The Aftermath of UNSC Resolution 2334

Jan 6, 2017

The Aftermath of UNSC Resolution 2334

Update from AIJAC


January 6, 2107

Update 01/17 #01

This Update deals with the implications and aftermath of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSC) 2334 (the text of the resolution is here) , which passed 14-0 with the US abstaining, on Dec. 23. The controversial resolution condemns Israel over settlements, and has a number of other provisions likely to affect Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking in the future, as discussed below.

A good brief analysis of the actual provisions of the resolution comes from Ambassador Alan Baker, an Israeli international law expert, as well as a former diplomat and peace negotiator. He notes that the resolution is non-binding given its adoption under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, and while some of the language echoes earlier UN resolutions, it also has some new language and old language likely  to have new effects today. He says this language not only effectively modifies UNSC 242, the basis of all Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking up until now, and contradicts past American policy by insisting all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem is rightfully “Palestinian territory” before the negotiations even begin, but may buttress Palestinian attempts to haul Israel before the International Criminal Court or demand boycotts of Israel. For Baker’s incisive analysis of the actual provisions of the resolution, CLICK HERE. Three additional, somewhat more extensive, analyses of the implications of the resolution by international law experts come from American scholars Orde Kittrie and Mark Goldfelder and Israeli international lawyer Pnina Sharvit-Baruch (who visited Australia on a speaking tour a couple of years ago).

Next up is a longer critique of the resolution and the US decision to support it from Hillel Neuer, the head of the NGO UN Watch. Written in the form of a letter to US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, Neuer gives a total of 12 reasons why the US failure to veto was a bad idea, serving neither the quest for peace nor US interests. He also notes that not only was the vote widely condemned by the leaders of Israel’s left-leaning opposition, and by members of the US President Obama’s own party, but was applauded by the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups. For this very well-written and detailed critique of the US decision to allow the resolution to pass, CLICK HERE. Following up on Neuer’s point about US political opposition to the Obama Administration vote, the US House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed a strong motion critical of the vote – and a majority of President Obama’s own Democrat party voted for it. A similar Senate resolution, with similar bipartisan sponsorship and support, is expected to pass next week.

Finally, Washington Institute head Robert Satloff ponders whether and how the incoming Trump Administration can undo the damage to Israeli-US relations and peace prospects caused by 2334. He says the resolution should be seen as part of a strategic approach the Administration brought to the Middle East since it came to office – including not only an obsessive focus on settlements, but a determination to have a less-close and more “normal” relationship with Israel, and to disengage from the region overall. Satloff says for the Trump Administration to undo the damage, it will have to change the overall approach to the region, not just to Israel. For his argument in full, CLICK HERE. More on possible Trump Administration reactions to the resolution comes from international law expert 

Readers may also be interested in…

Article 1

The Dangers of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016)

Amb. Alan Baker

The December 23, 2016, resolution adopted by the UN Security Council regarding Israel’s settlement policy has been received with mixed and even extreme reactions.  [Click to read the text of UN Security Council Resolution 2334]

The Palestinian leadership, having initiated the resolution, is celebrating its adoption as an affirmation by the international community, including the United States, of its claims against Israel.

Israel sees this resolution as a major impediment to continued peace negotiations in light of the fact that it by-passes the negotiation process in an attempt to prejudge central issues that are on the negotiating table. As such, it seriously prejudices any possible return to the negotiating process.

Israel considers that the resolution provides political incentives to those in the international community hostile to Israel. It advances boycotts and sanctions and could even be used to support possible litigation against Israeli leaders.

