Obama-Netanyahu Tiff worsens: US won’t rule out using UN to create Palestine

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

President Obama put some further hints out there on Tuesday about how he might proceed on Israeli-Paletinian relations in his final two years.

Asked if he’d be willing to go through the United Nations to achieve Palestinian statehood, he replied, “We’re going to do that evaluation . . . We’re going to partly wait for an actual Israeli government to form.”

It is huge that Obama did not say “no.” The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been bilateral. The US and Obama liked it that way. The question was whether the talks could now become multilateral, which is what would happen at the UN. Since bilateral talks are no longer plausible, the UN may be what’s left. Only 2 1/2 years ago, the Obama administration petulantly opposed granting Palestine non-member observer status at the UN, insisting that bilateral relations were the way to go instead. (Palestine now has standing to take Netanyahu to the International Criminal Court).

Obama declined to comment on a Wall Street Journal report that Israel spied on the US negotiations with Iran and then conveyed classified material to Congress in hopes of derailing the talks. It is of course outrageous that a foreign power should be encouraging congress to tie up a president’s foreign policy initiative.

Obama came into office in January of 2009 determined to negotiate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. But George Mitchell, his first negotiator, was foiled by Israeli PM Netanyahu’s insistence on ending the freeze on Israeli squatter settlements in the Palestinian West Bank. The Palestinians walked away, as they were meant to. John Kerry tried again in 2013-2014 but got nowhere.

There were rumors a couple of weeks ago that Kerry was gearing up for a third try at negotiations after the Israeli elections. But there will be no more Kerry shuttle diplomacy. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s statement forestalling of any Palestinian state (the point of the negotiations) raised the question of what the diplomatic negotiations could possibly have achieved.

Obama said Tuesday that despite Netanyahu’s attempt to walk back his opposition to Palestine:

“there still does not appear to be a prospect of a meaningful framework established that would lead to a Palestinian state… Up until this point, the premise has been both under Republican and Democratic administrations that as difficult as it was, as challenging as it was, the possibility of two states living side by side in peace and security could marginalize more extreme elements, bring together folks at the center with some common sense and we could resolve what has been a vexing issue and one that is ultimately a threat to Israel as well. What we can’t do is pretend that there’s a possibility of something that’s not there, and we can’t continue to premise our public diplomacy based on something that everybody knows it not going to happen in the next several years.”

Obama is saying bilateral talks are out of the question, as between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and that he refuses to pretend otherwise. But he does have the policy goal of seeing a Palestinian state established. It may well by the the UN Security Council is the forum where that could be pursued.

Related video:

PBS Newshour: “News Wrap: Obama says Israeli-Palestinian peace improbable”

32 Responses

  1. Obama will do no more than talk about a bantustan (an undersized land-locked concentration camp, not viable as a state) for the Palestinians, as was done in South Africa under apartheid. If it happened he and his backers would sneer that it was “a” two-state solution.

    Why let politicians off the hook for a re-run of South Africa? The only just solution is reapportionment of all Israel-Palestine resources per population into two viable states. Israel will neither negotiate nor permit that if imposed, and will have to be defeated militarily.

    If Obama had any intention to do justice he would demand the solution and set up UN processes and impose sanctions now and make them total within a year, while building NATO military force there. He has no such intentions and is throwing a few crumbs at liberals for propaganda purposes. Hillary is paid by AIPAC and will do nothing.

    • John, you have no basis for the talk of the President settling for bantustans and concentration camps. Obama has never said a word justifying such a thing, i.e., a betrayal of the Palestinian people. He has worked very hard over two long periods to give the Israelis a chance to do the right thing.

      I think he is going to deliver-up a peace for the Israelis, in other words whether they like it or not, in the form of offers they can not refuse. He may have waited until his second term for political reasons and and conflicting domestic agendas, but now is the obvious time for a multi-lateral, institutional, hard ball approach, and for what it’s worth, the judges of his presidency are waiting with pens poised.

      As individuals our Legislativel class are neutralized by the brutality of the Lobby, but neither President Obama nor the Europeans nor the EU/UN/Nato are caught in our mess. I was only initially a bit depressed at the reelection of Netanyahu. Upon reflection I don’t feel that way at all.

