Obama stands up to Trump (and Israel)

US Politics
on 24 Comments
Just yesterday, the Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements, demanding a complete end to settlement activity, and holding the settlements a violation of international law. For the first time, the US allowed such a resolution to pass – abstaining rather than vetoing the resolution as it always had in the past. The resolution’s passage was a huge slap in the face to Donald Trump’s overnight efforts, with Israel and Egypt, to seize control of Middle East diplomacy weeks before he is inaugurated as president. 
In the days before the vote, word had spread that the Obama administration was considering abstaining, rather than vetoing the resolution. Israeli officials reacted with predictable fury, bringing intensive pressure on Egypt to withdraw its draft resolution. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tweeted a late-night demand that the US veto the resolution. Trump responded with his own middle-of-the-night tweet, also insisting that the Obama administration veto the resolution. Trump – who was still, we should remember, a civilian with no governmental authority – then called Egyptian President Sisi, and held what Sisi’s spokesperson described as a wide-ranging discussion on Middle East issues, including the settlement resolution. In response to that call, Egypt announced it was withdrawing its own draft, with officials acknowledging that the goal was to provide the incoming Trump administration free rein to determine its own Middle East policy.
At that point four Council members (Malaysia, Senegal, Venezuela and New Zealand) decided to promote the Egyptian resolution without Cairo, and the discussion and vote were rescheduled for Friday afternoon. The vote was 14 in favor with one – Washington’s – abstention.
There are three important considerations regarding this vote. One, the resolution means the Obama administration is tacitly acknowledging the inadequacy of its earlier policy that claimed rhetorically to condemn settlements, but in fact vetoed any resolution that might actually have an impact on Israel’s settlement violations. (The US vetoed a similar Security Council resolution in 2011.) Despite UN Ambassador Samantha Power’s post-vote speech decrying how Israel is allegedly treated differently than every other country at the United Nations, the US position speaks volumes about the stark reality of Israeli violations. It is a huge contribution to Obama’s legacy on the Middle East.
The resolution is also important because of its operative language – far stronger than most earlier Council drafts even attempted. It condemns the very establishment of the settlements in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory as having “no legal validity” and constituting “a flagrant violation under international law,” while demanding that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities.” In language clearly aimed at Israeli efforts to derail growing European prohibitions on allowing settlement-produced goods into the European Union, it calls on all countries “to distinguish…between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” In its introduction it condemns “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition” of the occupied territory, including “the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians.” (There is also a condemnation of efforts to change the “status” of the occupied territory, which Israel could conceivably claim refers to efforts to build international recognition of Palestine as a “state,” but the framework clearly implies condemnation of the actions of the occupying power, not the occupied population.)
And third, the process throws into even starker relief the threat posed by Trump’s off-the-cuff pro-Israel actions, far more extreme than those of even the most pro-Israeli administrations in US history – especially when those actions are tied to his assertion of unbridled power even before being sworn in. Trump is still a private citizen; it remains an open question – that should be immediately investigated by the US Justice Department – whether his direct engagement with the Egyptian president violates the Logan Act’s prohibition of any non-authorized US citizen negotiating US foreign policy with a foreign government.
The next four weeks – the last of President Obama’s term – will likely remain contentious as the Trump operation attempts to usurp more presidential power in the interest of Trump’s extremist agenda. Once he comes into power, Palestinian rights will likely be among the first to be threatened. After the historic UN vote, the Israeli ambassador called Friday “A bad day for this Council.” He was wrong. This was one of the Council’s best days in a while. We should savor it – without a lot of work, we’re not likely to see too many more days like this any time soon.
Bennis first posted these comments on her Facebook page. 
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24 Responses

  1. just
    December 24, 2016, 10:48 am

    “Trump is still a private citizen; it remains an open question – that should be immediately investigated by the US Justice Department – whether his direct engagement with the Egyptian president violates the Logan Act’s prohibition of any non-authorized US citizen negotiating US foreign policy with a foreign government. ”

    Thanks very much for pointing this out. It’s surreal to witness this transition. It’s an enduring shame that’s gonna leave a mark.

