Feinstein defends Obama over UN settlement vote
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Feinstein defends Obama over UN settlement vote

Jewish senator offers a rare voice of support for decision not to veto Security Council move; Ted Cruz calls Feinstein 'sad'

File: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
File: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Barack Obama won some rare support from a prominent US Jewish Democrat, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein calling the decision not to veto the UN Security Council condemnation of Israeli settlements an “absolute necessity.”

Obama’s actions “sends a strong message that the United States still supports a two-state solution,” Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

“I’ve watched with growing concern the increase in Israeli settlements over the years, where approximately 400,0000 individuals now live,” she said. “I believe the expansion of settlements has but one goal: to undermine the viability of a two-state solution.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-Texas) condemned Feinstein, tweeting “Sad. Really sad,” in response to her statement.

Feinstein’s voice was a rare statement of support for the outgoing president, with most US Jewish leaders condemning the move.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said it was “extremely frustrating, disappointing and confounding that the Administration has failed to veto this resolution. Whatever one’s views are on settlements, the UN is the wrong forum to settle these issues. The UN has been a fervently anti-Israel body since the days of ‘Zionism is racism’ and, unfortunately, that fervor has never diminished. Knowing this, past Administrations – both Democrat and Republican – have protected Israel from the vagaries of this biased institution. Unfortunately, this Administration has not followed in that path and its actions will move us further from peace in the Middle East.”

US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power speaks to the UN Security Council after abstaining on an anti-settlement resolution, December 23, 2016 (UN Screenshot)
US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power speaks to the UN Security Council after abstaining on an anti-settlement resolution, December 23, 2016 (UN Screenshot)

While most Democrats hesitated to call out the Obama administration for its decision to abstain rather than veto the resolution, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was clear in assigning blame. In a statement issued quickly after the vote, AIPAC wrote that it was “deeply disturbed by the failure of the Obama Administration to exercise its veto to prevent a destructive, one-sided, anti-Israel resolution from being enacted by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In the past, this administration and past administrations have rejected this type of biased resolution since it undermines prospects for peace.”

“It is particularly regrettable, in his last month in office, that the president has taken an action at odds with the bipartisan consensus in Congress and America’s long history of standing with Israel at the United Nations,” the organization, which had sent out an action call to its members shortly before the vote, continued. “AIPAC expresses its appreciation to President-elect Trump and the many Democratic and Republican Members of Congress who urged a veto of this resolution.”

Democrats who had called on Obama to veto the resolution expressed their disappointment Friday afternoon, as did pro-Israel groups.

Rep. Ted Deutch did not directly criticize the administration, instead bemoaning that “this resolution passed by the UN Security Council does not take us closer to peace between Israel and the Palestinians nor does it make two states for two peoples more likely.”

Rep. Ted Deutch on the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images via JTA)
Rep. Ted Deutch on the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images via JTA)

“That’s why I am disappointed that the United States did not veto it today,” he concluded.

Rep. Nita Lowey described the abstention as a “stain on the United States’ long and consistent record of defending Israel against one-sided UN Security Council resolutions,” adding that she was “profoundly disappointed.”

“Only through direct negotiations can the Israelis and Palestinians resolve their complicated differences,” she continued. “Today’s resolution will not further the cause of peace. In fact it will only harden both sides and make direct negotiations all the more difficult to ever resume. I will redouble my efforts to defend Israel in international bodies and bring the parties back to the table.”

President-elect Donald Trump issued a curt warning Friday afternoon that his administration could take an adversarial approach to the international body.

“As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th,” the president-elect tweeted shortly after the Security Council passed the resolution by a vote of 14-0.

Even before US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power formally announced that the US would abstain rather than vetoing the resolution, Senator Lindsey Graham had already warned that the Senate would consider defunding the international body when it reconvenes in 2017.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan described the US abstention as “absolutely shameful.”

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