Israeli officials and the Obama administration criticized each other this week, with both parties blaming the other for deteriorating relations. Following the U.N. vote that condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry of betraying a once-great alliance.
“Friends don’t take friends to the Security Council,” Netanyahu said after the U.S. allowed the resolution to pass. He and other Israeli government officials have accused the Obama administration of actively crafting the resolution – an accusation that Kerry denied this week.
For his part, Kerry delivered a blistering speech on Wednesday defending the abstention and condemning the current policies of the Netanyahu administration. He called it the “most right-wing in Israeli history” and said that continued settlements were making it impossible for Israel and the Palestinians to work towards lasting peace.
In Israel, Netanyahu disputed the narrative, saying that it was the Palestinians who were making a two-state solution impossible to attain.
“This conflict is and always has been about Israel’s very right to exist,” Netanyahu said. “How can you make peace with someone who rejects your very existence?”
The blowup this week was a long time coming, though few believed that Obama would take the extraordinary step of approving – even passively – a resolution condemning Israel. He and Kerry have criticized Israeli settlements for years, and relations reached a frosty new low when Obama was pushing for the Iran nuclear deal. Fed up last year, Netanyahu went straight to the U.S. Congress to argue against the deal, a move that reportedly angered Obama.
Now things are at the breaking point, thanks to Obama’s reckless decision to abstain from the resolution vote. His choice sent the international community into a state of disarray; no one knows what to do with this unbelievable turn of events. Obama knew the chaos such a decision would create; he would have never done it if Hillary Clinton was getting ready to replace him as president. And it undermined all of his previous talk about a smooth transition of power.
Nevertheless, most of the world – including Israel – sees this for what it is: A meaningless, cruel gesture by a man sad to see his power going away. Donald Trump has promised to be a true friend to Israel and he has assured our closest Middle Eastern ally that “things will be different” when he takes office.
Let’s hope so.