President Barack Obama has been careful to temper his disdain for Israel in the last eight years, but now in his final days in office, the restraints have been loosened. Last Friday, December 23, he failed to veto an anti-Semitic U.N. resolution that essentially proclaims to the world that the nation of Israel is illegitimate – that it does not have ownership and freedom to construct buildings and homes in its own territory.
The U.S. had the power to veto, but Obama instructed the U.N. Ambassador to abstain, which resulted in adoption of the resolution. And, according to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who called the resolution delusional, distorted, and shameful, Obama didn’t only abstain, but acted as a key player in its formation and passage.
"From the information that we have,” Netanyahu said Sunday, “we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed.”
Since the 1980s, American presidents have upheld a commitment that America would not attempt to prescribe terms of Israel’s permanent settlements at the U.N. Security Council. And Obama himself stressed in a speech to the U.N. in 2011 that peace would not come through U.N. resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties involved. So, has he changed his mind, or is the motive behind the move something other than peace?
This resolution identifies the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem where the Temple Mount is located, the holiest site of Judiasm, as “occupied territory” and forbids Israel from building on that property. Hundreds of thousands of Jews currently live within the area that the U.N. has deemed Arab territory.
Israel has no intention of subjecting itself to the terms of a resolution which attempt to steal territory vital for the survival and existence of the nation. Judea and Samaria clearly belong to Israel, having been secured through defensive war and identified biblically as belonging to the Jewish people.
“We reject this resolution outright,” said Netanyahu, “just as we rejected the U.N. resolution that determined that Zionism was racism. It took time, but the resolution was rescinded. It will take time but this one will also be rescinded.”
President-elect Trump did something highly unusual in the days leading up to the vote. In addition to tweeting and publicly pressuring Obama to veto the resolution, he worked behind the scenes with Israeli officials and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt and sponsor of the resolution. According to a Trump aide, they discussed how to “establish true peace in the Middle East.”
Although limited by his transitional position to power, Trump’s intervention signifies a major shift in direction when it comes to our friends in Israel. Netanyahu stressed his confidence in this shift atan event in salute of wounded IDF and security forces veterans and victims of terrorism Saturday:
“We are not alone. I spoke last night with many American leaders. I was pleased to hear from members of the American Congress, from Democrats and Republicans alike, that they will fight an all-out war against this resolution with all the power at their disposal. I heard the exact same things from our friends in the incoming administration, who said that they will fight an all-out war against this resolution. And I heard this from across the spectrum of American public opinion and American politics – Republicans, Democrats, Jews and non-Jews. As I spoke yesterday with leaders in Congress and the incoming American administration, they told me unequivocally: 'We are sick of this and it will not continue. We will change this resolution. We will not allow anyone to harm the State of Israel.' They are declaring their intention to pass legislation to punish countries and bodies that try to harm Israel. They say that this will also include the U.N. itself. I remind you that the U.N. receives a quarter, 25%, of its budget from the US alone.”
A move is now underway among Republican leaders to consider defunding the U.N. That came after Trump sent a message to the U.N. in a tweet two days before the vote: “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.”
Trump has also pledged to select a pro-settlement ambassador to Israel and move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. The process for moving the embassy is less difficult than many might imagine. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 specified that Jerusalem should remain an undivided city, recognized as Israel’s capital, and that the U.S. Embassy should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999. However, each U.S. president since has utilized a waiver to postpone the follow-through of the Act. So, our new president can simply “abstain” from signing that waiver.
Although Obama’s actions are more blatant than most, he has not been the first president to turn his back on Israel.
To some degree, Bible-believing Christians grasp the weightiness of this issue. This U.N. resolution casts a murky shadow across the tail of 2016, but we can peak into 2017 and see a light of hope as it relates to God’s promise to Israel in Genesis 12:3:
“And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.”