    (Then there’s his other myriad conflicts of interest…)

    “This was one of the Council’s best days in a while. We should savor it – without a lot of work, we’re not likely to see too many more days like this any time soon.”

    The world spoke yesterday. The US finally got out of the way. I’m delighted and ready for “a lot of work”!

    • just
      December 24, 2016, 11:04 am

      wrt to your point about Trump’s latest trespass:

      “Trump intervenes to sideline Obama over Israeli settlements

      Egypt postpones UN security council vote on critical resolution after Israeli PM asks Trump’s transition team for help

      …On Thursday Trump issued a statement of opposition to any decision not to use the US veto on the resolution.

      He said in a statement: “The resolution being considered at the United Nations security council regarding Israel should be vetoed. As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.”

      The timing of some of the contacts – between Netanyahu and Trump’s transition team, and between Trump’s team and Egypt to set up a phone call between leaders – remains unclear, but it appears Trump called Sisi after the cancellation of the vote.

      Unlike Trump’s other recent interventions in US foreign policy, which have largely flagged up his often contradictory intentions, on this occasion he appears to have deliberately interposed himself in an issue of current US and international diplomacy.

      Sisi’s spokesman, Alaa Yousef, said on Friday that the two had agreed to give Trump’s incoming administration a chance to tackle the issue.

      “During the call they discussed regional affairs and developments in the Middle East, and in that context the draft resolution in front of the security council on Israeli settlement,” Yousef said.

      In an unintended slip referring to Trump’s status, he added: “The presidents agreed on the importance of affording the new US administration the full chance to deal with all dimensions of the Palestinian case with a view of achieving a full and final settlement.” …”

      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/23/trump-intervenes-to-sideline-obama-over-israeli-settlements

  2. Jasonius Maximus
    December 24, 2016, 11:06 am

    There is also a fourth and very important consideration at play here. That is that President Obama finally (albeit very late in the game) took a leap of faith in favor of justice and woke up this morning to near unanimous support from the American people!

    Outside of some very loud complaints from a few very influential Israeli special interest groups and an extremely tiny Zionist block of ring-wing American Jews, the sky hasn’t fallen and the overwhelming majority of Americans aren’t rioting in the streets. In fact, it seems quite the opposite and they are glad that American interests and International Law is finally being placed ahead of Israel’s personal, racist and greedy interests.

    Now if only the rest of Washington, Congress especially, could open their eyes and see that their voters will gladly back them on this as long as they are willing to ween themselves off of the money and influence being dangled in front of them by this rogue foreign entity.

    • Atlantaiconoclast
      December 24, 2016, 11:38 am

      Plenty of non Jews were very upset about this move by Obama.

      Just visit theconservativetreehouse.com and see for yourself. I think these people could be persuaded, IF American interests were highlighted.

  3. Talkback
    December 24, 2016, 12:41 pm

    “Just yesterday, the Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements, demanding a complete end to settlement activity, and holding the settlements a violation of international law. For the first time, the US allowed such a resolution to pass – abstaining rather than vetoing the resolution as it always had in the past. ”

    Why does everybody keeps saying that at the moment? The US allready abstained in 1980: Sec Res 446, 452, 465, 471 and 476 regarding the settlements and their violation of the Geneva Conventions. Sec Res 465 even demanded to dismantle allready existing settlements.

    • oldgeezer
      December 24, 2016, 12:55 pm

      Oh two guesses why and the first one doesn’t count. Zionists need to portray this as something highly unusual and unprecedented. Something that justifies it be fixed in light of that. It’s a betrayal and they are a victim. All about controlling the message instead of dealing with actual facts which go against their actions and policies.

