When the United States abstained from vetoing an anti-Israel United Nations Security Council resolution on December 23, there was no official explanation as to why. “[F]riends don’t take friends to the Security Council,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. Five days later, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave the official explanation in a speech over an hour long: “Friends need to tell each other the hard truths.”
For Mr. Kerry, “the two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy,” and the U.S. “could not, in good conscience, stand in the way of a resolution at the United Nations that makes clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.”
According to Secretary Kerry, the United States could not “stand in the way” of Resolution 2334, which declares Israeli homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal. But America also wasn’t bold enough to actually vote for it.
In his December 28 speech, Kerry tried making a moral equivalence between Palestinian violence and Israeli “settlements”:
The truth is that trends on the ground—violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation—they are combining to destroy hopes for peace on both sides and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want.
And yet with a decision to abstain—an obvious change in U.S. policy—in Orwellian doublespeak that is so familiar to U.S. citizens, Secretary Kerry argued there was no change: “The Obama administration has always defended Israel against any effort at the UN. … It didn’t change with this vote.”
But actions speak louder than words. Or in this case, no action. “In stark contrast … neither [Ronald] Reagan nor George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush would have ever countenanced a resolution like 2334,” wrote Caroline Glick, paraphrasing UN observer Claudia Rossett.
Even the United Kingdom, which itself believes the construction of settlements is illegal, distanced itself from Kerry’s speech. Mr. Kerry branded Israel’s coalition government as “the most right wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.” British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said the UK government didn’t believe it was “appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically-elected government of an ally.” Especially when Israel’s the only true democracy in the Middle East.
Secretary Kerry did make sure to give the appearance of balance: “There is absolutely no justification for terrorism”; Hamas “refuse[s] to accept Israel’s very right to exist.” Prime Minister Netanyahu countered in his official response:
Secretary Kerry paid lip service to the unremitting campaign of terrorism that has been waged by the Palestinians against the Jewish state for nearly a century.
What he did was to spend most of his speech blaming Israel for the lack of peace by passionately condemning a policy of enabling Jews to live in their historic homeland and in their eternal capital, Jerusalem.
Israel will likely refuse to comply with the demands on its settlements as long as Netanyahu is prime minister, which means America’s support of Resolution 2334 is mostly symbolic. The method is familiar: Make a change, and say there is no change. Rinse and repeat. You can read more about this in the March 2015 Trumpet article “What Inspires President Obama’s Relationship With Israel?” ▪