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24 Dec, 2016 12:43

‘US refusal to veto UN Israeli resolution symbolic gesture by lame duck Obama’

‘US refusal to veto UN Israeli resolution symbolic gesture by lame duck Obama’

The US leader wanted to make a statement since Netanyahu came to the US and addressed Congress in an effort to stop Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, says Paul Larudee of Free Palestine Movement. Ramzy Baroud, editor, also contributed his thoughts.

The UN on Friday adopted a resolution condemning the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.

The UN Security Council resolution, which demands an end to the illegal construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories, was adopted with 14 of 15 UNSC members voting in favor.

The US was the only nation to abstain from voting. 

Tel Aviv vehemently rejected the vote, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office releasing a statement saying the country “will not abide by its terms.” 

RT: Israel just announced that it rejects the UN resolution, and “will not abide by its terms.” What does the statement mean then in practice? Will it have any tangible consequences if Israel doesn’t abide by these terms? 

Paul Larudee: It will perhaps not have very many consequences, except in terms of rhetoric, if it doesn’t abide by those terms. It requires more than just rhetoric. It requires sanctions and something to back them up. I disagree... that it will have effects on the ground in Palestine and Israel. I believe Netanyahu when he says he is going to totally disregard it, because there have been no consequences when he and the State of Israel have disregarded other UN resolutions. I am not sure that it is really going to have any significant consequences. But it is a departure from the past. There is no question about that.      

RT: The Obama administration refused to veto the resolution. Where does that leave the countries’ bilateral relationship? 

PL: I think the countries’ bilateral relationship is not significantly affected... Lame duck presidents suddenly develop a bit of spine with respect to their legacy. In this case, I believe that perhaps Obama wanted to make a statement to overcome the fact that Netanyahu came to the US, addressed Congress, basically went over the head of Obama in order to try to stop an agreement with Iran (Note: In March, 2015, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu addressed both houses of Congress to speak out against the Obama administration’s nuclear deal then being hammered out between Tehran and Washington; Obama dismissed the Israeli leader’s speech as “theater”). He hasn’t forgotten that. And now that he is departing, he feels no need to satisfy the whims of a very disrespectful Netanyahu. This is his statement.

RT: Obama hasn’t had the best relationship with Israeli PM Netanyahu. Was this a bit of a parting shot before he leaves the office? 

PL: Well, we will never know for sure, but this is a reasonable interpretation, yes.

RT: How will Trump’s presidency change US policy on Israel, if at all? 

PL: Well, it is an unknown territory. We need to find out how Trump is going to act on the ground. He certainly has given signals that it is going to be very different and that he is going to support virtually everything that Israel wants: essentially the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians; probably their expulsion; the confiscation of their land; and the incorporation of the entire Palestinian territory and of course part of Syria, the Golan Heights, into Israel itself. So it is potentially a big change, and a big change in the direction that is not going to look very pretty for the Palestinians 

Ramzy Baroud, editor, Palestinechronicle.com 

RT: The Obama administration refused to veto this resolution condemning Israel, yet Tel Aviv remains one of the biggest recipients of US military aid. So where is the bilateral relationship at the moment? 

Ramzy Baroud: I think that is the most interesting factor in this resolution; not the fact that the UN Security Council has vetoed to condemn Israeli construction of illegal settlements. This has happened many times in the past, and frankly, with much stronger language than the language used in this resolution. What is interesting is the fact that this is the first time in eight years, i.e.  throughout the presidency of President Obama, that the Security Council is allowed to actually say or do anything about Israel’s illegal practices in the occupied territories. 

It was President Obama who abstained from the vote that made that happen. What does this actually mean for the US-Israeli relations? I don’t think much. It is ultimately just a symbolic gesture by President Obama, who has been the strongest supporter of Israel amongst US presidents at least since 1967, and the most generous in terms of military and financial aid. It is a symbolic gesture that Obama has tried to redeem a tiny little bit of the many sins that he and his administration committed in favor of Israel against Palestinians throughout the last 8 years. 

RT: President-elect Donald Trump called on Obama to veto the resolution in a show of support to Israel. Why do you think the current administration rejected Trump’s call? 

RB: It is rather an interesting and somewhat dangerous sign that a President-elect is already interfering in international affairs, in the Security Council, putting pressure on Egypt to drop the resolution altogether, before he is even sworn in as president. If anything, it is an indication that the Trump administration is going to be very much pro-Israel – at least during the first term. 

RT: Israel took advantage of Washington’s distraction during the US election to ramp up settlement building. That didn’t help Obama’s already tense ties with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Can this abstention be seen in some way as Obama’s revenge, and even a potential landmine for his Republican successor Donald Trump, who has been rather pro-Israel in his remarks? 

RB: I think so. Obama has spent eight years trying his very best to prove to Israel that he is an amiable president; that he is pro-Israel. From the very, very beginning they questioned everything about him, even his middle name. As a result, Obama really labored to prove his allegiance to the state of Israel with Netanyahu not giving him a chance, or even gratitude for all that he has done. Perhaps this is Obama’s kind of big finale that he actually got back at Israel. That is not going to do much difference, because there is really no practical mechanism as of yet of how Israel should be pressured to implement these resolutions, as with many others that passed in recent decades. That said, Israel has approved the addition of 300... to illegal settlements in the Jerusalem area... Israel will not stop its illegal construction projects.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.