Outraged US Jewish leaders: UN vote tarnishes Obama’s legacy
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Conference of Presidents: 'A betrayal of the fundamentals of the special relationship'

Outraged US Jewish leaders: UN vote tarnishes Obama’s legacy

Major Jewish organizations join forces to condemn US abstention on Security Council resolution; left-wing groups offer strong support

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

US President Barack Obama, far right, with leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the White House, March 1, 2011. (Pete Souza/White House)
US President Barack Obama, far right, with leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the White House, March 1, 2011. (Pete Souza/White House)

WASHINGTON — Major US Jewish organizations declared that US President Barack Obama had undermined his legacy on Israel and bitterly criticized the administration’s decision to allow a resolution calling for a halt to all Israeli settlement activity to pass in the United Nations Security Council.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which had tussled in recent weeks with President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, offered a full-throated condemnation of the Security Council resolution and of the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from voting.

ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt stated that the organization was “outraged over the US failure to veto this biased and unconstructive UNSC resolution on Israel.”

Greenblatt bemoaned that the resolution “will only encourage further Palestinian intransigence vis-à-vis direct negotiations with Israel in favor of unilateral, one-sided initiatives.”

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking at the ADL Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on November 6, 2014. (Courtesy ADL)
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking at the ADL Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on November 6, 2014. (Courtesy ADL)

“The Obama Administration repeatedly stated that a solution to the conflict cannot be imposed on the parties but must be achieved directly by the parties themselves,” Greenblatt concluded. “It is deeply troubling that this biased resolution appears to be the final word of the Administration on this issue.”

The ADL was far from the only Jewish organization to assert that Obama’s legacy was changed by this decision conducted in the last month of an eight-year administration.

“It is tragic that the Administration chose to mar its legacy of support for the Jewish State and set back the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace,” wrote the Jewish Federations of North America in a rare critique of a US administration, recalling that in the past “President Obama has consistently supported Israel’s right to self-defense and affirmed that America has an “iron clad commitment to make sure Israel is secure.”

The umbrella organization noted that “Jewish Federations across North America are deeply disappointed that the United States abstained from today’s vote on the one-sided, anti-Israel resolution that was passed by the UN Security Council today,” adding that “the Administration’s decision undermined a core principle of American foreign policy that has been embraced by Democratic and Republican Administrations for decades: that the only route to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is through direct negotiations between the parties.”

The Orthodox Union issued a similar admonishment.

“The Orthodox Union is gravely disappointed with this decision by President Obama,” the organization complained. “Over the course of his presidency, Mr. Obama repeatedly reassured American Jews, and others who care for the security and welfare of Israel, that his commitment to American support for Israel’s security was “unshakable.””

“By allowing this resolution to pass in the waning weeks of his Administration, President Obama has undermined his legacy in that regard,” the organization added, describing the US action as “an unprecedented and deeply disturbing break from the past.”

Malcolm Hoenlein (right) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo credit: Uri Lenz/FLASH90)
Malcolm Hoenlein, right, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations condemned the administration’s actions. “There is no justification or explanation that validates the United States failure to veto the one-sided, offensive resolution adopted by the Security Council today,” wrote Conference Chairman Stephen Greenberg and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein. “The United States vote will be seen as a betrayal of the fundamentals of the special relationship that will nevertheless continue to mark the close ties between the peoples of the two countries.”

The American Jewish Committee’s CEO David Harris also noted that “the Administration’s decision, for the first time in eight years, not to block an anti-Israel measure at the UN Security Council is profoundly disturbing.”

Harris bemoaned that “encouraging the misguided Palestinian strategy of doing everything possible to avoid Israel, while accumulating hostile statements against Israel at the UN and other international organizations, has been counterproductive to achieving a sustainable peace that will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians.”

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)

Left-wing organizations, however, offered strong support for the administration’s move.

Americans for Peace Now described the resolution as “pro-Israel in the deepest sense of the term, supporting Israel’s existence and security, and standing against those who would sacrifice both at the altar of settlements, for an ideological, expansionist agenda,” and said that it “commends the Obama Administration’s decision to stand with all past US presidents since 1967 in maintaining US opposition to settlements, and to reaffirm longstanding US positioning and language in the Security Council on this issue.”

J Street also issued a statement welcoming the US decision.

The resolution, the organization said, “is consistent with longstanding bipartisan American policy, which includes strong support for the two-state solution, and clear opposition to irresponsible and damaging actions, including Palestinian incitement and terror and Israeli settlement expansion and home demolitions.”

US President Barack Obama shakes hands as he meets with Republican President-elect Donald Trump (L) on transition planning in the Oval Office at the White House on November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Jim Watson/AFP)
US President Barack Obama shakes hands as he meets with Republican President-elect Donald Trump (L) on transition planning in the Oval Office at the White House on November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Jim Watson/AFP)

J Street responded to threats made by president-elect Donald Trump following the vote suggesting that he would change the US stance toward its UN commitments.

“We urge all actors, including the incoming US administration, to recognize that this resolution is now the benchmark set by the international community and must be respected as such,” J Street warned. “Steps to abrogate or ignore it would not only damage Israel’s future and the prospects for a two-state solution, but undermine American interests and standing in the world.”

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