposedly believed to be above such emotion. Now, if there was any doubt, the pro-Israel community has seen it in full flower. Of course, there were signs before. Of the disastrous deal to grant legitimacy to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and funding its expansionist agenda, he said – in his defense, no less – “If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this.” For him, what happens to Iran and Israel and the region twenty years from now is about him – as if the rest of the people in that region don’t matter. In fact, to Obama they never did. As others have come to see, if Obama doesn’t care for you or care about you, you don’t have a friend. The children of Aleppo can tell you that, and now the pro-Israel community can tell you that, too.”

Tevi Troy, WH Jewish Liaison in the Bush 43 administration: “While the UN Security Council Resolution hurts Israel in the short-run, in the long-run, it will hurt both the UN and the legacy of the outgoing Obama administration.Twenty-five years ago this month, the UN at long last repealed the noxious “Zionism is racism” resolution. While that resolution was initially designed to harm Israel, it ended up harming the credibility of the UN for at least a generation. In that instance, the Ford administration, led by Ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan, stood strongly and powerfully with Israel, and has earned credit from historians for doing so. (For more on this, see Gil Troy’s “Moynihan’s Moment: https://www.amazon.com/Moynihans-Moment-Americas-Against-Zionism/dp/0199920303) This new anti-Israel resolution will similarly damage the credibility of the UN, and in the process hurt the reputation of the outgoing Obama administration, which has now been revealed to have been actively promoting the resolution behind the scenes.”

Ann Lewis, WH Communications Director in the Clinton administration: “I can tell you a few things I think will not happen: This will not add fuel to the BDS movement, certainly not in the US. The progress of anti-BDS victories in states legislatures shows that Americans have made up their minds on this kind of tactic. This will, unfortunately, make the odds of a Palestinian state longer and the process of getting there more difficult. Why negotiate -which requires compromise – when you can go directly to the UN and be told you’re right?”

“We don’t yet know the exact impact on UN funding – but we do know that the UN has just hurt its own credibility with the American public.”

Rabbi David Wolpe, Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple: “The abstention accomplished three things at once: it exacerbated tensions within the Jewish community; strengthened the hands of the Palestinians without demanding any corresponding moderation on their part, and pulled the rug out beneath those who argued for the President’s essential sympathy to Israel. Its long-term effects are uncertain, but in the short-term, he handed his successor not a gauntlet but a gift.”

Menachem Lubinsky: “Extremely disheartening to learn from the U.N. Security Council last week that my parents (Holocaust survivors) and 150,000 other Jews, dating back to the prophets (3,000 years), are buried in “illegal” East Jerusalem’s Mt. of Olives, the international historic cemetery of the Jewish people. President Obama might be interested to know that along with my American-naturalized parents, more than 10,000 American Jews are buried there. And as for the UN, there are Jews from more than 50 countries that lie here. And where was the UN when the Jordanians destroyed 45,000 Jewish graves (1948-1967) in the largest mass desecration of graves ever recorded in history? Perhaps I should explain to my children and grandchildren that my parents and even Prime Minister Menachem Begin who is buried in the holiest cemetery are now deceased “settlers” interred on the Mt. of Olives? How absurd!”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: “It will add fuel to the antagonists of Israel to now say that the UN even backs sanctions on Israel. It encourages the BDS advocates and it feeds the narrative of the Palestinian leadership who continue to refuse to accept Israel. This gives fodder to those trying to make Israel less legitimate. It does not make Israel illegitimate, but it gives opponents a publicity edge for now. It therefore makes Israel’s neighbors less interested in making peace and more hopeful the UN will do its bidding.”

