Israel shameful betrayal by Barack Obama. Massive clash with Donald Trump after ‘abandoning’ Israel as UN passes resolution against Palestinian settlements
Commonly seen as yet another left-wing stab in the back towards Israel, President Barack Obama has been accused of “shamefully abandoning” Israel after refusing to block a United Nations resolution demanding an end to the building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In one of the final acts of his presidency, the US abstained from a UN Security Council vote, refusing to use its veto and undermining its relationship with one of its historic allies.
The move was seen as a parting shot by Mr Obama, who also signed the controversial Iranian nuclear deal, after years of acrimonious relations with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister.
It also placed him in open conflict with his successor Donald Trump who had argued strongly for a veto, calling the resolution “extremely unfair to all Israelis”.
There are more than 150 settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in areas Israel captured in 1967. Israel disputes the settlements are illegal and says their status should be determined in talks on Palestinian statehood.
Mr Obama was condemned by senior US politicians across the spectrum. Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, called the decision to abstain “absolutely shameful”. Senator John McCain, the former Republican presidential nominee, said it had “made us complicit in this outrageous attack” on Israel.
Chuck Schumer, the incoming Democratic leader in the US Senate, said: “The administration should have vetoed this resolution.”
Lindsey Graham, the US Senator who oversees the Senate committee handling US funding for the UN, threatened to withdraw financial support. The US pays 22 per cent of the $5.4 billion core UN budget, and 28 per cent of its $7.9 billion peacekeeping budget. Senator Lindsey Graham later added that Mr Obama had “gone from naive and foolish to flat-out reckless”.
He added: “With friends like these Israel doesn’t need any enemies.”
Mr Obama’s action in abstaining from the UN vote on Israeli settlements contrasted with his reluctance to become involved in the Syrian crisis.
Mr Trump, who is inaugurated on Jan 20, will spend the first months of his presidency dealing with Obama’s foreign policy legacy. On Twitter the president-elect said: “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan 20.”
David Friedman, Mr Trump’s choice as ambassador to Israel, has said Washington will not pressure Israel to curtail settlement building. Mr Trump has also vowed to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
A senior Israeli official said there was “zero chance” the Israeli government would abide by the UN resolution.
The official said: “The US administration secretly cooked up with the Palestinians an extreme anti-Israeli resolution behind Israel’s back which would be a tail wind for terror.
“This is an abandonment of Israel which breaks decades of US policy of protecting Israel at the UN, and undermines the prospects of working with the next administration of advancing peace.”
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called it a “big blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements, and a strong support for the two-state solution”.
Explaining the decision to abstain, Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, quoted a 1982 statement from the then president Ronald Reagan, which declared that Washington “will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements”.
“That has been the policy of every administration, Republican and Democrat, since before President Reagan and all the way through to the present day,” Ms Power said.
In a statement Mr Netanyahu said: “Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.”
He added: “Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms. “The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes.”
Mr Netanyahu added: “At a time when the Security Council does nothing to stop the slaughter of half a million people in Syria, it disgracefully gangs up on the one true democracy in the Middle East.”