Summary of Implications

Following is a brief summary of the legal and quasi-legal implications of the resolution:

  1. The resolution (as all previous resolutions regarding Israel) was adopted under the sixth chapter of the UN Charter (Pacific Settlement of Disputes) and as such is not mandatory. It contains a series of political determinations and recommendations to the international community. The resolution does not make law, and as such, the determinations as to the lack of legal validity of Israel’s settlements are no more than declaratory.
  2. Much of the terminology repeats UN terminology and language used in previous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions (“inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by force,” “Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 including East Jerusalem,” “secure and recognized borders,” “violation (serious or flagrant) under international law,” the references to the lack of legal validity of settlements, and their being an “obstacle” or “major obstacle” to achieving a two-state solution).
  3. References in the tenth preambular paragraph to the fact that “the status quo is not sustainable” and “entrenching a one-state reality” are new and would appear to be inspired by, or even direct quotes from statements by President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Vice President Biden.
  4. Similarly, expressions not previously included in major Security Council resolutions regarding the peace process, such as “two-state solution based on the 1967 lines” (operative paragraph seven), as well as the references in the ninth paragraph to the “Arab Peace Initiative” and the “principle of land for peace” as additional bases for peace, clearly are intended to instill concepts that have never been agreed-upon elements in the negotiating process.
  5. The call upon states in the fifth operative paragraph to distinguish between dealings between Israel-proper and the territories will also be used by BDS activists and states to buttress their boycott campaigns.
  6. The reference in the third operative paragraph to the “4 June 1967 lines” as a basis for negotiations would appear to be a new element, echoing statements by Obama and Kerry, and running counter to the 1967 Security Council resolution 242, which is the basis for all of the Arab-Israeli peace process, which calls for negotiation of “secure and recognized boundaries.” The Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords make no specific reference to the 1967 lines. As such this reference would appear to be an attempt to prejudge or unduly influence the negotiating issue of borders.
  7. Despite the declaratory and recommendatory determinations in the resolution attempting to prejudge the status of the territories, east Jerusalem, borders, and settlements, the resolution nevertheless would appear to contradict itself in that it goes on to reaffirm the call for negotiations on “all final status issues” (operative paragraph eight) and for “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”


  1. While the resolution does not replace Security Council Resolution 242, which is the accepted and agreed basis for the Israel-Arab peace process, it nevertheless contains elements that attempt to modify Resolution 242 and to sway the negotiating process in a particular direction.
  2. The resolution cannot, in and of itself, serve as grounds for legal proceedings in the International Criminal Court (ICC) or other international tribunals. But clearly, it will be used by the Palestinian leadership as a political tool to buttress existing complaints. This despite the fact that the issues of Palestinian status vis-à-vis the ICC and the court’s jurisdiction regarding the territories have yet to be reviewed juridically. The fact that the ICC Prosecutor has recognized the accession of “the State of Palestine” to the ICC Statute and has accepted their complaints are political decisions.
  3. The United States, through its decision not to veto the resolution, enabled acceptance of a Security Council resolution referring to “occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem.” This indicates U.S. acceptance of the fact that the territories and east Jerusalem belong to the Palestinians. This despite the claim that the United States has consistently agreed with Israel that there has never been any legal determination, agreement, treaty, or other binding source determining that.
  4. This represents a serious, and even irresponsible departure from U.S. policy which has consistently advocated negotiated settlement of the issues of permanent status, Jerusalem, and borders.
  5. This position taken by the United States (as well as the other members of the Security Council) also undermines the basic obligation of the Oslo Accords, signed by the PLO and witnessed by the United States (as well as the EU, Russia, Egypt and others), that the permanent status of the territories, the issues of Jerusalem, and borders are to be negotiated.
  6. While the United States and Israel have entertained basic disagreements on settlement policy, the United States has consistently rejected, as a matter of basic policy, any attempt by the international community to prejudge this or the other permanent status negotiating issues.
  7. The outrage voiced by Israel with both the resolution itself and the Obama administration’s enabling it to pass stems from five basic components:

    • The text of the resolution, which is unprecedented in the extent of the condemnatory language used.
    • Israel’s frustration at the irresponsible behavior by the Obama administration.
    • The evident irreversibility of the resolution and the potential for future damage.
    • The imbalance between accusations of Israeli violations of the Oslo Accords and the Palestinians’ blatant violations of international law in their incitement and payment to terrorists.
    • The issue of settlements is not the core of the conflict. It remains the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize the Jewish State and its right to any part of the land west of the Jordan River.
Amb. Alan Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.


