Abstention at the UN, or the Owl of Minerva of American Diplomacy

Middle East
on 22 Comments

The only thing that is regrettable about the Obama administration decision not to veto the UN Security Council’s resolution demanding an end to the Israeli settlement activity on Palestinian lands is that it arrived so late in the day. I do not, of course, mean the calendar date of December 23, 2016, when the vote took place, but rather the very end of Obama’s second term in office.

Like the Hegelian rendition of the Owl of Minerva, the bird of American diplomacy took its flight at dusk, when things were already grey and it was too late to effect a real change on the ground. Were Obama to assume this principled stance at the outset of his renewed mandate, he would have maybe (just maybe!) been able to exert enough pressure on the Israelis to go back to the negotiating table with the view to a lasting resolution of the conflict and a creation of a viable Palestinian state. Instead, we are privy to a last-minute scramble to ensure a “legacy” that is certain to be dismantled by the incoming Trump team.

For, particularly with regard to Israel/Palestine, we know what is to come in the near future from the President-Elect’s corner. Given his admiration for Netanyahu’s “separation barrier,” seen as a model for the proposed wall on the southern border of the United States and given his choice of the ambassador to Israel, namely bankruptcy attorney David Friedman, Trump will act to guarantee the impossibility of Mideast peace.

There is, actually, a curious parallel between the expected policies of the new administration in the sphere of fossil fuels and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Both can be summed up by the slogan associated with Sarah Palin’s failed vice-presidential bid: “Burn, baby, burn!” In the face of catastrophic climate change, the plan is to increase, instead of diminishing, American reliance on fossil fuels; in the case of the fading chance for peace through a two-state solution, the idea is to take sides, definitively and univocally, with one of the parties to the conflict (Israel), while defunding the UN along the way. If both policy developments proceed as expected, then they will function as accelerants—in the dual sense of the word—for the collapse of a livable environment and for the intensification of hostilities in the Middle East.

Obama’s endgame is the same when it comes to fossil fuels and Israel/Palestine: as part of his legacy project, he is signing decrees to protect the oceans from oil drilling and finally standing up to Israel’s aggressive and unchecked settlement expansion. Should we judge the last eight years by these eleventh-hour attempts, the looming inauguration would appear to be a radical break with a “progressive” agenda on environmental and diplomatic fronts. But the true break is between what has been going on throughout Obama’s consecutive terms and the very final stretch of his tenure in the White House. To stick to our examples, the fossil fuel industry has thrived on his watch and settlement construction heated up, backed by record-breaking “aid” the US granted Israel.

For those still after the silver lining of Trump’s surprising victory this November, look no further. As I have observed in the LA Review of Books’ “Philosophical Salon”: “What the election of Trump signals is that the ideological screens concealing … unmitigated catastrophes have fallen and that we can no longer congratulate ourselves on symbolic victories while moving at full speed toward environmental and social collapse.” This applies, among other things, to the long-standing American policies on fossil fuel and Israel, draped, until now, in the attractive ideological veils of a transition to “clean energy” and diplomatic neutrality, respectively.

Despite all the political exertions by the outgoing administration, Trump reveals the truth of Obama, as well as of the previous US presidents. Tardily does the Owl of Minerva spread its wings; the Obama legacy might well be Trump himself.

About Michael Marder

Michael Marder is IKERBASQUE Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. His most recent monographs include The Philosopher’s Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium (2014), Pyropolitics: When the World Is Ablaze (2015), and Dust (2016). He is now completing a book, co-authored with Luce Irigaray and titled Through Vegetal Being.

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22 Responses

  1. AddictionMyth
    December 24, 2016, 1:42 pm

    ‘a last-minute scramble to ensure a “legacy” that is certain to be dismantled by the incoming Trump team’

    This is wrong. In fact it was a huge victory for Obama and peace (even if one of the few). It was a huge humiliation for Trump who discovered to his chagrin that he couldn’t dictate to other dictators, and now he is saddled with the albatross of Israel, which most of his supporters despised to begin with. Plus Nikki Haley is a complete wild card: she is naive but principled – a dangerously unpredictable combination. This will only get better.

