We begin with a screencap of the banner headline from the New York Daily News, a paper that took a strongly anti-Trump stance through the campaign, sided with the Donald on this one:
The story is one of a waning administration’s abrupt reversal on a policy which has poisoned bother the Middle East and the United States, which has staunchly backed Israel’s systematic looting of resources and land — as well as the homes and livelihoods — of countless Palestinians under its ruthless drive to forge a Greater Israel.
Our first selection from from the New York Times:
Defying extraordinary pressure from President-elect Donald J. Trump and furious lobbying by Israel, the Obama administration on Friday allowed the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction.
The administration’s decision not to veto the measure reflected its accumulated frustration over Israeli settlements. The American abstention on the vote also broke a longstanding policy of shielding Israel from action at the United Nations that described the settlements as illegal.
While the resolution is not expected to have any practical impact on the ground, it is regarded as a major rebuff to Israel, one that could increase its isolation over the paralyzed peace process with Israel’s Palestinian neighbors, who have sought to establish their own state on territory held by Israel.
Applause broke out in the 15-member Security Council’s chambers after the vote on the measure, which passed 14 to 0, with the United States ambassador, Samantha Power, raising her hand as the lone abstention. Israel’s ambassador, Danny Danon, denounced the measure, and castigated the council members who had approved it.
From the Guardian, the Obama administration’s rationale:
Explaining the US abstention, Power said the Israeli settlement “seriously undermines Israel’s security”, adding : “The United States has been sending a message that the settlements must stop privately and publicly for nearly five decades.”
Power said the US did not veto the resolution because the Obama administration believed it reflected the state of affairs regarding settlement and remained consistent with US policy.
“One cannot simultaneously champion expanding Israeli settlements and champion a viable two-state solution that would end the conflict. One had to make a choice between settlements and separation,” Power said.
The US decision to abstain was immediately condemned by Netanyahu’s office as “shameful” which pointedly referred to Israel’s expectation of working more closely with Donald Trump.
Trump tweeted his reaction:
More from the Associated Press:
Trump demanded that Obama veto the resolution and tweeted after the vote, “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th” — when Trump takes office.
It would be virtually impossible, however, for Trump to overturn the resolution. It would require a new resolution with support from at least nine members in the 15-member Security Council and no veto by one of the other permanent members — Russia, China, Britain or France, all of whom supported Friday’s resolution.
Republicans, who control Congress, immediately threatened consequences. Sen. Lindsay Graham, who heads the Senate panel in charge of U.S. payments to the U.N., said he would “form a bipartisan coalition to suspend or significantly reduce” funding. He added that countries receiving U.S. aid could also be penalized for supporting the resolution.
Under U.N. rules, failure to pay dues leads to the loss of voting privileges in the General Assembly.
The vote on settlements sparked behind-the-scenes discussion in the usually divided Security Council on what else might be achieved on the Israeli-Palestinian issue while Obama is still in the White House.
And the reaction from Israel, via Al Jazeera English:
In addition to calling it “shameful”, Israel also recalled its ambassador to New Zealand and Senegal for their role in the passing of the resolution.
“Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms.” said Netanyahu.
“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’.”
On Saturday, Netanyahu also instructed the Foreign Ministry to end all aid programs to Senegal and to cancel a planned visit to Israel by the Senegalese foreign minister.
And while both Trump and the Obama administration have obsessed over the rise of terrorist attacks in the Middle East, Europe, and the U.S. intself, consider an important reminder from Richard P. Mitchell, Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, writing under his nomme de blog, Juan Cole:
Jerusalem is extremely important and holy (just after Mecca and Medina) to the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.
One of the three major motivations for Usama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda to attack the United States in 2001 was the Israeli occupation of the Muslim parts of Jerusalem. (The other two were the US sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s that were thought to have killed 500,000 children, and the presence of US troops at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia).
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s provocative demarche on the Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem in 2000 caused Bin Laden to try to move up the date of the planned attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., as ‘punishment’ for Sharon’s implicit threat.
Bin Laden composed a poem for his son’s wedding in Afghanistan in fall of 2001, “The wound of Jerusalem is making me boil. Its suffering is making me burn from within.” Bin Laden was a mass murderer and not a good Muslim, but his rage over Jerusalem is shared by many in the Muslim world