While speaking at an event for wounded soldiers in the IDF, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ripped into Obama for supporting the anti-Israel Resolution passed by the UNSC on December 23rd.
“All American presidents since Carter upheld the American commitment not to try to dictate permanent settlement terms to Israel at the Security Council. And yesterday, in complete contradiction of this commitment, including an explicit commitment by President Obama himself in 2011, the Obama administration carried out a shameful anti-Israel ploy at the UN. I would like to tell you that the resolution that was adopted, not only doesn’t bring peace closer, it drives it further away. It hurts justice; it hurts the truth. Think about this absurdity, half a million human beings are being slaughtered in Syria. Tens of thousands are being butchered in Sudan. The entire Middle East is going up in flames and the Obama administration and the Security Council choose to gang up on the only democracy in the Middle East – the State of Israel. What a disgrace.”
Criticism has been aimed at the Prime Minister for waiting until Obama’s departure from the Whitehouse to ream into him. Bibi has had eight years to criticize Obama, and he’s choosing to do it now over a UN Security Council Resolution? Why didn’t he do it at a more important time like when Obama tried freezing military aid to Israel during the 2014 Gaza War?
The observation that Prime Minister Netanyahu has missed out on opportunities to criticize Obama is not only irrelevant to whether or not he should have spoken out now, it’s also arguable that the Prime Minister didn’t “miss out” as much as he purposefully remained silent on many occasions.
Those who argue that Bibi has taken far too long to criticize Barack Obama must realize that both Netanyahu and Obama have attempted to salvage a perception of friendship on the global stage – albeit poorly. It has never been a secret that Bibi and Obama aren’t fond of one another despite trying to make it seem like they are. More important to note is that the power dynamic between the United States and Israel is not set up such that the Israeli Prime Minister can offer whatever criticism he wants at whatever time. Let’s not pretend that the power to criticize lay equally in the hands of Netanyahu as it does for Obama.
In most of the circumstances where Bibi has passed on the opportunity to condemn Obama, it likely occurred at a time where condemnation would have produced outcomes more for the worse than for the better. When Obama tried freezing military aid during the Gaza war, it wouldn’t have helped if Netanyahu went on TV and condemned Obama during a time where he needed him. The same is true of the Iran deal. Had Netanyahu criticized Obama amidst negotiations with Iran, it could have reinforced Obama’s relationship with Iran. A thinned-skinned Obama may have been offended that Israel was trying to meddle in negotiations that they were not apart of.
But Bibi is presiding over a time where he knows both that his adversary is leaving office, and that a new companion is coming into office. It is this circumstance that permits Netanyahu to offer his condemnation of Obama without any repercussions. After all, the Resolution already passed. He’s taking action now, and that’s a good thing. It’s not like he shouldn’t take action now just because he hasn’t in the past 8 years. Did those now calling Bibi out for only speaking up after eight years speak out themselves when Bibi was silent? And if you did, did you evaluate each case and calculate whether speaking out against Obama at the time would have been in Israel’s best interest? We have to imagine that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to speak out or not rely almost entirely on that – the best interest of Israel.
So because the resolution already passed, and Barack Obama is on his way out, Bibi is right to openly criticize and condemn Obama for supporting a resolution that isn’t much of a peace resolution, but instead a hate-driven effort to delegitimize Israel. The Resolution is not only anti-Israel in nature; it also ignores the truer and more significant upheavals in the Middle East – such as the crisis in Syria.
So, why wouldn’t Bibi lambast Obama for this?
This resolution labels the Western Wall, the holiest place currently accessible to Jews, as “occupied territory.” The holiest place for Jews is the Temple Mount, which is currently controlled by Muslims, and inaccessible to Jews. The Resolution undermines Israel’s right to build on it’s own land much like any country would. This refers to both the building of new settlements, and “natural growth” within existing West Bank communities. It also calls on all countries to not recognize the West Bank as part of Israel.
The full transcript for UNSC Resolution 2334 can be found here.
It may be true that Netanyahu has taken a back seat when it comes to criticizing Obama on Israel. He didn’t speak out during Obama’s negotiation on the Iran deal. He didn’t speak out when Obama tried freezing military aid to Israel during their war with Gaza in the summer of 2014. When he addressed congress in March of 2015, he actually praised Obama for his support of Israel.
But what good does it do to complain about it at this time? I would hope that those criticizing Netanyahu for being soft on Obama the past eight years don’t argue that, for that reason, he shouldn’t have made the comments on this most recent occasion. Moreover, the instances where the Prime Minister was silent deserve to be looked at individually, and assessed whether or not it would have been in Israel’s best interest to condemn Barack Obama.
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