      Their main problem is that this is now a part of international law. The secondary problem is how to shut down BDS which they try to characterize as antisemitic but which should now attempt to restrict itself to this rightfully damning resolution.

      Once again Israel showed it is clearly a rogue state by publicly stating it will not even attempt to adhere to international law, international humanitarian law, Geneva Conventions and UNSC resolutions.

      Nutty and co are intent on driving Israel into pariah status.

      • Citizen
        December 24, 2016, 5:09 pm

        Please spread the word that Israel has announced its intent to thumb its nose at the international community, even if Obama does not like it, as Israel thinks Trump will support its’ lebenraum policy thanks to Ivanna-Kushner-Friedman ilk embedded in Trump family & business..

      • Talkback
        December 25, 2016, 5:29 am

        Oldgeezer: “Zionists need to portray this as something highly unusual and unprecedented. Something that justifies it be fixed in light of that. It’s a betrayal and they are a victim. All about controlling the message instead of dealing with actual facts which go against their actions and policies.”

        While this is an excellent argument in general, I rather say that Bennis is actually a victim of this Hasbara trolling.

    • oldgeezer
      December 24, 2016, 1:27 pm

      @Talkback

      I am not sure about the voting records of all resolutions but to clarify your comment… the US did not abstain on Rss 476. It voted in favour. Res 476 declared Israeli actions wrt to Jerusalem null and void and in breach of law particularly the GC.

      It further castigated Israel for not adhering to other resolutions (ie related to settlements etc)

      Israel is undeniably a rogue state.

    • talknic
      December 24, 2016, 5:43 pm

      It’s stupid. Purposefully muddied waters.

      This is a Chapter VI resolution from which the US has abstained numerous times, i.e., had no effect.

      The five permanent UNSC Members cannot veto or vote against International Law or the UN Charter. They can only abstain from a resolution that reaffirms and/or emphasizes or reiterates International Lawn and the UN Charter.

  4. catalan
    December 24, 2016, 1:41 pm

    In a huge coincidence, next year Obama will receive a few hundred million for his leadership center from Qatar, the Saudis, etc. Still more surprisingly, his wife and daughters will also work there, of course all in the interest of the next generation of leaders.
    It’s a wonderful thing when international law, justice for the oppressed (some of them) and one’s own business interests all align.
    There is a budding hedge fund manager in one of DC’s private school, well two of them, who in a few short years will marry some president’s daughters.
    It’s all so mysterious, how things work out. But of course, I forgot. I can’t understand such big moral things.

    • Mooser
      December 24, 2016, 6:59 pm

      “In a huge coincidence, next year Obama will receive a few hundred million for his leadership center”

      And in another “huge coincidence”, commenter “catalan” who should know better, forgets how a “foundation” works, or even that there is such a thing.

      And of course, the Obama’s have a long and disgraceful record of mixing private and public business, don’t they?

  5. Ossinev
    December 24, 2016, 4:09 pm

    Herr Yahoo must be longing for the good old days coming back soon when Trump becomes his latest puppet:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrtuBas3Ipw

    I do hope that Donald appreciates the role.

  6. Citizen
    December 24, 2016, 4:13 pm

    We Americans need to tell our representatives in Congress tat we favor Obama’s stance on those illegal settlements, and he should have voted in favor of ending them, not merely abstained.

    • Kay24
      December 25, 2016, 6:03 am

      Good point. He does not seem to have ANY other American leader supporting him and his decision to veto this resolution. At the end, those who hate Obama will run with the Israeli propaganda, and those who have the courage should stand with him and say so.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 25, 2016, 6:41 am

        kay, so many pandering to the fundraisers for the next election.

      • Kay24
        December 25, 2016, 8:16 am

        Which makes me wonder if they really care at all for their country, and have any loyalty to their President and party. This is utter selfishness, and self interest to levels that are disgusting.