Article 2

Joining the Jackals: The Case Against U.N. Resolution 2334

An open letter from UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer to U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power

UN Watch, December 29, 2016

Dear Ambassador Power,

I write in response to your abstention on Friday which allowed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel, and in response to the substantial explanation of vote that you delivered. With even further U.N. measures still possible before President Obama leaves office on January 20th, I urge you and the Administration—where you play an influential role as a member of the President’s Cabinet, and as one of President Obama’s most trusted advisors—to reconsider your approach.

Your speech on Friday had much to applaud. As you have vigorously done for three years, your remarks exposed in compelling detail the U.N. double standard applied to the Jewish state, which, you rightly said, “not only hurts Israel, it undermines the legitimacy of the United Nations itself.”

As you noted last year on the 40th anniversary of the infamous Zionism is Racism resolution, at the U.N. “rarely a day goes by without some effort to delegitimize Israel.” On that occasion, you called for everyone to “relentlessly fight back” against this “ignorance and hatred.”

Your vote on Friday, however, makes a dramatic break with all of this. While it is perfectly legitimate to disagree with Israel about settlements, allowing Resolution 2334 to pass was morally wrong and strategically damaging. As set forth below, we believe the U.S. decision to acquiesce in the adoption of this lopsided resolution reverses decades of past practice, sets back the cause of peace, and harms the interests of Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans.

Leader’s of Israel’s Left-Wing Opposition Reject U.N. Resolution

Immediate and compelling evidence demonstrates that the Administration has failed to achieve its objective, which you articulated as promoting the two-state solution.

Secretary Kerry’s speech yesterday failed to acknowledge the telling fact that Israel’s mainstream society, including leading supporters of the two-state solution, have sharply rejected the U.N. resolution, and criticized the U.S. role in its advancement and adoption.


  • Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition and chairman of the Labor Party—whom you recently recognized for being “so principled on behalf of peace”—called for Resolution 2334 to be annulled, saying it caused “severe damage.”
  • Similarly, his colleague, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who led efforts to achieve a two-state solution at the Annapolis Conference, and who welcomed the 2008 Security Council resolution endorsing that summit, said by contrast that Friday’s U.S.-backed resolution “harms the interests of Israel,” “harms Jerusalem,” and threatens to haul Israeli officers to the International Criminal Court.
  • Yair Lapid, chair of the Yesh Atid opposition party, who has endorsed the Saudi-Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for peace talks, and who opposes the proposed Knesset bill to legalize outposts which you cited on Friday, called the U.N. resolution “dangerous”, “unfair, and “an act of hypocrisy.”
  • Ehud Barak, who as prime minister went to Camp David in 2000 and extended an unprecedented and far-reaching peace offer to the Palestinians, called this resolution a “humiliating blow to Israel.”
  • Amos Yadlin, head of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, the country’s most influential think tank, and another prominent supporter of the two-state solution, said that the resolution was “extremely problematic for Israel and the peace process alike,” and he accused President Obama of committing “a severe anti-Israeli move” which “harmed the United States’ staunchest ally in the Middle East.”

To be sure, all of these left-leaning figures faulted or admonished Prime Minister Netanyahu for failing to head off the blow. Yet neither President Obama, Secretary Kerry or anyone else in your Administration has yet addressed the astonishing fact that their closest Israeli political allies and interlocutors in promoting the peace process have uniformly denounced an action which you claim will advance their position.

