It's not just conservatives who are furious with the Obama administration's shameful betrayal of Israel at the United Nations shortly before Christmas -- a number of leading Democrats are criticizing the move, which lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say further undermines both Israel's security, as well as America's bipartisan pro-Israel consensus. In his long-winded and unproductive speech this week, outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry spent an inordinate amount of time fixating on the issue of Israeli settlements, going out of his way to lambaste the "right-wing" government that Israeli voters have elected:
"The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements," Kerry said. "The result is that policies of this government, which the prime minister himself just described as more committed to settlements than any in Israel's history, are leading in the opposite direction. They're leading towards one state." Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Kerry pointedly noted, opposes a two-state solution, as do other members of the governing coalition.
Many Israelis see the two-state solution as an unrealistic pipe dream so long as Palestinians doggedly refuse to even recognize Israel as a Jewish state at all, with less than a quarter of Palestinians polled in favor of an outcome in which Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish nation. Indeed, Kerry had barely finished speaking when a Palestinian official reiterated his side's opposition to Israel's existence, saying that the Secretary of State's words changed nothing. Those stark realities notwithstanding, Kerry invoked the word "settlements" more than 40 times during his address, while mentioning "Hamas" just four times. A few thoughts:
(1) It's difficult to overstate the backwardness of a worldview that obsesses over Israel's settlements -- including housing developments within the Jewish Quarter of its own capital city -- while paying relatively scant attention to the Palestinians' anti-peace extremism. They will not recognize Israel as a legitimate Jewish state. They will not foreswear violence. They will not stop teaching their children to hate Israel and glorify the killing of Jews. They will not stop calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. These are the true, intransigent, violent barriers to peace, not Israeli settlements. These truths should be very obvious -- and they have been to US policymakers for decades. That's why the United States has always held the United Nations' virulently anti-Israel jackals at bay in Security Council proceedings. Until this administration's disgraceful abstention and alleged whipping of anti-Israel votes among other members last week, that is.
(2) Perhaps voters in Israel elected a harder-line government (in spite of, or perhaps because of, accusations of Obama administration meddling against Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Obama reportedly loathes) due to a prevailing suspicion that the Obama White House does not have Israel's back. Obama has a long history of pandering to Israel's adversaries, then brokered a disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, which Israel's leaders understandably view as an existential threat to their people. Is it any wonder that faced with these global headwinds and historically-hostile American posture, Israeli voters would err on the side of electing a muscular government that prioritizes the safety and security of its citizens? The Obama administration has actively helped to isolate Israel on the world stage, and Israelis don't trust American leadership right now. Kerry's bemoaning of their electoral decisions is therefore ironic; Obama's actions empowered the so-called "hardliners."
(3) Crucially, there is a very relevant (and fairly recent) history lesson here that is evidently lost on Obama and Kerry's "Smart Power" set. It lays bear the foolishness and myopia of the 'settlements' tunnel vision. We've seen this movie before, and some of us remember how it played out -- including incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. It's astonishing that this even needs to be said, but it does:
Israel's government unilaterally uprooted all settlements in Gaza back in 2005, forcibly removing thousands of its citizens from their homes in pursuit of peace. After the Israelis fully withdrew, the Palestinians in Gaza burned all Israeli remnants (including valuable resources) to the ground, then elected Hamas terrorists as their "government," which has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians and constructed terror tunnels. Settlements are not blocking peace. The Palestinians are, because their leadership in Gaza and the West Bank -- who have joined together on a number of occaions to form pro-terror unity governments -- do not want peace. Which is why the Obama administration's decision to make Israel's life even harder by validating Palestinian narratives among the international community is so reckless and indefensible.