Thelastgreatrecession 30 Dec 2016

President Obama divides and conquers

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he fears Obama’s actions have emboldened extremists on both ends. While Netanyahu is digging back by withdrawing diplomatic relations with nations that approved the resolution and by withdrawing UN funding, and Palestinians are pushing forward with moves to force a two-state solution, Obama’s move has initiated a diplomatic international war. The US congress, with some bipartisan support, has indicated it could cut off all UN funding in retaliation against the UN. Trump has indicated the same thing. While UN members that cut off funding lose their voting privileges, the United States is the UN’s biggest supporter, so cutting off UN funding will have serious implications at the UN if it happens.

Congress could also choose to expel diplomats of nations that backed the resolution from the US, as Israel did, which may include stripping Palestinians of diplomatic privileges. Congress may also be more supportive of Trump’s initiative to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.


“The disgraceful anti-Israel resolution passed by the UNSC was apparently only the opening salvo in the Obama administration’s final assault on Israel,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) told theFree Beacon…. “President Obama … should remember that the United States Congress reconvenes on January 3rd, and under the Constitution we control the taxpayer funds they would use for their anti-Israel initiatives…,” Cruz said, expressing his desire to work with the incoming Trump administration to reset the U.S. relationship with Israel.


The Free Beacon, quoted above, also reported that one congressional member has said,


Members on both sides of the aisle are furious, so our response will be swift and forceful…. With a Trump administration in place, any nation that seeks to delegitimize the Jewish state will need to answer to the United States.


So, a powerful conflict between the US and the UN with fighting terms such as we have not seen before is likely on. Trump will find he has a congress that is largely ready to push back, while Trump’s statements of unequivocal support for Israel and pressure on Palestinians have been clear. However, Obama may have greatly widened a split in Democrats, which traditionally have been as pro-Israel as Republicans. Even liberals like Ted Kennedy were solidly on Israel’s side at every juncture.


Our alliance with Israel is an alliance based on common democratic ideals and mutual benefit. We must never barter the freedom and future of Israel for a barrel of oil — or foolishly try to align the Arab world with us, no matter what cost. (Ted Kennedy)


The congressional divide began to materialize when Netanyahu, in the opinion of many (to the delight of Republicans and disdain of Democrats) poked the Democratic president in the eye by sidestepping him in a unique move to take his Iranian petition directly to congress. Until Netanyahu’s highly unusual move, Israel had worked long and hard to stay out of US politics in order to do all it could to maintain bipartisan support for Israel; and this is why. Netanyahu was strongly criticized at home by many who feared the risk would lead to something like this.

As a result of Netanyahu’s agreement to accept Speaker Boehner’s speech invitation, sixty Democrats, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, VP candidate Tim Kaine, and likely future presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren boycotted that congressional meeting. Senior senator Sen. Patrick Leahy from Bernie’s home state, called Netanyahu’s speech a “tawdry and high-handed stunt.” Charlie Rangel, who was was a Democratic representative from New York at the time, tweeted, “Bibi: If you have a problem with our POTUS’s foreign policy meet me at AIPAC but not on the House floor.”

Netanyahu and Obama both denied that this incident had damaged their relationship and Israel’s bipartisan support in the US, but anyone could plainly see from their body language the icy barrier that had frosted its way between the two from that point forward. Now Obama has tapped the ice wedge a little deeper, knowing full well that Democrats in congress wish to oppose Trump wherever they can anyway.

This may be a divide-and-conquer move that will further imperil the once fully bipartisan congressional support Israel has long enjoyed. Many in Israel who worried that Netanyahu had poisoned relations with the president by that move now say this appears to be payback time … to the extent that the White House has had to formally deny that it is.

As for Trump, he tweeted, “Stay strong Israel. January 20th is fast approaching!”

The Israeli ambassador to the US responded to Trump’s various statements of support by saying that Israel…


was very heartened that President-Elect Trump was against this move at the UN Security Council — that he wants to work closely with Israel moving forward to strengthen this alliance….. I do not think there will be daylight between the US and Israel, and we look forward to having that conversation and seeing what we can do to reverse this resolution. (Fox News)


Once Trump is president, backing Israel 100% is one campaign pledge he is likely to keep. Notes, the Washington Examiner,


White evangelicals, who supply about a third of the Republican vote in presidential elections, are more than twice as likely than Jews to believe God gave Israel to the Jewish people. Only Orthodox Jews are slightly more likely to believe this.


