Saturday, October 15, 2016

  • Saturday, October 15, 2016
  • Elder of Ziyon
The Zionist Organization of America sometimes sends me op-eds for inclusion in the blog. This one from last week is worth reading:

After Elections, Will Obama Betray Israel At UN?
By Morton A. Klein 
Wikileaks recently exposed an email written by former White House official Stuart Eisenstadt that discussed the Obama administration’s deteriorating relationship with Israel and warned that:  “There is a distinct possibility that the Administration may seek a new UN Security Council Resolution embodying the two-state, with [pre-] 1967 lines and agreed land swaps, and some vague statements about Jerusalem.”
Is President Barack Obama intending to abandon the decades of bipartisan U.S. policy of vetoing anti-Israel U.N. Security Council resolutions?  Specifically, is Obama preparing to permit the UN Security Council to pass a resolution supporting or recognizing a Palestinian Arab state, and declaring Jewish communities built within it to be illegal?
The signs that this is indeed the case are numerous.  President Obama is laying the groundwork to rationalize, and make palatable and understandable that he may take unprecedented unilateral actions against Israel.  Consider:
•   On October 5, 2016, Obama’s State Department “strongly condemned” Israel for approving plans to build 98 apartment units within the existingJewish community of Shiloh in Samaria, for Jews who will be forcibly evicted from their homes in Amona.  The existing Jewish community in  Shilo which was established in 1979 and has 3,500 existing residents.  The State Department falsely claimed that Israel was approving a “significant new West Bank Settlement,” and that this undermined a two-state solution, and “called into question Israel’s commitment to achieving a negotiated peace.”
• The State Department’s October 5 condemnation also stated: “with regard to the UN Security Council and any action at the UN, our position hasn’t changed.  We’re always concerned, frankly, about one-sided resolutions or other actions that could be taken within the UN, and we’re always going to oppose those kinds of resolutions that we believe delegitimize … Israel and undermine its security. But we’re going to carefully consider our future engagement, if and when we reach that point, and determine how to most effectively pursue and advance the objective that we all at least claim to share, which is that of achieving a negotiated two-state solution.” [emphasis added].
Despite being prefaced with a line about the U.S. position being unchanged, the State Department’s “reconsideration” statement, on top of the unusually harsh language of condemnation for a mere announcement of program of residential construction in an existing Jewish community, is more than a hint as to the course President Obama may take.
•   Shockingly, the same day, the Obama administration questioned whether Israel is a “friend.”  White House spokesman Josh Ernest reiterated the State Department’s unfounded criticism of Israel, wrongly stating on October 5 that “we did receive public assurances from Israel that contradict this announcement, I guess when we’re talking about how good friends treat one another, that’s a source of serious concern as well.”
•     The media promptly provided further evidence of Obama’s intentions to overturn longstanding U.S. policy.  On the day of the administration’s statements (October 5, 2016), the same “echo chamber” method that Obama aide Ben Rhodes boasted of using to promote the Iran deal – namely, using the media to promote the administration’s agenda – was in full swing.   A New York Times article that day quoted former Obama Administration peace negotiator, Martin Indyk, saying: “At a certain point … the Administration may well decide that there needs to be consequences for what it now sees as an effort to close off the two-state solution.”
•   And on October 6, 2016, a New York Times editorial entitled “At the Boiling Point With Israel,” parroted the State Department’s false accusations against Israel, and called for Mr. Obama to “lead the Security Council to put its authority behind a resolution to support a two-state solution.”
•    During his September 30, 2016 speech eulogizing Shimon Peres, Obama falsely implied that Israel is “enslaving” Palestinian Arabs.  Obama quoted the leftwing Peres as saying, “The Jewish people weren’t born to rule another people” and “we are against slaves and masters.”  Obama also called Israeli’s founding “flawed.”
•    Later the same day, after the White House official transcript of Obama’s eulogy listed “Jerusalem, Israel” as the speech’s and burial’s location, the White House crossed out “Israel.”
•   On September 9, 2016, Obama’s State Department wrongly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s valid and accurate explanation that the Palestinian Arab leadership’s repeated demand for a state with “no Jews” constituted “ethnic cleansing.”
In sum, there are good reasons to believe that the ground is being prepared for a major change of US policy, and major U.S. betrayal of Israel at the UN, perhaps after the November elections.
Obama’s refusal to veto a potential UN Resolution unilaterally establishing or laying out borders or other parameters for a Palestinian Arab State would sabotage any chance of Israel/Palestinian negotiations and peace. 
As President Lyndon Johnson wisely said: “We are not the ones to say where other nations should draw lines between them that will assure each the greatest security. . . . [L]ines must be agreed to by the neighbors involved.” 
The U.S. Congress can and should play a decisive role here: it can pass legislation mandating a cut-off of U.S. funding for the UN and/or the Palestinian Authority if the Obama administration permits a Palestinian state resolution to pass in the Security Council. This could stop a devastating UN resolution, which will endanger the only tiny Jewish State in the world and its eight million inhabitants.
Morton A. Klein is the President of the Zionist Organization of America.