      • CigarGod
        December 25, 2016, 11:36 am

        I wish it was as b/w and easy to understand as that.
        Some people do react as emotionally as you say. But, as is often said here, a huge number of our leaders are psychopaths (some say all humans are). If this is true, they choose their alliances based on how it advantages them. Annie says this in her comment about campaign donations.
        At times like these…and I generally feel like all my life has been lived in times like these…I get out my copy of The Prince, and The Art of War. For dessert, I may cut into a slice of Julius Caesar.
        Seasoning Greetings to all.

  7. amigo
    December 25, 2016, 2:41 am

    Trump is going to make America great again but he is going to make israel “greater”.

    Screw the un ,screw the eu.screw international law ,they all suck ,everybody sucks ,screw them all.

    Who needs the rest of the world ,when youve got the NYT,WAPO,WALL STREET.CNN,FOX NEWS ,Congress aaand in a few weeks ,the whitehouse

  8. Ossinev
    December 25, 2016, 10:17 am

    Leaving aside the question of loony Donald’s potential breaches of US law in conducting foreign policy as a private citizen and the Yahoo’s blatant attempts to deligitimise poor old Senegal and New Zealand I think the most interesting scenario to watch in the coming months will be how various US and EU institutions and political bodies twist and turn to address the role and purpose of BDS. The latter is currently under faux attacks for allegedly trying to “deligitimise” poor old Israel. Now one can hope it will be clearly seen as a movement which is supporting a legally binding UNSC resolution in relation to settlements which are in breach of this resolution.
    How in particular will the various Israel First Senators and Congressmen get their titanic intellects round this conundrum. Perhaps as with the Yahoo they will start pressing for the US to leave the UN altogether as it is plainly biased towards their beloved country(not America silly I mean Israel).

  9. JLewisDickerson
    December 25, 2016, 2:03 pm

    RE: “Obama stands up to Trump (and Israel)”

    MY COMMENT: Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for Netanyahu to publicly warn Obama last month* not to make any Israeli-Palestinian moves during the remainder of his term. Yes, in mid-November (a mere week after the election) Netanyahu was trying to put Obama out to pasture because he apparently considered Trump to already be the new president, and Obama should just cool his heels (and perhaps twiddle his thumbs) for the remainder of his term.
    Of course, I doubt that Netanyahu would object to Obama doing a bit of Stepin Fetchit in the last few weeks of his presidency.
    No harm in that.
    No harm at all!

    * SEE: “Benjamin Netanyahu Warns President Obama To Avoid Lame Duck Mideast Peace Push” | by Ron Kampeas | November 16, 2016
    LINK – http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/354591/benjamin-netanyahu-warns-president-obama-to-avoid-lame-duck-mideast-peace-p/

    P.S. As to the status of an agreement in Israel to allow fuller access for egalitarian services (where men and women pray together) at the Western Wall, Netanyahu said the situation was “complicated” and appealed for an end to public pressure on him from American Jews.

    • JLewisDickerson
      December 26, 2016, 1:26 pm

      P.S. The Forward appropriately characterized Netanyahu’s comment as being a warning, but I see it more as a case of Netanyahu having PUBLICLY ‘double-dog dared’ Obama not to make any Israeli-Palestinian moves during the last two months of his term (irrespective of the Constitution and U.S./Federal law, which Netanyahu apparently considers subordinate to whatever his whims are). The legal rationale for Israel’s supremacy is not immediately apparent to me.
      Curiously, I am not aware of Netanyahu’s having notified any lame duck state governors of similar demands.

  10. iResistDe4iAm
    December 26, 2016, 7:20 am

    “This was one of the Council’s best days in a while. We should savor it – without a lot of work, we’re not likely to see too many more days like this any time soon.”

    It only took the coward President Obama 7 years, 11 months, 4 days to merely abstain on a token but irrelevant UN resolution, just ONE of dozens of token but irrelevant UN resolutions relating to the same conflict that was greenlighted by a UN resolution 69 years ago.

    How long should we wait for the next token but irrelevant UN resolution?

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