Hamas & Islamic Jihad Terrorists Cheer Resolution: “Now Israel Can Be Isolated, Boycotted, Prosecuted”

By contrast, are you not troubled that among the first to endorse the resolution were the terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad? “Hamas commends the countries that voiced their opposition to the Israeli occupation’s aggressive settlement policy aimed against the Palestinian people,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. Hamas praised “the important about-face in the international position in favor of the Palestinian people.” Iran-backed Islamic Jihad welcomed the U.S.-backed resolution, saying, “It’s plain to see the world opinion is against Israel and its policies,” and “now Israel can be isolated and boycotted, as well as prosecuted in the international arena for all its crimes.”

12 Reasons Why the U.S. Should Have Vetoed U.N. Resolution 2334

To understand why, by contrast, so many supporters of Israeli-Palestinian peace oppose what you did on Friday, I urge you and the Administration to consider the following 12 points:

1. Resolution 2334 Encourages Palestinian Rejectionism, Undermines Negotiations
The resolution dangerously disincentivizes Palestinians to come to the negotiating table. Instead, Resolution 2334 will for the foreseeable future encourage them to await being handed the same or more by international fiat. This will feed into the Palestinian strategy of preferring to deal with international institutions over bilateral talks with Israel. Contrary to its stated objective, therefore, the resolution will only push negotiations further away.

In this regard, we recall that in 2011, your predecessor Susan Rice vetoed a similar resolution on the grounds that it risked “hardening the positions of both sides,” and “could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations.” She said it was “unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians.”

Though your speech claims that circumstances have now changed, many will see the only meaningful difference as the fact that the current transition period allows a president to make unpopular decisions at no political cost.

2. Resolution Fuels Palestinian Targeting of Israelis with BDS & International Prosecutions
Secretary of State John Kerry pledged this month to oppose any “biased, unfair resolution calculated to delegitimize Israel.” And though he likewise said on Friday after the vote that he is proud of “defending Israel against any efforts to undermine its security or legitimacy in international fora,” and “steadfastly opposing boycotts, divestment campaigns and sanctions targeting the State of Israel,” the fact is that these are precisely the efforts empowered by Resolution 2334.

Friday’s text not only provides the first Security Council endorsement of the scandalous 2004 ICJ advisory opinion, which denied Israel’s right to defend itself from Gaza rockets, but it implicitly encourages the International Criminal Court (ICC) to move forward in its preliminary examination of whether Israeli officials have engaged in the “war crime” of settlement building, and provides the same impetus to prosecutions in national courts that claim universal jurisdiction. If Tzipi Livni was already being served with UK arrest warrants before, Resolution 2334 will only aggravate anti-Israel lawfare. The U.S. should never have lent its hand to a campaign designed to delegitimize Israeli civil and military leaders as criminals.

Moreover, the resolution’s appeal to all states to take action, in paragraph 5, is a clear call to escalate campaigns seeking to boycott Israeli products, companies and citizens. Certainly the UN Human Rights Council will feel empowered to continue preparing its blacklist of Israeli companies that do business over the green line, due in March. Meanwhile, the resolution’s mandated reports by the Secretary-General every three months will ensure constant activity.

3. Contrary to U.S. Claims, Resolution Fails to Condemn Palestinian Incitement
You said after the vote that the U.S. “would not have let this resolution pass had it not also addressed counterproductive actions by the Palestinians such as terrorism and incitement to violence.” Yet that is exactly what happened: the resolution that was adopted mentions terrorism and incitement only in the abstract; nowhere are these crimes attributed to Palestinians. Whereas Israel is named and shamed throughout the text, the Palestinians get a free pass. The U.S. reversed decades of past practice by allowing the adoption of such an unbalanced text.

The failure of this resolution to truly confront Palestinian incitement is not inconsistent with your failure to speak out against the routine incitement to antisemitism and terrorism by Palestinian school principals and teachers at UNRWA, to which your Administration gave $380 million last year. We sent you petition after petition, supported by thousands worldwide, yet your only statements on UNRWA have been to defend or promote the organization, not to hold it accountable. I hope you will change your approach when we soon reveal the latest trove of UNRWA’s online incitement.

