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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 25, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

UN Resolution Condemning Israel Could Backfire - Tracy Wilkinson (Los Angeles Times)
    The Obama administration's decision to allow UN condemnation of Israeli settlement-building may backfire.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he would not abide by the UN resolution and said his government was cancelling $7 million in contributions that Israel makes to UN organizations. He has also recalled ambassadors from countries that backed the resolution.
    "The consequences of this will, in fact, be precisely the opposite of whatever the administration intended," said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center who served as a Middle East advisor in three administrations.
    Rather than slow the settlement movement, the UN resolution, and the U.S. role in allowing it, may give Netanyahu and his supporters more reason to move ahead quickly.

Israeli President Rivlin: We Expected the U.S. Would Stand By Us (Times of Israel)
    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called the Security Council resolution condemning Israel "disgraceful, serious, and unfortunate," that "brings us no nearer to negotiations with the Palestinians, but rather makes such a prospect even more distant."
    "We expected that the United States - our greatest ally and friend which has stood unwavering on the side of Israel's security needs throughout the years - would stand by us at this time and not abandon us, leaving us in the hands of a cynical body driven by alien interests."
    Opposition Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid called the UN resolution "dangerous, unfair, and Israel doesn't accept it....When a murderous terrorist group like Hamas praises the decision of the Security Council, it's clear whom it serves."

Jewish Organizations Condemn U.S. Abstention at Security Council - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil (Times of Israel)
    Major U.S. Jewish organizations declared that President Obama had undermined his legacy on Israel and bitterly criticized the administration's decision to allow a resolution calling for a halt to all Israeli settlement activity to pass in the UN Security Council.
    The leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein, wrote, "There is no justification or explanation that validates the United States failure to veto the one-sided, offensive resolution adopted by the Security Council....The United States vote will be seen as a betrayal of the fundamentals of the special relationship that will nevertheless continue to mark the close ties between the peoples of the two countries."
    The Jewish Federations of North America wrote, "It is tragic that the Administration chose to mar its legacy of support for the Jewish State and set back the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace....The Administration's decision undermined a core principle of American foreign policy that has been embraced by Democratic and Republican Administrations for decades: that the only route to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is through direct negotiations between the parties."
    American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris called the Administration's decision "profoundly disturbing.... Encouraging the misguided Palestinian strategy of doing everything possible to avoid Israel, while accumulating hostile statements against Israel at the UN and other international organizations, has been counterproductive to achieving a sustainable peace that will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians."
    Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said the ADL was "outraged over the U.S. failure to veto this biased and unconstructive UNSC resolution on Israel."

Abstention on Anti-Israel Vote a Disgrace, "U.S. Joined the Jackals at the UN" - Charles Krauthammer (National Review)
    Columnist Charles Krauthammer told Fox News on Friday, "What happened today is that the United States joined the jackals at the UN."
    "This resolution... declares that any Jew who lives in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, inhabited for 1,000 years, is illegal, breaking international law, essentially an outlaw....That's exactly what we supported."

Video - John Bolton: U.S. Abstention at UN "Violates 50 Years of American Bipartisan Policy" (Fox News)
    Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton told Fox News on Friday that the U.S. abstention at the UN Security Council was a "stab in the back against the Israelis."
    He said the U.S. abstention "violates nearly 50 years of American bipartisan policy on the Middle East."
    Bolton said the resolution even renders the concept of "land-for-peace" obsolete: by stating that Israeli territorial control and settlements in the West Bank are illegitimate, "Israel has no land to give for peace."

Palestinians Prefer UN Blame Game over Lasting Peace - Jeffrey Robbins (Boston Herald)
    Palestinians who profess to simply want an independent state have repeatedly thumbed their noses at the opportunity to have one, rejecting peace offers and rebuffing negotiations that would lead to one.
    What they prefer to do is use a UN that is in the tank to the Islamic bloc to promote resolutions that blame Israel for everything.
    Friday's UN vote condemning Israel makes no distinction whatsoever for housing units in neighborhoods that the parties have already agreed will remain part of Israel in any deal.
    As such, the vote is just another Palestinian-driven move intended to divert attention from their central responsibility for this long-running strife.
    No wonder the Palestinians hailed the UN vote as a "day of victory," since any day that enables them to slam Israel rather than take responsibility for their own predicament is a good day.
    The Obama administration's abstention on the resolution and its refusal to veto it makes us complicit in encouraging hard-liners in the Arab world, and those who indulge them, to believe that they are better off avoiding peace than making it.
    The writer is a former U.S. delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission.

