Israeli politicians, public figures, and commentators across the board are all up in arms after the US, under the guidance of President Barack Obama, abstained from voting on a critical United Nations Security Council resolution that demands an immediate halt to all Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, enabling the measure to pass. The shocking departure from the Obama administration’s policy over the last eight years caught most in Israel by surprise, a feeling which is reflected in the coverage of the affair in the Jewish state’s major Hebrew-language newspapers.
“The revenge of Obama,” reads the headline of the center-left daily Yedioth Ahronoth. The paper goes on to call out the UN over its “hypocrisy,” noting that while the international body “did not raise a finger in order to avert the massacre in Syria,” it nevertheless passed an “unprecedented decision against Israel.”
Yedioth’s leading contributors are split in their opinions regarding the possible practical ramifications of Resolution 2334, who’s to blame for Israel’s diplomatic embarrassment at the hands of the Security Council, and how should the state choose to react now that the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank has been deemed illegal.
“From now on, the UN will receive updates about every makeshift home in the territories,” writes veteran analyst Ronen Bergman, and, referring to the possibility that settlement construction may now be considered to be no less than a war crime, adds a warning that “[The International Criminal Court in] The Hague has never been so close.”
Meanwhile, Yifat Erlich targets the UN Security Council itself, as well as President Obama who enabled the motion to pass. “Anyone who defines a persecuted nation that has returned to its land as an occupier is distorting history and human ethics,” she writes. Yoaz Hendel, a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says that while the specific resolution may not have any immediate consequences, the course in which the UN is veering into should concern Israeli officials very much.
Interestingly, Hendel points out that while it may seem that the distinction between the territories within and beyond the Green Line is a trend being pushed by foreign entities who disagree with Israeli policies, the truth is that representatives of the Jewish state, including the right-wing Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett and even Netanyahu himself, had signed an economic agreement with the European Union three years ago in which the same distinction was explicitly made.
Israel Hayom, whose editors and writers are considered to be extremely affiliated with Netanyahu, spares no punches as it launches a barrage of condemnations concerning Obama’s decision to abstain from the vote. “A contemptible decision,” reads the daily’s headline, alongside an incredibly unflattering photo of the outgoing United States president. “Obama, we won’t miss you,” the paper’s top analyst Boaz Bismuth announces in contempt.
“A miserable end to a failed presidency,” chimes in contributor Avraham Ben Zvi. Other reporters in Israel Hayom, which all but officially endorsed Donald Trump for president ahead of the US elections last month, note that the new president-elect will soon take office, and, they assert, will overturn the policies enacted by Obama.
Haaretz, for the most part, blames Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel’s West Bank policies for the resolution. “This time, Benjamin Netanyahu was wrong to think he was smarter than anyone else,” writes Chemi Shalev, referring to the advancing of a controversial initiative to authorize West Bank outposts. Shalev is playing off of the words of US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who, speaking at the Security Council after the vote said the decision underlined the Council’s longstanding position that “the settlements have no legal validity.” She claimed the US position was “fully in line with the bipartisan history” of how US presidents have approached the issue for decades. “The settlement problem has gotten so much worse,” she said, that it was now endangering that solution. “One has to make a choice between settlements and separation,” she said.
Haaretz writer Gideon Levy attempts to explain that the UN decision is actually pro-Israel, as it leaves no room for contemplation over whether the construction of settlements is illegal, and will therefore push the Israeli government to refine its policies beyond the Green Border for the better. “[Now,] the Israelis who are not settlers will be forced to ask themselves if all of these [repercussions] are worth [continuing construction in the West Bank].”