Many liberal Jewish organizations, on the other hand, side with Obama, believing the only way for Israel to move forward at this juncture is to negotiate a two-state solution with the Palestinians. One thing is certain, cracks are deepening all over the American political landscape regarding support for Israel and how it is best shown, but Christian conservatives would like to quickly repair the growing divisions in Israel’s best interest:


“Our hope at Faith and Freedom Coalition is that reasonable Democrats like Sens. Menendez, Schumer, Manchin, Casey and others will reject these feckless flailings of an expired political regime on its way out of office,” said Tim Head, executive director of a pro-Israel Christian conservative group. “These latest antics at the U.N. are little more than the waning afterglow of a setting foreign policy agenda that soon will be corrected and discarded. But it will take a unified effort by Republicans and Democrats alike to rehabilitate the global reputation of the United States.” (The Washington Examiner)


That may prove to be a bit naive or wishful at best because Netanyahu’s approach already badly grated on Democrats, and Netanyahu has only become even more outspoken against the Democratic president in the aftermath of this UN resolution. (As Schumer said, positions are becoming more extreme on both sides.)


Netanyahu’s Obama Battle


Netanyahu claims Israel will present solid proof to the new Trump administration after the inauguration that the Obama administration took a very active role in forming the new UN Security Council resolution. Pushing the issue defiantly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says,


We have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinatedits versions and insisted upon its passage.


Israel claims it has “ironclad” information from Arab sources about the Obama administration’s overt efforts to push this agenda in the UN. Reports in a couple of Middle Eastern newspapers seem to corroborate Netanyahu’s claims, according to the Times of Israel:


An Egyptian paper published what it claims are the transcripts of meetings between top US and Palestinian officials that, if true, would corroborate Israeli accusations that the Obama administration was behind last week’s UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. At the same time, a report in an Israeli daily Tuesday night pointed to Britain helping draft the resolution and high drama in the hours leading up to the vote, as Jerusalem tried to convince New Zealand to bury the Security Council measure. In a meeting in early December with top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, US Secretary of State John Kerry told the Palestinians that the US was prepared to cooperate with the Palestinians at the Security council, Israel’s Channel 1 TV said, quoting the Egyptian Al-Youm Al-Sabea newspaper. Also present at the meeting according to the report were US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and Majed Faraj, director of the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Service. White House national security council spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday told the Times of Israel that no such meeting took place. “The ‘transcript’ is a total fabrication,” he said…. Israel fears that Kerry, who is slated to give a speech Wednesday on the subject, will then lay out his comprehensive vision for two-state solution at a Paris peace conference planned for January.


An article in the Israeli Daily Ha’aretz, however states that…


Britain Pulled the Strings and Netanyahu Warned New Zealand It Was Declaring War: A call from Netanyahu to Putin triggered a real drama at the UN HQ just one hour before the vote.


And a more recent Times of Israel report states,


UK officials have stepped up in recent days to say the resolution was theirs, not the White House’s. The Jewish Chronicle quoted an unnamed senior British political source Thursday saying that by the time the text reached the 15-member body, it was “in effect a British resolution.” A day earlier, The Guardian reported Britain “played a key behind-the-scenes role” in ensuring the resolution passed. Another British source told the Chronicle that the “yes” vote for the resolution was part of UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s new strategy toward Israel, according to which the Jewish state’s friends have to take a stand against settlements to garner favor with the Palestinians.


In response, Netanyahu has cancelled a meeting he had scheduled with Theresa May — a move which the British called in their usual understated way, “disappointing.”

As Netanyahu waits for the Trump administration to take the reins in the US before he divulges his own information about the Obama administration, he is taking the battle to other nations. One alternative Israeli news site has given an extensive but unconfirmed report that states Vice President Biden called Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to put diplomatic pressure on Ukraine to vote in the security counsel for the resolution. Biden’s office acknowledges the phone call but denies that anything was said about the UN resolution.

Netanyahu tried to push back ahead of the resolution with his own ineffective calls to Ukraine. The Ukrainian vote has set Ukrainian relations with Israel reeling. Ukraine has a large Jewish population. Even its new prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, is Jewish, but his first official state visit with Israel next week was just cancelled by Israel in retaliation for Ukraine’s vote.

To retaliate domestically, Netanyahu has ramped up settlement approvals in the territories, threatening thousands of new homes in east Jerusalem.

If Israel is right that Obama intentionally rammed this resolution through the UN in his twilight days as president, Obama has effectively stripped Trump of any ability to reverse this action. Reversing it would require getting China, Russia and others on the Security Council who have long wanted something like this to withhold their own Security Council veto on any measure put forward by the US to rescind the resolution. There is almost zero chance of getting Russia AND China to backpedal on this. Obama has effectively eliminated any possibility for Trump to repair the situation to Israel’s liking.