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Special Edition:
The UN Security Council Condemns Israel

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Declines to Veto UN Security Council Resolution for Israel to Stop Jewish Settlement Activity - Carol Morello and Ruth Eglash
    The UN Security Council on Friday passed a resolution demanding that Israel cease Jewish settlement activity in a unanimous vote that passed when the U.S. abstained rather than using its veto as it has reliably done in the past. With President Obama's time in office due to end in barely a month, his decision not to veto was a rare rebuke to Israel and a last-minute symbolic statement of displeasure.
        The administration's move also defied Donald Trump's call on Thursday for the U.S. to veto the resolution. The incoming Trump administration has signaled that there will be a shift in U.S. policy toward Israel.
        According to an Israeli official, a White House official told an Israeli official Thursday that the U.S is Israel's best friend. The Israeli replied, "Friends don't take friends to the Security Council."  (Washington Post)
        See also Rebuffing Israel, U.S. Allows Censure over Settlements - Somini Sengupta and Rick Gladstone
    The Obama administration on Friday allowed the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction, breaking longstanding U.S. policy of shielding Israel at the UN. After Egypt withdrew support for the measure it had originally introduced, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela put it up for a vote on Friday. While the resolution is not expected to have any practical impact on the ground, it is regarded as a major rebuff to Israel.
        A range of senators and congressmen from both parties denounced the resolution. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, "It is extremely frustrating, disappointing and confounding that the administration has failed to veto this resolution."  (New York Times)
  • Democratic Lawmakers Blast Anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolution
    The Obama administration's decision to abstain from a UN Security Council vote on Israeli settlements on Friday was the subject of intense opposition from lawmakers in the president's own party. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday that the UN resolution "seeks to place responsibility for continued conflict fully on Israel and ignores violence and incitement by Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaderships. Any workable and long-lasting solution to this conflict must come about through direct, bilateral negotiations, and this resolution undermines that effort." Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Thursday that "the UN should stop wasting its time trying to embarrass Israel, and the United States should continue the policy of vetoing anti-Israel resolutions."
        The ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), said on Friday, "This resolution is one-sided and unfairly calls out Israel without assigning any blame for the Palestinian role in the current impasse." Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) warned on Thursday that the "resolution would undermine, if not undo, the chances for productive discussions between the two sides." Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) called the resolution "unconstructive." Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) stressed on Friday that "any lasting peace must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians, not imposed by the international community."  (The Tower)
        See also Democrats Scorch Obama over UN Vote Condemning Israeli Settlements - Jeremy Berke
    Congressional Democrats issued scathing statements aimed at the Obama administration over the U.S. abstention on Friday's UN Security Council vote. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he was "deeply disappointed" that the Obama administration allowed such a "one-sided" resolution to pass. "Actions like this will only take us further from the peace we all want to see." Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said, "I am dismayed that the administration departed from decades of U.S. policy by not vetoing the UN resolution."  (AOL News)
  • Lawmakers Condemn U.S. Failure to Veto Anti-Israel UN Resolution - Nahal Toosi
    "Today's passage of an ill-conceived resolution on Israeli settlements marks another shameful chapter in the bizarre anti-Israel history of the United Nations," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday. "The abstention of the United States has made us complicit in this outrageous attack, and marks a troubling departure from our nation's long, bipartisan history of defending our ally Israel in the United Nations."
        Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) declared he was "extremely disappointed" in Obama's decision to abstain on the vote instead of vetoing the measure. "This step reversed decades of a bipartisan commitment to using the voice and veto of the U.S. to prevent the UN from being used as a platform to advance positions that should be negotiated directly between the parties."  (Politico)
        See also Senator-Elect Tammy Duckworth "Disappointed" by U.S. Inaction at UN
    Senator-Elect Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said Friday: "Earlier this year, I joined 394 of my Democratic and Republican colleagues in writing to President Obama to urge the United States, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, to continue opposing controversial, one-sided resolutions that fail to advance the goal of achieving a negotiated solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine."
        "This goal can only be achieved through direct negotiation between Israel and Palestine. I am disappointed in today's action by the Security Council, and the lack of action by the United States. Allowing for the adoption of the resolution will simply push both parties farther apart and increase tensions on the ground."  (Tammy Duckworth-Facebook)
        See also Rep. Hastings: U.S. Abstention at UN "Irresponsible and Reckless"
    Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) said Friday: "The Obama administration's abstention at the United Nations today is extremely troubling. It is irresponsible and reckless for the United States to have gone against its longstanding policy to veto one-sided, biased resolutions that undermine efforts to bring us closer to a two-state solution....This dangerous resolution will only encourage the Palestinians to avoid dialogue with Israel in the future."  (U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: UN Resolution Is a Call to Arms for Israel's Many Friends
    Prime Minister Netanyahu said Saturday evening: "The resolution that was adopted yesterday at the United Nations is distorted and shameful but we will overcome it. The resolution determines that the Jewish Quarter [in the Old City of Jerusalem] is "occupied territory." This is delusional. The resolution determines that the Western Wall is "occupied territory." This too is delusional....There is also an attempt here, which will not succeed, to impose permanent settlement terms on Israel."
        "All American presidents since Carter upheld the American commitment not to try to dictate permanent settlement terms to Israel at the Security Council. And yesterday, in complete contradiction of this commitment, including an explicit commitment by President Obama himself in 2011, the Obama administration carried out a shameful anti-Israel ploy at the UN."
        "Last night's resolution is a call to arms for all of our many friends in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world, friends who are sick of the UN's hostility toward Israel, and they intend to bring about a fundamental change in the UN. Therefore, this evening I tell you in the language of our sources, the sweet will yet come forth from the bitter, and those who come to curse will yet bless."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel Rejects "Shameful" Anti-Israel UN Resolution
    Prime Minister Netanyahu said Friday: Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms. 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, Israel, and calls the Western Wall "occupied territory." The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes.
        Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.
        Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered a series of diplomatic steps against the countries that cosponsored the anti-Israel resolution in the Security Council and with whom Israel has diplomatic relations. He instructed Israel's ambassadors in New Zealand and Senegal to immediately return to Israel for consultations; cancelled the planned visit to Israel of the Senegalese foreign minister in three weeks; instructed the Foreign Ministry to cancel all aid programs to Senegal; and cancelled visits in Israel of the non-resident ambassadors of Senegal and New Zealand. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Netanyahu Cancels Ukraine PM's Visit to Israel in Protest of Its UN Vote - Itamar Eichner
    Prime Minister Netanyahu decided on Saturday to cancel an official visit by Ukrainian Prime Minister Groysman to Israel, scheduled for next week, in protest of Ukraine's vote in favor of the UN Security Council's anti-Israel resolution. According to officials in Israel, Groysman is thought of as one of Israel's main supporters. However, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko decided to vote in favor of the resolution following a telephone conversation with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, demonstrating the extent to which President Obama was behind Ukraine's decision. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Obama Administration Fires a Dangerous Parting Shot - Editorial
    President Obama's decision to abstain on a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements reverses decades of practice by both Democratic and Republican presidents. The U.S. vetoed past resolutions on the grounds that they unreasonably singled out Jewish communities in the territories as an obstacle to Middle East peace, and that UN action was more likely to impede than advance negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The measure approved Friday will encourage Palestinians to pursue more international sanctions against Israel rather than seriously consider the concessions necessary for statehood, and it will give a boost to the international boycott and divestment movement against the Jewish state.
        The Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas proved unwilling to negotiate seriously even during a settlement freeze for 10 months in 2009 and 2010 at Mr. Obama's behest, and it refused to accept a framework for negotiations painstakingly drawn up by Secretary of State John F. Kerry in 2014. Whatever the motivation for the U.S. abstention, Mr. Obama's gesture is likely to do more harm than good. (Washington Post)
  • Obama's Anti-Israel Tantrum - Editorial
    The decision by the U.S. to abstain from a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel over its settlements on the West Bank reveals clearly the Obama Administration's animus against the State of Israel itself. No longer needing Jewish votes, Mr. Obama was free, finally, to punish the Jewish state in a way no previous President has done. The resolution will offer support in every European capital, international institution and U.S. university campus to bully Israel. (Wall Street Journal)
  • UN Resolution Lets Palestinians Think They Can Bypass Israel Talks - Alan M. Dershowitz
    It is now illegal for Jews to pray at the Western Wall or live in certain Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. These actions require Israelis to enter areas that were captured from Jordan during Israel's defensive war of 1967. According to the Security Council resolution that the U.S. did not veto, any area that was not part of Israel before June of 1967 is now illegally occupied.
        This resolution also encourages boycotts of Israeli products manufactured beyond the so-called Green Line, and pressures the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli officials. In addition, the resolution makes illegal Israel's security barrier, which has saved numerous lives.
        But the most dangerous consequence of this resolution is that it makes peace much more difficult to achieve because it sends a false message to the Palestinians that they can achieve a state through the UN rather than through direct negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian leadership's refusal to accept Prime Minister Netanyahu's offer to negotiate without preconditions has now been rewarded. They will continue in their rejectionist mode, fortified by this one-sided resolution.
        Why did President Obama, in his parting days, tie the hands of his successor? He was certainly not reflecting the will of the people or of Congress. Nor is this an issue on which Israelis are divided. There is no Israeli leader who supports this resolution. This is a sad day for America, for Israel and for the prospects of peace in the Middle East. The writer is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School. (New York Daily News)
  • UN Resolution Is Not Balanced - Dennis Ross
    The UN Security Council resolution on Israel creates the veneer of balance by referring to the need to stop terror and incitement, but of course it never names the Palestinians. Moreover, the resolution criticizes only Israel and asks nothing of the Palestinians.
        Does this resolution create a precedent? It is hard to see how. President-elect Trump was clear about his opposition to it and has already tweeted in response to the resolution that things will be different in his administration. Even in UN terms, the fact that the resolution was considered under Title 6 and not Title 7 means it cannot serve as a predicate for imposing sanctions later on. The writer, a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was a special assistant to President Obama from 2009 to 2011. (New York Daily News)
  • The United States Just Made Middle East Peace Harder - Elliott Abrams and Michael Singh
    In a departure from Washington's typical role as Israel's defender at the UN, the U.S. refused to use its veto and allowed the adoption of a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements.
        First, the resolution fails to distinguish between construction in the so-called blocs - that is, settlements west of Israel's security barrier in which about 80% of settlers live - and construction east of the barrier. Building in the major blocs is relatively uncontroversial in Israel and rarely the subject of Palestinian protests. President George W. Bush sought to move peace talks forward in 2004 by asserting that there could be no return to the 1967 lines in light of the blocs' existence, and that any negotiated border would have to reflect this reality. Obama refused to confirm Bush's position.
        Second, the resolution rewards those who argue for using international forums to impose terms on Israel, rather than resorting to negotiations. The resolution does indeed dictate terms to Israel, adopting the position that the 1967 lines, rather than today's realities, should form the basis of talks - despite the fact that many Israeli communities east of those lines are decades old and that Jews have had a near-continuous presence in the West Bank for thousands of years.
        This resolution will reinforce Israelis' mistrust of the UN, thus eroding the Security Council's capacity to contribute to the peace it professes to advance. A U.S. veto of the resolution would not have been an endorsement of settlements. Rather, it would have been an affirmation that this is an issue that can only effectively be addressed through negotiations.
        Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. Michael Singh, managing director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was senior director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council from 2007 to 2008. (Washington Post)
  • Dismantling America's Alliances - Lee Smith
    The Obama Administration's abstention at the UN isn't just about Israel or bilateral relations with a vital partner in a key region. It's also about the prestige of the U.S. and its power - the power, for instance, undergirding international institutions like the UN. Consider how the Obama Administration has used the UN the last several years - to legalize the nuclear program of Iran, a state sponsor of terror, and make it illegal for Jews to build in their historical homeland. At the UN, the White House partnered with sclerotic socialist kleptocracies like Venezuela in order to punish allies, like Israel. Is this American moral leadership?
        What matters is dismantling the alliance system that has kept America and much of the rest of the world secure in favor of a new system of the President's own devising, in which the U.S. partners with Iran and stands idly by while 500,000 civilians are massacred in Syria, and Russia and China launch cyber-attacks targeting key U.S. institutions without fear of retribution or reprisal - actions that are reserved only for America's friends. The writer is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. (Tablet)