Obama’s legacy – “Truth be told, Israel has been helped militarily. The problem is that Israel is consistently on the raw edge of a PR war for existence. While Obama helped internally with funding and such, he fed the haters exactly what they wanted by giving Israel a public black eye, and telling the world, so to speak, that Israel does not have the moral high ground. Israel needs democracies like the US to have its back in the public eye too. Kerry backed it up today by harshly politicizing the situation, referring to Netanyahu’s admin as the Most Right Wing, and ignored that Israel’s enemies refuse to accept Israel as any entity, and that is the sole reason for the stagnant process. Kerry and Obama know that the issue is that The Palestinians do not want peace with any nation of Jews, and they helped the cause by furthering the lie that Jerusalem is occupied and not Israel’s.”

“Carter found his support base and Obama has it too. They both cater to the voices who support what they say. He will be fine and will not look to get money from sectors like Israel’s Zionist supporters.”

UN funding – “The UN has its place and there are humanitarian programs that are needed. US should target committees and programs and refuse to fund those areas where it finds Israel’s opponents benefit and promote. The US should reconsider whether the UN is used properly, or as it has been, as a tool for political and prejudicial statements. The UN is only a reflection of the countries that are part of it and the one nation one vote, even for human rights violators and despots, is where the mission of the UN and the message of the UN become very different. US should move to modify the power structure of the UN. If the UN was founded to make the world better and people safer, it fails because its voting constituency uses it to maintain their power and economic positions in their own countries and as Ban Ki Moon said, has an unhealthy fixation on Israel.”

Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group: “Although the BDS movement doesn’t need any excuse to further justify isolating Israel, the UN Security Council vote certainly is a convenient pretext and will no doubt refer to the vote as legitimatizing their campaign undermining Israel both pre ’67 and post ’67.”

The peace process — “One only has to look to the very enduring peace between Israel and Egypt to fully appreciate the method in which Israel was convinced, and that was the bold and courageous gesture of the late President Sadat which was to travel to Jerusalem and declared to the Israeli people, ‘I have come to you so that together we should build a durable peace based on justice to avoid the shedding of one single drop of blood by both sides. It is for this reason that I have proclaimed my readiness to go to the farthest corner of the earth.’ Sadat understood that he needed to negotiate directly with Israel and only through direct negotiations can a durable peace be achieved not a UN-imposed solution; an international body that the United States on Friday in its statement by Ambassador Power conceded is biased against Israel.”

Obama’s legacy — “The abstaining by the US of UN Security Council vote is very perplexing to the vast majority of support a strong US-Israel relationship both Democrats and Republicans, right, center, and even many on the left for its explainable purpose–why now? What will it achieve other than give the PA a symbolic victory and cause the right to rightfully perceive the world as ganging up on Israel and reinforcing the feeling of many in Israel and in the United States who feel Israel is vulnerable in the international arena.”

“There are certain circles where he already toxic (even before the UN security Council), but to compare him to Carter is not fair. Notwithstanding this vote, Obama can legitimately take credit for enhancing US-Israel security ties i.e., Iron dome (for which he personally authorized after the Bush White House missile research defense apparatus poured cold water on). A lot will depend on how Obama further involves himself in the Middle East. Assuming that he doesn’t, Obama will be popular on the speaking circuit, but if he continues to aggressively follow in publicly pressuring Israel it may turn him off to mainstream Jewish and like-minded supporters.”

UN funding — “This is an oft about discussion–the United States already owes the UN hundreds of millions in dues already so this might cause them to further rationalize not paying, but it won’t drastically result in a further reduction of US support for the UN.

Israel – “Netanyahu personally will be partially or even largely blamed for not being to develop a rapport with Obama and as for the right, in general, it’s not going to win them new voters–perhaps just solidifying their base. Netanyahu is doing what he needs to do–what are his other options? As Prime Minister of Israel, he has an obligation to defend his country from further isolation and display strong leadership to discourage similar actions.”

Hank Sheinkopf, veteran campaign consultant: “BDS activists will feel energized after this vote and the two-state solution less likely. Obama’s move will ensure that more assimilated intermarried Jews move left and the rest of the community moves further away from Democrats. Trump will likely–as part of his promise to change all things Obama–entertain congressional supporters who will seek to cut UN funding.”

