Obama’s Not-So-Israel Legacy

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As the sun begins to set on Obama’s eight years in office, the legacy President Obama will leave behind may come down to four things:

  1. The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare)
  2. The (failed) Red Line with Syria
  3. The Arab Spring
  4. The tarnished relationship with America’s biggest ally in the Middle East, Israel.

While each of the four points during Obama’s presidency have left their mark on America, only one point has cost America more than the strained ties with Bibi Netanyahu and the state of Israel.

Upon entering office in 2009, the Obama administration sought a ten-month settlement freeze, which went directly against the previous agreement forged during the Bush administration. The agreement between the United States and Israel had originally created the formula for Israel to build settlements. The settlement project took place along the so-called Green Line, marking the borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and could continue as long as Israel built within the boundaries of existing settlements, not outside them. This would ensure the construction would not affect the amount of land available for a Palestinian state.

Fast forward to last week when the United Nations passed a resolution telling Israel to halt the building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The resolution called Israel’s construction in Palestinian territory a “flagrant violation under international law” and an obstacle to peace. This halt on Israel’s settlement construction is an attempt to salvage a two-state solution. UNSC resolution defines settlements as every piece of territory that was taken by Israel in the war of June 1967. This includes the Western Wall and the Golan Heights.

While the resolution passed 14-0, the United States abstained instead of using its lateral veto, which it has used in the past to show support for its ally in the Middle East. This break from diplomatic tradition has caused even more of a strain on America/Israel relations, which, up until last week, many did not think it possible. 

Over the eight years of Obama’s presidency, the relationship between America and Israel has been tumultuous, at best. And last week United States/Israel relations reached a boiling point with Obama’s decision to not block the United Nations Security Council resolution. This decision has caused a hyper-politicized showdown, making the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral look like child’s play.

The impact of the United States abstention has created a diplomatic hot mess and Israel is not taking this lightly. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office released a statement condemning Obama and his administration for failing to protect Israel at the United Nations. As Netanyahu adds the United States to Israel’s Burn Book, Americans and Israelis alike are fuming over another botched move by Obama, pointing out that this resolution is not a path to peace in the Middle East or to a two-state solution and, according to House Speaker Paul Ryan, the vote against Israel is a blow to peace and sets a dangerous precedent for further diplomatic efforts to isolate and demonize Israel.

It is apparent the resolution is unbalanced and takes aim at Israel with America leading the charge, especially since previous peace agreements have focused on both Israel and Palestine versus singling out Israel. However, it is important to point out that past peace agreements between Palestine and Israel have broken down not because of settlements, but because the Palestinian leadership refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state by requiring the so–called “right of return” of three million Palestinians to Israel proper.

The two-state solution would give both Palestine and Israel their own states, but with resolutions like the one just passed, it seems more like a continuation of war versus a proposal for peace, especially since it ignores previous concessions made by Israel, such as withdrawing from most of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the agreement to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians. 

As the Obama administration (*cough, cough* John Kerry *cough, cough*) blames Israeli settlements as the true obstacle to peace in the Middle East, the divide between America and Israel becomes more fractured, making the last three weeks of Obama’s presidency the true definition of a lame duck presidency. There is no question, Obama will spend the rest of his time in the White House playing defense as to why he burned the bridge with America’s greatest ally, possibly destroying the only hope for a pathway to peace in the Middle East. 

 

Mary Anna Mancuso, Political Strategist and Founder of PoliticalHype.com. She is a regular contributor to Political Storm.