  2. talknic
    December 25, 2016, 7:30 am

    When is this nonsense going to end?

    “The only thing that is regrettable about the Obama administration decision not to veto the UN Security Council’s resolution demanding an end to the Israeli settlement activity on Palestinian lands is … “

    UN Member States cannot veto resolutions that reaffirm, emphasize and/or reiterate existing binding Law, the UN Charter and relevant conventions. They can only abstain.

    Despite abstention, the resolution was adopted unanimously by the voting members as were numerous UNSC Chapt VI resolutions in the past.

    —————-

    “Instead, we are privy to a last-minute scramble to ensure a “legacy” that is certain to be dismantled by the incoming Trump team … “

    Interesting theory. Exactly how can the Trump administration dismantle an already adopted UNSC resolution ?

    • Annie Robbins
      December 25, 2016, 7:35 am

      i don’t think they can dismantled it. they would need at least nine yeahs on a counter resolution, not going to happen.

    • Jon66
      December 25, 2016, 10:52 am

      Talknic,

      What did you think of this part of the resolution, “Calls upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;”.?

      • talknic
        December 26, 2016, 4:28 am

        Jon66.

        It’s there as a matter of course. It has been illegal since at least 1933 for states to recognize territories acquired by any coercive measure, aka, war

        In essence it appears to recognize the right of states to boycott Israeli goods, services that exploit resources in the occupied territories

  3. sulai
    December 25, 2016, 9:40 am

    I believe the right wing Israelis got the perfect candidate for their go to war with Iran plan. Donald Trump is as clueless as George W was when the neocons selected him years ago and Trump can create enough distraction with his huge ego that there will be plenty of sideshows and domestic chaos in America keeping everyone busy while the war agenda will be pursued for Israel. He is currently assembling a right wing Israeli and American pro war team with Tillerson probably the closest to a cool head.

  4. Maghlawatan
    December 25, 2016, 10:17 am

    It is a sign from the world that it has lost patience with Israel. Trump will be acting against world opinion. Dems will get votes by acting against Israel. The Israeli government miscalculated. The next decade will be fascinating. ‘Abbas played a blinder . Zionists cannot buy respect or legality.

    • xanadou
      December 25, 2016, 5:34 pm

      Maghlawatan, “Dems will get votes by acting against Israel.”

      If there were ever a hint of a Dems’ attempt to pursue an independent and fair assessment of israel, said Dems would have forced the clinton woman to cool her embarrassing public declarations of obedient fealty towards israel.

      • Maghlawatan
        December 25, 2016, 5:59 pm

        In 4 years Israel will be a complete pariah. YESHA is immoral. Reform and Conservative Jews will turn away. Only the Orthodox and Evangelical Rapture people will be counted on to side with the Zionists. There will be votes in standing up to the Hebrew madness. Let’s all hope Netanyahu leads Israel until 2020.

      • DaBakr
        December 26, 2016, 1:09 am

        @mg

        if i had a nickel for every time i had to remind people that if i had i nickel for every time it was predicted that israel would soon be a “pariah” state and and the terrible things that will soon be happening to it i would be as rich as trump

      • talknic
        December 26, 2016, 4:50 am

        @ DaBakr December 26, 2016, 1:09 am

        “if i had a nickel for every time i had to remind people that if i had i nickel for every time it was predicted that israel would soon be a “pariah” state… “

        A state with hundreds of UN resolutions against it for having been in breach of the law and the UN Charter is already a pariah.

  5. Citizen
    December 25, 2016, 12:40 pm

    Trump will give more money to Israel in a myriad of ways, and he will pressure the UN by not funding it. Let’s see how long before that resolution is cancelled.

  6. xanadou
    December 25, 2016, 5:56 pm

    “a last minute attempt to ensure a ‘legacy”.