4. Blames Israel as “Major Obstacle” to Peace, Yet Palestinians Evade Responsibility
Despite the fact that the Palestinians refuse to negotiate without preconditions, refused to negotiate even during Israel’s 2009-2010 settlement freeze, rejected the Kerry framework principles, and are inciting to terrorism at the highest levels, they are spared in the resolution from any blame. Instead, the resolution accuses Israel alone of creating, with the settlements, “a major obstacle” to just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

5. Failure to Distinguish Settlements Loses Israeli Mainstream
By ignoring the 2000 Clinton Parameters, the Obama Administration unwisely managed to alienate itself from the vast majority of the Israeli population and political parties, who regard the Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall, and Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem such as Ramot and Gilo as an integral part of Israel—all of which are defined in the resolution as “occupied Palestinian territory”—and likewise, the Israeli Jewish communities in the large settlement blocs such as Gush Etzion have for years been considered part of the Israeli consensus. The U.S. failure to distinguish between these and isolated, remote settlements is what doomed the U.N. resolution to complete rejection by Israeli society as a whole.

6. Offensive to Call Jerusalem’s Jewish Holy Sites “Occupied Palestinian Territory”
The resolution is offensive to Jews worldwide by absurdly defining the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, and the holiest Jewish sites of the Temple Mount and Western Wall, as “occupied Palestinian territory.” In describing your commitment to Israel as both personal and profound, you have on several occasions noted before Jewish and Israeli audiences that your son is a descendant, from his father’s side, of Rabbi Elijah, the 18th-century Lithuanian Jewish sage known as the Vilna Gaon, considered the greatest Talmudic scholar of his time.

Given that the Gaon’s vision of return to the Land of Israel was a decisive factor in the rebuilding of the Jewish Quarter, by inspiring hundreds of his disciples to immigrate to Jerusalem in the early 19th century, and given that we are about to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which recognized the ancient, indigenous Jewish rights to the Holy Land—formalized internationally in the League of Nations Mandate on Palestine, which stated that the British Administration “shall encourage… close settlement by Jews, on the land”—I hope you will reconsider the logic of now criminalizing Jewish residents of the Jewish Quarter.

7.  Seeks to Relitigate & Rewrite Cornerstone Resolution 242
By injecting new language enshrining “the 4 June 1967 lines,” the resolution seeks to relitigate and rewrite U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967, the cornerstone of Arab-Israeli peace negotiations over the past half-century—endorsed by the Palestinians at Oslo—which calls for the right of every state to live in peace within “secure and recognized boundaries” and for Israel to withdraw “from territories occupied.”

Your predecessor Arthur Goldberg, former Supreme Court Justice and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. when 242 was enacted, made clear that the text’s “notable omissions in language” on withdrawal are the words “the,” “all,” and the “June 5, 1967, lines.” The choice of language was clear, he explained: “there is lacking a declaration requiring Israel to withdraw from the (or all the) territories occupied by it on and after June 5, 1967.”

Instead, the resolution “stipulates withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.” And it “can be inferred from the incorporation of the words secure and recognized boundaries that the territorial adjustments to be made by the parties in their peace settlements could encompass less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territories.” Goldberg likewise told King Hussein in the lead-up to 242 that there was a “need for some territorial adjustment.”

8. Explanation of Vote Misstates Longstanding U.S. Policy
Your speech on Friday opened with a 1982 quote from President Ronald Reagan opposing settlements, and you argued that “our vote today is fully in line with the bipartisan history” of how American presidents have approached the issue. In fact, your speech was selective, excluding material statements by U.S. leaders rejecting the notion of return to the 1949 armistice lines, what Israeli statesman Abba Eban once called “Auschwitz borders.”

