By DANA SOMBERG, JPOST—
During his final year in the White House, US President Barack Obama is preparing a metaphorical roadside IED for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It cannot be that the tainted relations between the two leaders will not end with Obama exacting some sweet revenge.” Variations of the above statement have been uttered for a while now by senior American and Israeli officials since Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress last year during his campaign against Obama and his nuclear agreement with Iran.
This week, the New York Times brought the fraught Obama-Netanyahu relationship back into the headlines when the paper expounded on the US president’s possible future revenge against the Israeli leader that will be served up cold in the form of a UN Security Council resolution on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Several officials have said that Obama has grown so frustrated with trying to revive Middle East peace talks that he may lay down his own outline for an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution, in the form of a resolution in the United Nations Security Council, the Times reported.
“There will be a great temptation to do something in the final year. “For a president who came out faster and more aggressively on the Middle East than any of his predecessors, there is a gnawing sense of incompletion and perhaps even failure,” Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told the Times last month.
Israel’s former envoy to the UN Ron Prosor says that in recent days there are meetings in the White House on how to end Obama’s second term and discussions are taking place on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well.
“I believe that a US proposal for a UN Security Council Resolution is just one idea that was floated. The idea of an independent draft US resolution seems unlikely to me because the Americans are not interested in leading the negotiating process,” Prosor said.
“It seems like a more concrete concern that the US will not use its veto in the Security Council to stop French or other countries’ proposals on the conflict,” he said.
Prosor added that in his opinion to bring the sides to the negotiating table by force is a mistake and is unlikely because “it will not bring peace.”
“But Obama will have to do something. It may be that he will be satisfied with delivering a speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but in any event he will not leave office without making reference to the diplomatic process. That will not happen,” Prosor said.
This is not the first time during Obama’s tenure that the issue of the US not using its veto power at the security council has been raised.
Last year, US Senator John McCain pushed back against US threats to reassess its relationship to the Mideast diplomatic process.
McCain warned that if Obama would support a UN Security Council resolution calling for a Palestinian state, something he said would contravene the basic Mideast policies of the last 10 presidents – Congress would “have to examine our funding for the United Nations.”
McCain’s statement came a day after an interview Obama gave to the Huffington Post in which he continued to slam Netanyahu for saying on the eve of his election victory that a Palestinian state would not emerge under his tenure.
One of the options available, Obama administration officials have made clear since Netanyhau’s election win, is not vetoing a UN Security Council resolution that would call – and perhaps try to impose – a two-state solution.
Asked by the Huffington Post if there was any reason to believe Netanyahu is serious about a Palestinian state, Obama said, “We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”
So how likely is it that the US will bring forward a proposal to the UN Security Council? It depends who you ask.
Alon Pinkas, Israel’s former consul-general to New York, argues that a US move at the council is only one option of many that it can exercise.
“The feeling in Israel that the Obama revenge is imminent stems from the Israeli illusion that we interest Obama and occupy him. We are an ally of the United States but not the principle interest in its foreign policy and we should not get confused in this regard,” Pinkas said.
According to Pinkas, there are three options open to Obama on how to act on the matter.
“The first option is that before Obama’s departure in January he will deliver a general policy speech on the Middle East and and will reveal everything that we don’t know about US Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace efforts in 2014. We will hear about the understandings reached between the Israelis and the Palestinians during those US brokered talks and in the second half of the speech Obama will set out his vision for the Middle East.”
“The second option open to Obama is the one desired by Netanyahu because the prime minister likes the appearance that he is battling against the entire world. Under this option the US, in an unprecedented move, will not use its veto against a French resolution at the Security Council on the conflict. This option of non-exercise of the US veto can only be used between November and January 2017 so as not to hurt the campaign of the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.”
“The third option is that the Americans will tender their own resolution at the Security Council, as described in the New York
Times report, but in my opinion Obama will not go this way because he knows that it supports Netanyahu’s narrative that everyone is against us, that only he can stand firm against the entire world.”
Retired ambassador and former deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry Gideon Meir argued that the arrival of judgment day, when the US turns to the UN Security Council on the Middle East conflict, is just a matter of time.
“I predicted that this would happen. There is a pattern of behavior for the US administration. The Obama-Netanyahu relationship is not straightforward. Obama will not harm Israeli security by way of the US economic security package. But Obama wants to leave a legacy of peace. Where can he do this? Only at the UN. He will go to the UN because there, in his world view, he will not be harming Israel but rather will be helping it. This view is shared by the majority of liberal American Jews,” Meir said.
Meir said he doesn’t think that a move by the US at the Security Council should be interpreted as being against Israel.
“Just because the Israeli government believes that the US would be acting against Israel does not make it anti-Israel. It can bring our government to a new way of looking at the situation. It is legitimate not to agree with Netanyahu and act accordingly. Not everyone is against us. The West Bank settlements are a trigger and the world does not like Netanyahu’s policies. I see great difficulty in trying to prevent the US from acting at the United Nations. ”
Next week, Vice President Joe Biden will be the keynote speaker at the left-wing Israel lobby group J Street’s conference. The group is hoping that Biden will deliver a headline in line with the news reports of Obama’s intention to bring a Security Council resolution.
“We support, encourage, and urge the US president to set out out parameters or some kind of framework that will ensure the continuation of diplomacy and the two-state solution and the American commitment to this idea. The reports of such a US intention are encouraging but it is dependent on the contents of a resolution if it is brought before the Security Council.” Yael Patir, the Israel Director for J Street said.
“It is fairly certain that Netanyahu will oppose such a resolution. During his eight years in office Obama blocked all Security Council resolutions that were critical of Israel, which was unprecedented even compared to the Bush and Clinton administrations, so I don’t think Obama can be accused of being anti-Israel,” Patir said.
“On the backdrop of the diplomatic deadlock here, we think that any endorsement of the two-state solution serves Israel and we hope that Biden does this in his speech at our conference,” she added.
Until Obama decides how to act, Israel is focusing on frustrating Palestinian diplomatic efforts at the UN. The Palestinians are planning to bring their own resolution to the UN Security Council declaring that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem are illegal and that calls on the sides to return to the negotiating table with a time frame of one year to reach
a final status agreement. The UN vote is set for April 22, Passover-eve, and Palestinian media reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to be present in New York for the vote.
The Palestinian draft resolution declares that “all of the settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem are illegal and are serious obstacles to achieving peace on the basis of the two-state solution.”
“The Security Council condemns the continuation of building in the settlements and any other act meant to change the demographic balance or the character of the land,” the draft resolution reads.
The last time that the Security Council voted on a settlements-related resolution was in February 2011. At that time the Palestinians had the support of 14 out of 15 Security Council members, including Britain, France and Germany. The US opposed the Palestinian move and tried to stop the Palestinians from bringing the resolution. When the efforts to convince the Palestinians failed, Obama used the American veto power