In my recent post, “Are Jews The New Blacks,” I wondered whether Jews would continue to support Democrats as slavishly as they have in the past, including the recent past. Although it is obviously too soon to say, apparently many influential Democrats are worried and are rapidly attempting to put some daylight between them and Obama’s unpopular abandonment of the United States’s traditional protection of Israel in the Security Council.
Here are some recent examples:
Sen. Chuck Schumer
“Extremely frustrating, disappointing & confounding”
Sen. Chris Coons (just before UN vote)
“I urge the President to veto the resolution because it does nothing to advance peace or hope for a two state solution.”
Sen. Chris Murphy
In Hartford Courant: “Murphy Blasts U.N. On Israel Vote, Criticizes Obama”
Sen, Joe Manchin
“I urge the Obama administration to veto the United Nations resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building. I support two-party negotiations to reach agreement on any settlement issues, and this U.N. resolution is not the way to pursue peace between the Palestinian Authority and the state of Israel.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal
“Consistent with past policy, this administration must now veto this most recent misguided and one-sided attempt backed by the Palestinian Authority to isolate Israel and weaken the peace process…. The Obama administration’s decision to abstain from voting on this flagrantly one-sided resolution is unconscionable.”
Sen. Cory Booker
“One-sided resolutions in the UN Security Council that isolate Israel in the international community will not move us closer to a two-state solution and to peace. We need direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people, and I urge the Administration do everything in its power to stop this resolution from moving forward.”
Sen. Robert Menendez
“… a resolution without a clear purpose other than to continue to disproportionately target Israel. This resolution does nothing to further the prospects for peace in the region or for Israelis and Palestinians, it merely unfairly singles out Israel’s actions, ignoring any wrongdoing on the part of Palestinians.”
Sen. Mark Warner
“I am dismayed that the Administration departed from decades of U.S. policy by not vetoing the UN resolution regarding Israeli settlements…. Involvement at the UN, particularly via one-sided resolutions, is counterproductive to achieving a two-state solution.”
Sen. Ben Cardin
“Greatly disappointed at … abstention. This rushed resolution was 1-sided & does nothing to further peace & security of 2-state solution.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown
“I joined Senate colleagues urging the Administration to uphold its position opposing one-sided resolutions at the U.N. Security Council regarding Israel. Any lasting peace must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians, not imposed by the international community.”
Sen. Ron Wyden
“I am deeply disappointed that the administration set aside longstanding U.S. policy to allow such a one-sided resolution to pass. Actions like this will only take us further from the peace we all want to see.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
“As 87 of my colleagues and I wrote to President Obama earlier this year, one-sided resolutions at the UN are not helpful in trying to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and I call on the Administration to do everything in its power to make sure this resolution is not put forward or passed.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, Minority Whip
Before vote: “The resolution, as proposed, seeks to place responsibility for continued conflict fully on Israel and ignores violence and incitement by Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaderships. Any workable and long-lasting solution to this conflict must come about through direct, bilateral negotiations, and this resolution undermines that effort.”
After vote: “I am extremely disappointed by this action and today’s vote. Blaming Israel for the continuation of the conflict is not only wrong and unjust; it will also do nothing to move the parties closer to a peaceful and lasting solution. This resolution ignores the culpability of Palestinian leaders and groups for engaging in violent acts, inciting violence against civilians, and delegitimizing Jews’ ancient and historic connection to the land. Furthermore, the United States’s abstention risks lending legitimacy to efforts by Palestinians to impose their own solution through international fora and trough unjustified boycotts or divestment campaigns.
Rep. Eliot Engel (Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs) on MSNBC:
Abstention “a mistake…. ridiculous for the U.N. to censure Israel, with the acquiescence of the U.S., while people are dying in Syria and genocide is being committed in South Sudan…. a ‘parting shot out the door’ by President Obama…. he would have been a lot better off vetoing the resolution.”
I suspect Rep. Engel et al. would agree that not only Obama but the Democratic Party as well “would have been a lot better off” if he had vetoed the resolution, although it would be unfair to conclude that this widespread Democratic opposition is rooted in nothing but political self-interest. There certainly are, God knows (whether He or She is Jewish or not), many powerful reasons to oppose what Obama did that have nothing to do with partisan calculation. In any event it will be interesting to see whether the Sanders/Warren “progressives” join this chorus or sing a different tune. So far, like Hillary, they seem to be laying low.
Perhaps the most surprising and powerful argument against the rationale and effect of UN Resolution 2334 was made a couple of years ago to the Supreme Court by an influential former Democratic U.S. Senator, an argument that, although it has been mentioned in passing a few times, has not received the attention it deserves in the context of the current controversy. I am referring to the brief filed by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr., on behalf of former senator but then and now Secretary of State John Kerry in Zivotofsky v. Kerry (2015).
That case dealt with whether Congress could force the State Dept. to comply with a request by United States citizen parents to have their child’s birth certificate identify place of birth as Jerusalem, Israel, when, as General Verrilli stated over and over again in oral argument, that it is a “given” that “the official recognition position of the United States is that we are not recognizing any nation’s sovereignty over Jerusalem at this point until the parties work it out.”
After stating in the very first sentence of Secretary Kerry’s brief that “[t]he status of the city of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive and longstanding disputes in the Arab-Israeli conflict,” the brief then emphasized that “[f]or the last 60 years … the United States’ consistent foreign policy has been” that the issue of sovereignty over Jerusalem must “be decided by negotiations between the relevant parties within the peace process.” On the next page the brief insisted that “any unilateral action by the United States” that would recognize Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem “would critically compromise … the peace process,” would “undercut and discredit our facilitative role in promoting a negotiated settlement.” And, significantly: “For parallel reasons, the Executive does not officially recognize Palestinian claims to current sovereignty in Jerusalem….” (Emphasis added)
In enabling Resolution 2334, of course, the United States was the very opposite of neutral. That resolution condemned Israeli settlements and “occupation” of East Jerusalem as flagrantly illegal, but said nothing about Palestinians living in the same areas. It blamed Israel as solely responsible for the failure of the “peace process” and laid the foundation for severe penalties while saying virtually nothing about Palestinian intransigence and violence. By endorsing Palestinian claims lock, stock, and barrel, it undermined any incentives for Palestinians to negotiate directly with Israel.
In short, the Obama administration insisted two years ago to the Supreme Court that recording “Israel” as the place of birth of U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem, even if accompanied by State Dept. declarations that the U.S. official recognition policy has not changed, “would be perceived internationally as a reversal of U.S. policy” and “[t]hat reversal could cause irreversible damage to the United States’ ability to further the peace process.”
The argument that the sovereignty of Jerusalem must be decided by direct negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians, that it must not be imposed by unilateral action from outside, that the United States should be neutral regarding the negotiating parties, was successful in the Supreme Court. It remains persuasive — to the Democrats listed above and probably to a substantial majority of Americans. I wonder if General Verrilli is embarrassed that his client has now abandoned it by enabling a resolution that endorses the Palestinian claim that the control over Jerusalem Jordan won in the 1948 war, and exercised for the next 19 years, was legitimate (the UN certainly never objected to it), but that what Israel recaptured in the 1967 war “constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”
There are still a few weeks remaining of the Obama administration. Perhaps before leaving office Secretary Kerry, acting on the Obama administration’s current logic, can orchestrate the introduction of another UN resolution, this one demanding the return of Spain to the Muslims.