“The Israeli left which never liked Netanyahu will also feel empowered. Now all they have to do is find a candidate and the votes which they have been unable to do.”

Obama’s legacy – “He will remain unwelcome in large segments of the pro-Israel community. No big deal. He’s not welcome now. The real problem: expect Sanders’ Democrats moves to slash aid to Israel and to generally create distance between the US and the Middle East’s sole democracy and watch as Israel continues to strengthen its strategic and economic ties in Asia at the expense of the United States.”

Charles Spies: “What was left of Obama’s Carteresqe legacy only got worse. Jewish Americans who supported Obama’s domestic agenda had to spend eight years suspending disbelief on foreign policy and rationalizing his hostility to Israel so they could sleep at night. Now, Obama’s reversal of longstanding American policy at the UN made clear that his petty personal slights against the Israeli government are in fact dangerous, not only to Israel but also to stability in the world.”

“The biggest loser from the Obama abandonment of Israel at the UN will be J Street and their sham claim of being pro-Israel. Obama’s legacy is now in shambles, both domestically and internationally. Trump’s election was a repudiation of both.”

Michael Fragin, Republican campaign consultant: “The Obama administration’s betrayal of Israel at the UN last week shows the world that our President is willing to conduct foreign policy based on personal peevishness. The abstention, while consistent with stated US policy serves no geopolitical purpose. No one believes that this resolution will advance the peace process or that Obama and Kerry have enough time left to pressure Israel into any decisions in the next few weeks. This unfortunate decision was nothing more than a lump of coal in Bibi’s holiday stocking.

“Obama’s foreign policy doctrine consistently is to undermine friends and reward enemies. Whether in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, North Korea, Iraq and Ukraine Obama leaves behind a far more dangerous and volatile world than in 2008. But he has chosen to punish Israel. However, even with the change to a Trump administration, supporters of the Israeli right should be alarmed that the world’s focus is once again on Israel even while it is clear that the Sunni-Shiite conflict is far more destabilizing than the Israeli-Arab conflict.”

“This sad episode just highlights yet another Obama foreign policy failure that will likely haunt congressional Democrats in this Congress and heading into the 2018 cycle.”

Andrew Weinstein, a prominent Democratic donor: “Reasonable minds can certainly differ on the decision to abstain at the UN, but it is patently unreasonable to suggest that President Obama chose this course of action for any reason other than an abiding belief that it was the right choice. Anyone who argues otherwise has either not been paying attention these last eight years or is using this vote as an opportunity to promote a false narrative. Sadly, many of the voices that outrageously claim this proves Obama is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic were conspicuously silent when real anti-Semitism from the alt-right infected our recent election. Those that make such ridiculous claims only diminish their credibility and their cause. And though it is unfortunately accurate to say that the United Nations is biased against Israel, it is unfair to criticize the Obama Administration without recognizing similar actions by Presidents Reagan & George W. Bush. As for the resolution adding legitimacy to the BDS movement, President Obama made his position clear in a February 2016 signing statement. Nothing in the resolution conflicts with that and the United States will continue to strongly oppose BDS efforts.”

“By any objective measure President Obama has done more to ensure the long term safety & security of Israel than any of his predecessors. Iron Dome and the recent MOU are just two prominent examples in a long list demonstrating President Obama’s steadfast commitment to the state of Israel. And how does Netanyahu express his appreciation? By sending an Ambassador who seeks to influence our elections, circumvent protocol, and actively undermine our president. While it’s convenient for some to say this was a parting shot at Bibi, unlike our president-elect, Barack Obama would never allow US policy to be dictated by a personal grudge. One need only read the eulogy President Obama gave at the funeral of his friend Shimon Peres to know what is truly in his heart.

“President Obama will leave office next month with near historic approval ratings. His popularity will continue to grow over time and he will certainly be in high demand in Democratic circles for many years to come. Those in the American Jewish community who support him will continue to do so and the minority that don’t, are unlikely to change their minds at this point.”