  • For example, you failed to quote the rest of President Reagan’s statement, in which he said: “I have personally followed and supported Israel’s heroic struggle for survival, ever since the founding of the State of Israel 34 years ago. In the pre-1967 borders Israel was barely 10 miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel’s population lived within artillery range of hostile Arab armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again.
  • Nor did you quote President Lyndon Johnson who said: “We are not the ones to say where other nations should draw lines between them that will assure each the greatest security. It is clear, however, that a return to the situation of June 4, 1967, will not bring peace. There must be secure, and there must be recognized, borders.”
  • Likewise, you omitted Secretary of State Schultz’s 1988 statement: “The territorial issue needs to be addressed realistically. Israel will never negotiate from or return to the lines of partition or to the 1967 borders.”
  • The Clinton parameters of December 2000, which contemplates Israeli annexation of large settlement blocs, are also ignored by the resolution.

9. U.S. Position Reneges on Commitments in 2004 Bush-Sharon Letters
By allowing the resolution’s new language enshrining “the 4 June 1967 lines,” which are the 1949 armistice lines, the U.S. position reneges on the 2004 exchange of letters negotiated between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush. The Bush letter stated: “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.”

Prime Minister Sharon relied on the Bush commitments as part of negotiated package deal, being the consideration Israel received and relied upon in exchange for its total withdrawal from Gaza. When the U.S. ignores written commitments to allies, its international credibility is dangerously diminished. Moreover, the Bush letter severely undermines your claim that the U.S. vote on Friday was “fully in line” with prior history.

10. Resolution Lacks Legitimacy in U.S. Opinion
The resolution has been firmly rejected by the broad mainstream of American society, including by congressional leaders of President Obama’s own party:

  • Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the U.S. vote “frustrating, disappointing and confounding” and said it will move the Middle East farther from peace.
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was “deeply disappointed” that the administration “set aside longstanding U.S. policy to allow such a one-sided resolution to pass.”
  • The U.S. abstention on “such a flagrantly one-sided resolution,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Vt.), “is unconscionable.”
  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he was “dismayed that the Administration departed from decades of U.S. policy by not vetoing the U.N. resolution.”
  • Even President Obama’s former Special Envoy for Middle East Peace opposed the decision. “President Obama would have been wise to veto this resolution,” said George Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader, “because of the timing and the circumstance that it leads to with respect to trying to get the parties together.”
  • The Washington Post called the U.S. decision a “dangerous parting shot at Israel,” likely to do more harm than good.

11. Reverses Decades of U.S. Practice
There has not been a resolution like this in a generation, not since the Carter years in 1979 and 1980, and even those resolutions did not take place during a time of extreme anti-Israeli BDS campaigns and in the context of global anti-Israeli lawfare prosecutions sought in the ICC and elsewhere. This reverses decades of practice by both Democratic and Republican presidents. Moreover, unlike with the few other U.S-backed resolutions in history that criticized Israel from time to time, the nature of the coordination and the careful timing of this maneuver against a close ally make it seem particularly deliberate and hostile.

12. Joining with Venezuela & Malaysia to Condemn Israel
Whom you align with at the U.N. matters. I cannot think of another time in modern history when the U.S. endorsed a U.N. Security Council resolution co-sponsored by countries such as Venezuela, whose Maduro regime has thrown its opposition leaders in jail while causing mass starvation, and Malaysia, a hotbed of antisemitism.

Speaking of Venezuela, whose political prisoners we have championed, I have to note that while Secretary Kerry said repeatedly yesterday that the U.S. “cannot, in good conscience, do nothing, and say nothing” in regard to Israeli settlements, your Administration has said nothing every year when we have appealed to you to oppose the election of tyrannies such as Venezuela to the U.N. Human Rights Council. You said nothing to stop the Maduro regime being elected last year; you said nothing to stop Saudi Arabia, China, and Cuba from getting elected this year; and you said nothing to stop Russia getting elected in 2013. Your Administration’s policy of speaking out when good conscience requires it ought to be less selective.