    Obama already has a legacy that will haunt him and History, as attested by the too many graves, including mass graves and a once-thriving, now-devastated economy and infrastructure of a large part of the ME. And the legacy of a relentlessly crumbling US economy with a national debt that is higher and growing faster than the GDP:
    http://www.usdebtclock.org/

    Add to that the tragedy that this Failure may taint any future Af-Am person with presidential aspirations in a country whose racism is here to stay for a long time to come.

  7. talknic
    December 25, 2016, 6:58 pm

    Dec 25, 2016 10:41 PM

    Israeli Panel to Approve Construction of 618 More Homes in East Jerusalem

    Since Trump’s victory, there has been a sharp increase in building plans for the holy city, and the number of permits issued this year is more than triple than in 2015.

    http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.761337

  8. LoD
    December 25, 2016, 9:12 pm

    I believe that this is a uniquely positive time for pro-Palestine public commentary.
    With the recent United Nations occupation resolution we can easily contact stores selling occupation products and inquire about their policies relative to the stunning legal UN resolution.
    Next, with the US about to ship three billion dollars to Israel, without accountability, we can ask our federal representatives for an accounting of how much goes to the occupation.
    Additionally, we can ask about all of the US military weapons carried by Israeli occupying soldiers and their relationship to aiding and abetting the occupation against indigenous Palestinians.
    State officials should be asked about state policies towards importing and selling occupation products.
    In this period before the January 20th Paris Conference, repeated simple requests may bring tremendous pressure on our representatives and stores.

  9. xanadou
    December 26, 2016, 11:53 pm
    • Annie Robbins
      December 27, 2016, 3:13 am

      xanadou, here’s my favorite part

      He’s particularly spooked by a meeting of foreign ministers scheduled for January 15 in Paris where, according to a senior official in Jerusalem, the United States and France may advance some other diplomatic move as part of the French peace initiative.

      here’s what it doesn’t say http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.761456?v=BC920F2BA4A86A9B9CA89C4D7E8FAB9D

      meeting scheduled for January 15 in Paris as part of the French peace initiative, a series of decisions on the peace process will be made. These will immediately be brought to the UN Security Council for a vote and will be adopted there before January 20.

      exciting. over 70 countries are invited. 5 days before obama leaves office, which means the US could abstain another tougher resolution. obama’s parting shot.

      • Talkback
        December 27, 2016, 6:58 am

        France’s UN ambassador said that “the aim of the conference is to show both sides “how much they themselves have an interest in peace.””

        While Israel boycotts the effort, Palestine will participate in French summit. There goes the Hasbara troll’s effort to claim that it’s the Palestinians who have not interest in peace.

    • Kay24
      December 27, 2016, 5:52 am

      Neither did this:

      ““The Palestinians are waging a diplomatic and legal war against Israel. That’s the strategy,” Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said in a phone interview. “Their strategy is not to negotiate an agreement with Israel because a deal is give and take. They want take and take.”

      This from a man who works for the biggest welfare nation in the world. How many billions of dollars have they taken from us so far?

      http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/26/world/middleeast/israel-settlements-un-security-council-benjamin-netanyahu-obama.html?utm_source=huffingtonpost.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=pubexchange

  10. amigo
    December 27, 2016, 11:14 am

    How,s this for a good laugh.

    “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Israel’s UN delegation last week to skip a General Assembly vote on a proposal to establish an international mechanism for gathering evidence for war crimes during Syria’s civil war.” Haaretz

    read more: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.761662

    This from the same guy who on friday made the following statement , as did his fellow hypocrites.

    ““Think about this absurdity,” Netanyahu said on Saturday night. “Half a million human beings are being slaughtered in Syria … 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.”

    This has to qualify as the the end of chutzpah.

  11. talknic
    December 27, 2016, 6:20 pm

    “Think about this absurdity,” Netanyahu said on Saturday night. “Half a million human beings are being slaughtered in Syria … 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.”

    He didn’t check B 4 opening his fat wailing gob? How absurdly Zionistic

    The UNSC voted on Syrian resolutions prior to the reminder to Israel of its legal obligations

    https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12637.doc.htm

    https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12651.doc.htm
    – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/12/reportedly-resolution-egyptians/#comment-863891

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