Is Obama preparing to become Secretary General of the UN?


These sudden moves in the final month of a lame-duck presidency are the most extraordinary all-out rush to get new diplomacy solidly in place before the president-elect gets into office that I’ve ever seen. There would be no point in doing any of this unless Obama believes he can rapidly accomplish something irreversible.


An Israeli spokesman warned that last week’s anti-Israel U.N. resolution may be only the beginning. David Keyes, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said his government is concerned that the Obama administration is scrambling to put its stamp on Israeli foreign policy before President-elect Donald Trump takes office…. We actually believe this may be the first of another series of pushes before the Obama administration leaves office…. Mr. Netanyahu fears that Secretary of State John Kerry may seek a Security Council resolution to enshrine the administration’s vision for an Israeli-Palestinian accord before Mr. Trump takes office. (The Washington Times)

On January 15th, seventy nations will converge in Paris to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kerry will be there, and there is no question that his seventy-minute speech this week set the table for his plans at that summit.

According to France’s i24News,


Kerry would propose the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, and after land exchanges that would allow about 80% of the Jewish residents of the settlements to remain under Israeli sovereignty. The Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and Israel will have to recognize the Palestinian state and its capital, East Jerusalem. Kerry is expected to submit this proposal next month, just before the change of administration.


Certainly sounds like an all-out last-minute press to establish solid facts on the ground before Trump can do anything about them. The Guardian reports,


White House races to save Middle East peace process before Trump takes office:… The parameters outlined by Kerry are expected to draw international endorsement at a meeting of foreign ministers on 15 January, just five days before Trump moves into the White House. The meeting is supposed to reinforce a strategy of isolating Netanyahu…. The Israeli government is reportedly fearful that any guidelines agreed in Paris would be turned into another UN resolution before Trump’s inauguration, and it has ratcheted up its rhetoric, presenting itself as the victim of an international conspiracy…. Meanwhile, Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, portrayed the Paris conference as a new “Dreyfus trial”, referring to an outburst of French antisemitism more than a century ago, and urged French Jews to move to Israel…. Aaron David Miller, a former US negotiator on the Middle East and now a scholar at the Wilson Centre thinktank, said Obama’s 11th-hour attempt at legacy building on the Israeli-Palestinian issue could trigger a backlash. “It risks the incoming administration walking away from whatever has transpired in December and early January, and not just walking away from [but] sending unmistakable signals to the Israelis that it would support and favour acts on the ground that go beyond what we’ve seen,” Miller said. “The odds that Netanyahu will now press and Trump will respond positively to a move to push the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, I think have gone up.” He said that if the highly emotive issue of Jerusalem’s status became the focal point of Israeli-Palestinian friction once more, “then I think the prospects for a serious, significant confrontation are high….” Amir Oren, a liberal Israeli commentator, argued that the UN resolution could save the government from itself by bringing closer an end to settlement construction. “Santa Obama delivered a wonderful Christmas present to Israel when the United States opted not to veto Friday’s United Nations security council vote condemning settlement policy,” he wrote in Haaretz. “The passage of the resolution won’t result in the immediate dismantling of any West Bank settlements, but the world is beginning to come to the rescue and try to save Israel from itself.”


Indeed, it appears to be a move in the direction of the world helping Israel save itself (whether it turns out to be “helpful” or not), and I don’t think Obama is just going to throw that on the world stage and then walk away, feeling his legacy is complete. I think he’s putting it there now, while he can, so that he can take it up in the global theater when he is out of office.

The Egyptian article alluded to above — denied by the Obama admin. — quotes Kerry as saying he could present his ideas for a final-status solution if the Palestinians pledge they will support the proposed framework.  Obviously he hasn’t got much time to present them officially to other nations for action outside of this one January 15th meeting.

While a move by Obama to gain the Secretary General position at the UN would be a major blow to Angelina Jolie’s aspirations, I think there is evidence Obama is moving in that direction now that he has no hope of any political power as high as he has become used to.

There is a pattern in all of Obama’s biggest initiatives during his last term. His trans-Pacific trade pact, which he put intense last-hour effort behind, and his months of developing the global environmental agreement sought to strip the US presidency of power and empower the UN Secretary General by ceding extensive regulatory powers to the UN.

Obama clearly favors things being done at the UN, or his treaties wouldn’t move so much regulatory power in that direction. So, why wouldn’t he want to take the position of Secretary General in order to continue to work on these things?

Does he appear to be the kind of man to just walk away from power and go fishing for the rest of his life?