UNSC Resolution on Israeli Settlements Sends Shockwaves Through U.S. Jewish Community

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Benjamin Netnayahu and ZOA's Morton Klein, Jan. 6, 2001.
Benjamin Netnayahu and ZOA's Morton Klein, Jan. 6, 2001.Credit: AP

The UN Security Council resolution against the Israeli settlements sent waves of surprise and shock through American Jewish organizations across the political map on Friday.

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With the UN Security Council vote being rescheduled several times, it wasn’t clear if the results would be announced before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. Employees of several Jewish organizations feared that after the hectic few days they spent lobbying for or against the resolution, they might not get to hear the results in real time.  

Ultimately the vote took place just before Shabbat, and leaders across the community voiced their anger, shame or joy at news that President Barack Obama rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pleas and took a stand against the settlements at the UN.  

Left-wing American Jewish group J Street responded positively to the passing of the resolution, saying in a statement that it “reaffirms the need for a two-state solution and calls for a halt to actions by both sides that serve to undermine the prospects for peace.”

The New Israel Fund, in turn, blamed the Israeli leadership for the resolution, saying it should serve as a "wake up call."

"Despite the extreme stances we’ve been told to expect from the incoming American administration, Israel’s true friends around the world are sending a clear message: settlement expansion, the Outpost Bill, serious talk of annexing parts of the West Bank, and the outrageous financial investment in settlers at the expense of the Israeli public are leading Israel to a dead end," NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch said in a statement. 

IFNOTNOW, an anti-occupation group, lauded the motion. "It was a great moment of leadership by the democratic establishment," said the group's spokesperson Yonah Lieberman. "The Jewish establishment has spent the last few days blasting Obama, but it shows that they will not listen to the Jewish establishment, and instead respond to the growing power of the grassroots leaders."

Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America, was "shocked and devastated," as he spoke with Haaretz moments after the vote. "President Obama has just confirmed the fears that some of us had, that he is a hater of the Jewish state of Israel," Klein said. "By supporting this anti-Semitic and racist resolution he has shown that he supports the Hamas-Abbas terrorist authority. And has sympathy and support for Islamic terrorism. Despite many begging him to veto, he ignored it all."

Morton suggested that once Donald Trump becomes president, he may reconsider U.S. funding to the UN in the wake of the resolution.

"I spoke to many of Trump's people, and he is considering what he is going to do to punish some of these countries economically, and he is also considering U.S. funding to the UN," he said. "I know he is considering it, but he has not said it publicly."

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, commented on the U.S. decision not to veto the resolution, telling Haaretz that "The passage of the resolution today is shameful and I think they will come to regret it in the future. It is just going to embolden those who do not want a peace process."

"Despite all the good," Hoenlein added, "this will become the legacy of President Obama, and the U.S.-Israeli relations."

"A year ago the president said to me that he knows he was not going to get a Palestinian state in his presidency," he told Haaretz. "But he would create the predicate  before he left."

He also added that he is concerned that there will be more efforts to pass similar resolutions in the UN before Donald Trump is sworn in. "I hope there wouldn't be further efforts to take advantage of this climate. I'm concerned that with Sweden taking over the chair there might be another one. But there isn't much time left." 

Another Jewish group, AIPAC, is on the flip side of the issue, saying in a statement that it is "deeply disturbed by the failure of the Obama Administration to exercise its veto to prevent a destructive, one-sided, anti-Israel resolution from being enacted by the United Nations Security Council.

"AIPAC expresses its appreciation to President-elect Trump and the many Democratic and Republican Members of Congress who urged a veto of this resolution," the statement said.

The American Jewish Committee also expressed deep disappointment with the U.S. decision to abstain. “The administration’s decision, for the first time in eight years, not to block an anti-Israel measure at the UN Security Council is profoundly disturbing,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “It only encourages diplomatic end-runs and diversionary tactics, which hinder rather than advance the prospects for peace.”

“Moreover, this measure repeats the Palestinian falsehood that Israeli settlements constitute the core of the conflict,” said Harris. “Let’s be clear: The chief obstacle to achieving peace is, and long has been, the steadfast refusal of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel’s legitimacy and negotiate in earnest a comprehensive agreement. Security Council members that supported the resolution are not helping the cause of peace by their failure to hold the Palestinians accountable for their chronic short-sightedness and inaction.”

The Jewish Federations of North America declared it “tragic” that the U.S. administration had chosen “to mar its legacy of support for the Jewish State and set back the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace” by abstaining in the vote on a resolution it described as “one-sided” and “anti-Israel.”

 “The administration’s decision,” its said in a statement, “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."

The Anti-Defamation League said it "condemned the passage" of the resolution and that it was "outraged with the U.S. failure to veto" it.

B’nai B’rith International joined the anti-resolution chorus, saying that it is "dismayed" that the UNSC adopted a motion "reiterating the erroneous position that Jewish settlements are a primary obstacle to Middle East peace."

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder called the resolution "shocking", and added that  It is "disconcerting and unfortunate that the United States, Israel’s greatest ally, chose to abstain rather than veto this counterproductive text."

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