Conclusion: The Obama Administration Joined the Jackals

In conclusion, I ask you to consider what one of your predecessors and role models, the late great Daniel Patrick Moynihan, might have thought about what the U.S. did on Friday.

You cited Moynihan during your confirmation hearing as an iconic American who “stood up for what was right.” And as an example of how to bring the U.N. to live up to its ideals, you have invoked the moral clarity that Moynihan eloquently expressed in his formidable speeches as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in 1975.

We certainly know what Moynihan thought about the Carter Administration’s similar votes against Israel in 1979 and 1980. In his iconic 1981 Commentary essay, “Joining the Jackals,” Moynihan diagnosed the confused ideas which led U.S. delegates and officials to abandon Israel to what the Washington Post editorial board had identified as the pack at the U.N. which hounds Israel shamelessly. Carter, the Post had said, had decided to “join the jackals.”

I believe Moynihan’s observations of 36 years ago are no less apt to the resolution which you just allowed last week:

  • “[F]or the United States to abstain on a Security Council resolution concerning Israel is the equivalent of acquiescing.”
  • “As a direct result of American policy, the Security Council was allowed to degenerate to the condition of the General Assembly.”
  • On a 1979 resolution which used the language “Arab territories… including Jerusalem,” Moynihan said, “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. How could its capital be in the territory of others?”
  • Invoking against Israel the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, one of a series of treaties designed to codify the behavior of Nazi Germany and make such behavior criminal under international law, “played perfectly into the Soviet propaganda position that ‘Zionism is present-day fascism.” Needless to say, Friday’s Resolution 2334 invokes the same convention and uses language meant to describe Israel’s building of homes in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria as the U.N. 1947 partition plan called the areas, as war crimes.

Were Moynihan alive today, do you have any doubt that he would have said that on Friday the U.S.—after 36 years—once again joined the jackals?

What we don’t know yet is the degree to which the U.S., directly or indirectly, may have actually orchestrated the maneuver. If that proves to be the case—and based on my knowledge and experience of U.N. diplomacy, your Mission had to have played a key role in influencing the language, as well as the timing, of this infamous resolution—would not Moynihan say that the U.S. this time didn’t just join the jackals, but became leader of the pack?

Thank you for your consideration.


Hillel C.  Neuer
Executive Director
UN Watch
Geneva, Switzerland


Article 3

Can Trump Overcome Obama’s Israel Failure?


The new administration must restore intimacy and common purpose to the partnership.


Robert Satloff

The National Interest, January 3, 2017

At a moment when Russia, Turkey and Iran are carving up Syria, when the U.S.-orchestrated battle for Mosul seems stuck in neutral, and when America’s two leading Arab allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are fighting their own debilitating cold war, how should one interpret the Obama administration’s decision to spend its closing days in office focused on carving a legacy of critiquing Israel under the umbrella of proclaiming to safeguard a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians? A few observations:

