By Dr. Ron Weiser AM
Over the past month or so Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Lieberman had cautioned members of their own government against making any rash statements or legislative proposals in anticipation of what President elect Trump might or might not give a green light to next year, in order to avoid inciting President Obama in his last few weeks in office.
Despite this, Education Minister Bennett forced some legislative proposals to a first Knesset reading to attempt to retrospectively legalise previously unauthorised outposts, over the objections of Netanyahu and Lieberman.
Ultimately this legislation, should it even pass, will not save the outpost of Amona, the main reason it was supposedly rushed forward in the first place.
Of course, we will never know how much of a role it played in last Friday’s vote, but Obama’s parting “gift” to Israel is truly abysmal.
Ironically, until this moment Obama was the first US President to have not allowed a single resolution critical of Israel to pass the United Nations Security Council during his entire two terms. Indeed in 2011 he used his veto power to block a similar Security Council resolution to the one passed last week.
Other US presidents, considered more friendly to Israel than Obama, presidents such as Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Clinton and George W. Bush, each allowed multiple resolutions critical of Israel to pass the UN General Assembly and/or the Security Council.
On the one hand one might ask what difference this latest resolution might mean?
After all, in 1980 the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 465 which said that Israel’s actions in:
“Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity… constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention… and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
That resolution, somewhat similar to the one just passed, had little practical effect.
However, we live today in different times and in a changed world.
Today we are post Oslo and post a repeated Palestinian refusal to accept a Two State for Two People resolution of the conflict whatever the colour of Israel’s successive governments who have offered it.
The neighbourhood around Israel also makes for a more unstable and unpredictable security situation due, in large part, to the ever increasing fingerprints of the terrorist state of Iran.
Especially now with the publicly stated unwillingness to exert US military power in Syria by both Obama and President elect Trump, allowing the humanitarian disaster in Aleppo to take place and formalising the turning of Syria into an Iranian proxy.
The Palestinians today seek to achieve all of their aims without negotiations and without the one thing they have educated their people they will never do – recognise Israel as the Jewish State. Seeing as that is the price they need to pay to achieve a Two State for Two People resolution of the conflict, they seek to avoid all negotiations.
This latest Security Council resolution delivers the Palestinians exactly that. Gains without negotiations, gains without mutual concessions and a further delegitimisation of Israel’s position.
The resolution is firstly symbolic and damages Israel in the court of public opinion.
But it may also have practical effect in other ways, possibly via International Courts, further UN action and in support of elements of the BDS campaign.
And perhaps worst of all, this resolution sends a message to the Palestinian leadership that they have more to gain by avoiding peace talks with Israel than by participating in them.
However, there is another question we need to address.
What we deplore from those whose support many regard as suspect and what we tolerate and excuse from those we call friend.
Yes, President Obama is the man many Israel supporters love to hate.
Yes, Obama did not exercise the veto and in all likelihood this one action will be seen as his legacy on Israel and proof that he was “bad for Israel”.
And yes, this resolution is highly damaging to Israel and Middle East peace prospects generally.
The United States abstained.
But fourteen other countries voted in favour.
Theresa May swept into the British Prime Ministership midyear with a well deserved reputation and history of ongoing support for British Jewry and Jews. She is also well known for her profound support for the State of Israel.
In fact, as much as some Trump supporters talk about how pro Israel he is, the talk about Theresa May was even greater and with a longer and deeper history to back that up.
Britain also has veto power. Britain chose not only to not exercise her veto, but went far further than Obama and voted in favour of the resolution.
This week was supposed to see a state visit to Israel of the Ukrainian Prime Minister (who happens to be Jewish). Netanyahu cancelled it after Ukraine also voted in favour of the resolution.
Just five weeks ago, the Foreign Minister of Uruguay visited Israel when Netanyahu publicly thanked him:
“for your country’s friendship and support, and for your important pro-Israel position at the UN Assembly as well as the Security Council.”
But Uruguay too, voted in favour of the Security Council resolution.
Australia does not sit on the Security Council.
And Australia is certainly one of the most pro Israel countries in the world, a proud record continuing under the leadership of Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Yet, at the annual United Nations orgy on the Middle East that occurred on the 29th and 30th of November this year marking “Palestine Day”, six anti-Israel resolutions were passed by the General Assembly.
On all six of those resolutions the United States, led by President Obama, voted against and therefore in support of Israel.
On all six of those resolutions Canada, no longer led by ex PM Harper one of Israel’s greatest friends, but now by Prime Minister Trudeau who many regarded as less supportive of Israel, voted against and therefore in support of Israel.
On three of those resolutions Australia proudly stood with literally a handful of countries and voted against and therefore in support of Israel.
But on the other three resolutions, Australia could not bring itself to join Obama and Trudeau in support of Israel and chose to abstain.
Even if positions have not changed historically, even if voting patterns may have continued, the world has changed and times have changed and circumstances have changed.
And the wording of resolutions in the international arena have gotten worse as far as Israel is concerned and the consequences potentially more damaging.
Against the background of these changed circumstances it behooves us to encourage all of our friends to see the need to reassess their voting patterns and to realise the increased danger of “business as usual”.
Dr Ron Weiser AM
Dr. Ron Weiser AM is the Zionist Federation of Australia Public Affairs Chairman and the Hon Life President of the Zionist Council of NSW.