Video - Israeli Ambassador to the UN: We Overcame Evil Decrees during the Time of the Maccabees and We Will Overcome This Decree Today (Facebook)

Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon told the UN Security Council on Friday:

  • "While thousands are being massacred in Syria, this Council wasted valuable time and effort condemning the democratic State of Israel for building homes in the historic homeland of the Jewish people....By voting 'yes' in favor of this resolution, you have in fact voted 'no' to negotiations, you voted 'no' to progress and a chance for better lives for Israelis and Palestinians, and you voted 'no' to the possibility of peace."
  • "You are sending a message to the Palestinians that they should continue on the path of terrorism and incitement, that they should continue to hold their own people hostage, that they should continue to seek meaningless statements from the international community. The sad truth is that today's vote will be a victory for terror, it will be a victory for hatred and violence."
  • "Today this Council, including many of the world's leading democracies, voted to condemn the State of Israel. You voted to condemn the Jewish people for building homes in the Land of Israel. You voted to ban us from building in our historic capital of Jerusalem, the heart and soul of the Jewish people."
  • "Tomorrow night, Israel and the entire Jewish community around the world will celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah. Over 2,000 years ago, King Antiochus banished the Jewish people from our Temple in Jerusalem and issued decrees trying to sever us from our religion and our heritage. But we prevailed. The Jewish people fought back. We gained our independence and we lit the menorah candles in the Temple."
  • "I ask each and every member of this Council who voted for this resolution: Who gave you the right to issue such a decree denying our eternal rights in Jerusalem? Would this Council have had the nerve to condemn your country for building homes in your capital? Would you ban the French from building in Paris? Would you ban the Russians from building in Moscow? Would you ban the Chinese from building in Beijing? Would you ban the British from building in London? Would you ban the Americans from building in Washington?"
  • "We overcame those decrees during the time of the Maccabees and we will overcome this evil decree today. We have full confidence in the justice of our cause and in the righteousness of our path. We will continue to be a democratic state based on the rule of law and full civil and human rights for all our citizens, and we will continue to be a Jewish state proudly reclaiming the land of our forefathers, where the Maccabees fought their oppressors and King David ruled from Jerusalem."

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