Rabbi Y. A. Korff, Congregation Bnai Jacob of Boston: “I’ve been involved in diplomatic efforts in the Middle East for many years from a variety of standpoints and feel strongly that the biggest long-term loser in the UN vote is decidedly and clearly not Israel – indeed, quite the opposite. This may present a challenge, but essentially nothing whatsoever at the UN, or frankly in the world, has really changed for Israel as a result, but for Israel this is an opportunity to reiterate its position publicly and in private diplomacy yet again, and to assess or re-assess realistically who its loyal allies actually are, if any. It may even be a personal opportunity for Netanyahu himself to demonstrate again his strong leadership and diplomacy in defending his country as eloquently and articulately as he always does.”

“The real loser? Obama – both as a president and as a person. It is not the first time that factions within the State Department have recommended taking a position like this, but whether or not Obama or the State Department helped orchestrate it or simply took advantage of the opportunity, it is certainly the first time that a president, and an outgoing president in his final days at that, has actively supported that approach. With the US set to restore balance and equity to the issue after January 20th, ultimately it will be Obama personally who will be the biggest loser, for once again undermining established, coherent, US policy, stature and reliability in the world (can any country trust the US to stand by it?) to take a vindictive parting shot and satisfy his personal views or agenda, dare we say grudge.

“Indeed, we’ve already even heard from surprised leaders and facilitators in the Arab world who question the timing and wisdom of the US position on this resolution in the current Middle East environment. This, too, shall pass. Obama has thus ended his presidency demonstrating the exact same naiveté and utter lack of understanding of the complexities of the Middle East (and for that matter the world) as he did at the beginning of his administration with his Cairo speech and overtures. Thank G-d it’s almost over.”

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of T’ruah: “The biggest losers are Israelis and Jews around the world who are distracted by arguing over this resolution, rather than moving forward toward the solution needed to create a peaceful, just, and secure future for Israelis and Palestinians. And the other biggest loser is Zionism, which for two many on the far right and far left has become equated with a policy of military occupation and settlement, rather than with taking our future in our own hands–including by taking responsibility for ensuring that Israel is both safe, and lives up to the highest principles of Jewish law and morality.”

Prof. Alan Abbey: “The Palestinians should not count on the UN actually to do anything for them. The 14-0 vote was taken knowing that the US would provide cover. So, taking such a vote was an easy step for the Security Council members and doesn’t represent any real action to help the Palestinians.”

Israel – “Given the current atmosphere, the Israeli Right didn’t need much encouragement to raise its voices. Yet the imprecision of the Security Council resolution, by essentially equating Israel with Amona, empowers the Right-wing “one-staters,” even if they don’t have a real explanation of the end-game of their strategy. Just as some have always said that certain elements in the Palestinian leadership were playing a long game, so too is Netanyahu. One does not have to agree with him to see that he has the long-term, big picture in his sights, even as he seemingly reacts furiously on immediate crises.”

Obama’s legacy – “The ZOA and others on the Right never were going to invite Barack Obama to their conferences, even before this vote. I cannot imagine that such financial issues have ever played any role in Obama’s thinking. And it is absolutely inaccurate to equate Obama and Jimmy Carter in any way. Obama has made his feelings for Israel clear in many ways and at many times, most recently in his comments at the funeral of Shimon Peres.”

JI reader Donald A Newman: “It will be Israel not because Friday will “add fuel and legitimacy to the BDS movement” but because Israel, or at least its government and many Israelis, will take offense at the vote, and will double down on its/their obstinate and ultimately self-defeating positions toward the settlements, the West Bank and, increasingly against a two-state solution. In the short run, this UNSC vote may strengthen Netanyahu’s hand and weaken the Israeli Left. But, if Israel fails to stop and refuses to appreciate the mistakes of its policies, it will do itself long term damage. Certainly, a binational state rather than a two-state solution will be the biggest mistake of all.”

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