  • President Obama has been remarkably consistent in his view that Israeli settlement expansion is the principal obstacle to progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace. This view animated the president’s decision to disregard his predecessor’s constructively nuanced understanding with Israel on the issue as well as his ill-conceived demand for a total freeze on Israeli construction over the 1967 lines, including in Jerusalem. Both played a major role in producing impasse in peace diplomacy. Indeed, for all his protestations, President Obama is the first chief executive since President Johnson to register neither achievement nor even progress toward Arab-Israeli peace on his watch. That the Obama administration ends where it began, with a near-obsessive focus on Israeli settlement construction as the key to unlock the Middle East peace process, suggests that it learned virtually nothing from its experience of the last eight years.
  • Putting the settlements clash in a broader perspective, the Obama administration’s record toward Israel underscores a counterintuitive reality: it is possible for the two countries to have close military and intelligence ties as well as tense, raw and fractured strategic and political relations at the same time. From the opening days of the Obama White House, gone was the Washington-Jerusalem intimacy that characterized both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations – four-eyes meetings between leaders that were true meetings-of-the-mind, the sharing of speeches before delivery, the informal and discreet exchange of ideas, etc. While Israel’s leadership certainly reciprocated – think of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s controversial speech to Congress – it was the Obama team that came to power intent on changing the human dynamics of US-Israel ties, making it a more “normal,” less “special” relationship. Beyond the stillborn call for a settlement freeze, this “normalization” extended to such truly strategic decisions as Washington’s refusal to share with Israel information about the secret Iran nuclear negotiations. The administration correctly points to the new ten-year memorandum of understanding on military aid as the clearest sign of its commitment to Israel’s security and well-being, but it is important to note that an agreement for security assistance that Congress was likely to fund anyway came at a cost to Israel — an unprecedented demand from the White House that Israel refuse and return any additional monies a new Congress might choose to allocate for Israel’s defense needs as well as the phase-out of Israel’s long-held privilege of offshore procurement. Having a progressive president endorse a decade of security assistance may have its political advantages for Israel but add it up and the generous package of U.S. military aid, substantial as it is, is less generous than it appears.
  • Though not obviously apparent, one cannot divorce the Obama administration’s closing critique of Israel from aspects of its broader regional strategy: a disengagement from the “swamp” of Middle East problems, a rebalancing between Iran and its longtime Sunni foes (and in this case, Iran’s Jewish foe), and a de facto welcoming of Russia as a major player in the regional Great Game. While there are strong ideological reasons for the Obama administration to trim the political sails of the Netanyahu government, the distancing from Israel also has the effect of weakening the U.S.-led “team” of pro-Western states, thereby advancing the three-pronged strategic narrative outlined above. What has gone largely unremarked is that this strategy has resulted in the fact that the United States and its allies are today in the weakest regional position since at least the 1979 Iranian revolution and perhaps since the 1956 Suez crisis, which makes it either a spectacular failure or spectacular success, depending on one’s goal, but spectacular nonetheless.

Thankfully, with spine, wisdom and leadership, none of this is irreparable. U.S.-Israel relations can be righted by a new administration determined to restore intimacy and common purpose to the partnership. Washington can even advance Israeli-Palestinian peace if the White House is willing to think beyond the failed, top-down principles enunciated with great passion, if not great brevity, by Secretary of State Kerry. Instead, there is real potential for progress if the new administration pursues creative ideas of bottom-up diplomacy, persistent state-building efforts, Palestinian institutional reform and realistic understandings with Israel on settlement construction that differentiate between areas almost universally understood to remain inside Israel under any future agreement and agreed limitations on building elsewhere.

If US President-elect Trump wants to undo the damage to US-Israel relations over recent months, it is not enough to mend fences with the Israeli government, he will need a whole new approach to US leadership in the Middle East.

But none of this can truly succeed unless the Trump administration decides to make a broader re-commitment of U.S. leadership to the Middle East, shoring up allies beleaguered by America’s disappearing act; reconciling antagonisms between and among our friends (e.g. Egypt v. Saudi Arabia) that festered without our steady hand on the rudder and had the effect of weakening our collective security; countering the windfall security and political gains enjoyed by Iran and its local proxies that Washington seemed to provide as a gratuity for the nuclear agreement; and helping to shape the post-Aleppo/(hopefully) post-Mosul strategic map of the northern Middle East.

While the Trump administration may come to office eager to reverse the negative spiral of U.S.-Israel relations, the real damage to that relationship emanates from something deeper than a woeful Security Council resolution, an ill-conceived obsession with settlements or a personal grudge against this or that Israeli politician. Rather, the real damage to Israel’s security comes from something deeper — the reluctance of Israel’s superpower patron to act like one. And unless the new president is willing to invest in a wholly new strategy of American leadership, no amount of feel-good, cigar-chomping, back-slapping intimacy between president and prime minister can repair the damage to vital security interests Israel has suffered in recent years as a result of the diminished role and influence of the Jewish state’s great power ally.

Robert Satloff is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


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