Obama’s simplistic reversal of American diplomatic tradition
President Obama has taken the dramatic step of dropping the longstanding policy of the United States to support Israel, in favor of the cause of Palestine. The complete absence of any intimation that such a reversal of alliance was imminent adds to the surprise. Throughout his presidency, Obama has been careful to reassure Israel and the Jews that he had their interests at heart, or as he expressed it, that he had Israel’s back. This now looks like deliberate obfuscation. His true thoughts are a puzzle, and may always be, but there are clues: For example, he made no attempt to hide the hostility he feels towards the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. To change Middle East policy in his final days in office suggests that he wanted to hurt Israel in this way but knew he could not have gotten away with it earlier in his presidency.
The switch was carried out through the United Nations with surreptitious skill: no forewarning, no opportunity for objection. The main thrust of Security Council Resolution 2334 is to assert that Israeli settlements on the West Bank “lack legal validity.” Waging a tireless campaign to establish that Israel is some sort of Western colony imposed on Palestine and therefore has no legitimacy, the United Nations has been known to adopt 20 anti-Israeli resolutions in a single day, so in a sense, one more is irrelevant and boring, like all obsessions. But in another sense, a small democracy is under attack from undemocratic powers in a way reminiscent of the 1930s. Normally the United States uses its Security Council veto to preserve the world’s mental health and peace. This time around, the United States abstained, which signifies approval.