This fits in very well with this article from October 7 by Eli Lake at Bloomberg:
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected last year, the White House threatened to reconsider long-standing U.S. policy to veto U.N. Security Council resolutions on Israel's presence in the West Bank. At issue was a last-minute interview in which Netanyahu said there would be no Palestinian state as long as he was prime minister. He took back that statement after the election. Nonetheless, the White House directed policymakers to draw up a set of options for how Obama could "preserve the two-state solution," according to one U.S. official privy to the process.

...[W]ith a little more than three months left of his presidency, Israeli officials privately say they worry Obama intends to try to level the playing field between the Palestinians and Israelis before he leaves office. The threat of a last-minute speech, executive order, or U.N. action has stirred some of Israel's friends in Washington. Last month, for example, 88 senators signed a letter to Obama urging him to restate "long-standing U.S. policy" to veto one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.

So far, though, Obama has not sanctioned Israel for settlements, preferring instead to censure. This is where the options from 2015 could come into play. U.S. officials who have been briefed on them tell me they run from the substantive to the symbolic.

On the milder end would be a speech Obama would deliver outlining his parameters for a two-state solution. This approach is similar to a speech Bill Clinton gave at the end of his presidency that laid out such parameters. In Obama's case, the speech could disclose the concessions Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were willing to make in negotiations that fell apart in 2014.

The options also include tougher measures such as support for a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would supersede U.N. Security Council resolution 242, which was drafted in 1967. That calls on Israel to withdraw from the territory it won in the Six Day War, but calls on that territory to be returned to Israel's neighbors, not an independent Palestinian state.

Other policy options include changes to the U.S. tax code to target U.S. charities that support West Bank settlements today. Last month, J Street, the self-anointed "political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans," began a new campaign to get the Internal Revenue Service to withdraw the tax-exempt status for charities that "entrench or expand Israeli settlement activity" in the West Bank.

Another option in the 2015 policy memo would have the U.S. recognize a Palestinian state or upgrade its diplomatic presence.

And the Weekly Standard agreed, saying the building new houses at Shilo was simply a pretext for the White House to blame Israel for forcing its hand:
The latest controversy revolves around construction that the Israelis say is within the already existing Israeli neighborhood Shilo, but that the administration says constitutes a new settlement. Congressional officials who spoke to TWS said that the administration's condemnation is a pretext for eroding relations with Israel and potentially for setting up a broader diplomatic offensive.

"They're launching this weird, aggressive campaign that simply will have no positive outcome," a senior congressional source told TWS. "It's not an accident that all of this has been going on as Congress goes into recess [and] as attention is diverted by the election."

The source said that while the administration has engaged in similar behavior against Israel in the past, this case appeared "far more coordinated and aggressive."

"The president is in the market for a legacy," the source continued. "I'm very concerned that he's going to do something that he considers to be dramatic, just to get his name on the process."

Another congressional source told TWS that President Obama has been "waiting for an opening" to condemn Israel.

"200 housing units in an existing community that did not expand the boundaries at all? That's not something that should even make the news in Israel, let alone the U.S."

The source suggested that the administration had also coordinated with media outlets this past week to release material criticizing Israel.

"The fact that they seem so prepared for this, the fact that it comes at the exact same time as this crap from the New York Times and Vox," the source continued. "I [think] they were waiting for something."

A senior political official at a nonpartisan national Jewish organization told TWS that the White House seems to be setting up the Israelis to take the blame for a fabricated crisis, which could then be used to justify diplomatic action against Israel.

"It's no secret that the Obama administration is angling to do something against the Israelis after the election, when it will face no political pressure," said the source. "That's exactly why lawmakers from both parties have been penning letters and resolutions calling for the President not to throw our Israeli allies under the bus at the United Nations or target them domestically."

"The administration wants to be able to say the Israelis forced them to act, which is why they've launched these efforts to blame Tel Aviv for tensions."
Indeed, on Friday the US criticized Israel during a special UN session on "illegal settlements":
Israeli policies in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and particularly continued settlement construction were severely criticized in a special UN Security Council session on Friday.
The meeting, titled "Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution," did not involve a vote. It was held at the behest of member states Egypt, Venezuela, Malaysia, Senegal and Angola, with a push from the Palestinians.  The initators made use of the Arria Formula clause, allowing them to call for debates on subjects of specific interest to them. Attendance is not mandatory.
The U.S. representative to the session said that the U.S. is "deeply concerned and strongly opposes settlements which are corrosive to peace." He said that Israeli activities in the West Bank, primarily settlement construction, "creates a one state reality on the ground."
It seems quite possible that the groundwork is being laid for a post-election surprise.

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