After serving two whole terms, President Obama’s legacy is on the line, and his actions and rhetoric regarding the State of Israel will remind Americans of his disputatious foreign policy.
On Friday, 24 December 2016, both Israelis and Americans were shocked to hear the news that President Barack Obama abstained from a resolution proposed by the United Nations deeming the West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements illegal by international law. By not using his veto power to strike down the resolution altogether, President Obama signals a turn from decades of official US policy – supporting Israel against UN legal attacks. Although the political move was unexpected, it fits the president’s historical foreign policy agenda; this is not President Obama’s first injury to Israel during his eight years, but it most certainly will be his last.
For years, Republicans and critics of the president said that the Obama administration was anti-Israel, and for years, Democrats disputed that point. Only now, it is clear that those on the right were right. This final jab at the State of Israel offers no benefit to the democratic nation (a myriad of Jews living in the settlements may now be subject to lawsuits), but only instills hope to Israel’s surrounding enemies. Hazem Kaseem, a spokesman for the terrorist group Hamas, said, “We praise the countries that voted for the resolution.”
In 2008, President Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote. Four years later, that number decreased to 69 percent – a significant after a single term. No other re-elected president has had such a significant drop in Jewish support since President Ronald Reagan in 1984. President Obama’s greatest insult to Israel and the Jewish people (and why he lost so many Jewish supporters) is due to his persistent neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It would naïve for us to think that President Obama has no Palestinian bias; unlike any previous president, he has a long history of mingling with American-Palestinian topics, as well as calling President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestinian Authority on his first day in office. While the relationship between Abbas and President Obama has withered, the American president has stayed anchored on his impartiality in the region.
“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more war. If Israel put down her weapons, there would be no more Israel.” – Benjamin Netanyahu
While Democrats applaud him, seeing it as a token of diplomacy in such a heated area of the globe, there is an elephant in the room – Israeli-Palestinian violence – and Obama failed to choose a side until his recent abstention. Throughout several presidencies, Israelis and Palestinians engaged in violence and two sides were revealed when the dust settled. Either Israel was the aggressor and was fighting an oppressed Palestine – the opinion of the international community and the United Nations. Or Israel was a country defending itself from the continuous attacks by surrounding neighbors. President Obama chose the former. If that was not clear years ago, it is now; the continued support of a United Nations with an anti-Israel bias (233 resolutions against Israel and only eight against Syria) and the passing of an Iranian Nuclear Deal that paves the way towards a nuclear weapon show President Obama’s skewed perspective of the State of Israel.
To solidify their stance, the Obama administration sent Secretary of State John Kerry to address the world. In this speech, the Secretary of State got it all wrong. Instead of sharing how Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, southern Lebanon, and all of Gaza in order to pursue peace, the Secretary of State called the 1967 settlements a threat to peace in the area. No, Mr. Kerry, the settlements are not a threat to peace; Palestinian hatred for Jews and Israel is a threat to peace. The Obama administration throughout both terms has always aimed for diplomacy, but when terrorists are celebrating, diplomacy has failed. No one during Obama’s eight years has even mentioned Israel’s fight for survival, and that has hurt Israel more than ever.
Ever since its founding, Israel has had to face a plethora of obstacles in the form of war, terrorism, a biased international community, and even American presidents. While Obama is not the only president to be seen as anti-Israel, his presidency has certainly damaged the Jewish state – but not beyond repair. With a Donald Trump presidency on the horizon, Israel has much to look forward to: an administration that will support the prime minister and not insult him; a possible embassy in the heart of Israel that will strengthen American-Israeli relations; and a mutual understanding and acceptance of the hatred from Israel’s neighbors. While pundits and historians begin to analyse and dissect President Obama’s presidency, his policy on Israel will be a stigma on an already controversial career.