      • The basis is the lack of any effort so far by any US administration, to do anything more than prolong fake negotiation for nothing more than the 1967 borders, which did not create viable states. That’s not action for justice, it is pure political maneuver.

        I predict that nothing at all will be done by the US, ever. Netanyahu has merely given AIPAC’s Obama-Hillary team someone to blame, and I am more than confident that they will not take the major coercive action they would swiftly have taken anywhere else in the world. Would it not be astounding?

        Also they have said and done nothing to my knowledge against oligarchy control of US mass media and elections, so they cannot be excused by such circumstances. I would be delighted by such action, but I have seen no sign at all of anything but shill gambits.

  2. I have been pointing this out for years: the excuse that the USA gives for vetoing Its Own Policy in the UN Security Council is that such a resolution would complicate the “US mediated peace process”.

    But once that USMPP is acknowledged to be a failure then…. there goes that excuse for vetoing those resolutions.

    That’s the singular reason why the White House is so incandescent over Netanyahu’s comments i.e. US policy requires that Israel at least pretend to be interested in that Kabuki dance.

    Netanyahu just can’t be bothered, and because of that he has left the USA’s oh-so-carefully-contrived policy in tatters.

    Well, OK, if he can’t be bothered then why should Obama?

    This is the answer: Obama isn’t interested in shielding Israel from the monumental folly of its leader, not when they have just elected Bibi again. And certainly not when the reason *why* they elected them is because he stood up and publicly shouted his folly.

    The veto is toast, and not before time.

    But what’s so astounding is not that the White House is flagging this, but that nobody in the USA seems to be the slightest bit upset about it.

    • Because you have not seen any news reports does not at all mean there aren’t many in the U.S. who are upset about this, livid, now with proof of what many many of us suspected all alone, that Netanyahu never negotiated in good faith, that it was always a side step here, a feint there, no intention ever of a two state solution. It’s too bad we have the media we have. You will never see this side reported and I have a feeling there are plenty of us who are completely fed up and appalled and very, very angry and ready to ditch all pretenses with Israel that have proven far too dangerous to America to be tolerated further.

      • You misunderstand, MVH1. What I find astounding is that nobody in the USA seems to be the slightest bit upset that Obama is flagging a change of policy with respect to The Special Relationship.

        Simply saying that “we are re-evaluating our policy” would have been unthinkable even two years ago.

        You know, back when Biden was saying that there must be “no daylight, no daylight” between the USA and Israel.

        Something has definitely changed in the political discourse regarding Israel, and that change has been driven by one man’s arrogance and hubris.

        Netanyahu is still at the high point of his oh-so-exhilarating jump over the shark.

        And, yeah, sure, he and his admirers are still pumped full of adrenalin and yahooing with unabashed bravado.

        But this still remains true: he is going to hit that water with a sickening belly-flop.

      • I’ve seen many right wing evangelical Christians pledging to stand with Israel against satanic Obama. Never mind that they believe that Jews are destined to go to hell if they don’t find Jesus.

  3. Thank you for all you do. Honestly, my cousin speaks 7 languages, used to work for the state department, and always toes the company line, even in private! The UN is there for a reason, and it has been useful at times to prevent genocide (at times). Let’s do this thing!

    I am worried that IAEA statements recently will throw a wrench into Palestinian statehood. But there may be some people by Obama that are committed to peace. We’ll see which insiders win out.

    • Let’s do it, indeed. Now that the path is clear and in our control, we need see no serious impediment. For years we have been stiff-armed by Israeli politicians, but now we’ve been stiffed by the Israeli electorate itself. Yes, let’s do it.

  4. So what is there to wait for any longer? There is NO doubt Netanyahu is NOT interested in peace, nor ending the occupation and illegal settlements. He has made every excuse in the book to stall, reject, and be uncooperative, every time the US made tremendous effort to bring about some resolution. What more proof does the US need that this scoundrel has absolutely no intention of doing the right thing by the Palestinians. All those pathetic excuses about Hamas and the rockets are beginning to wear thin. Netanyahu’s stubbornness to budge, and his arrogant continuation of illegal settlements at every excuse, are all signs that things will never change in the new government. What is Obama waiting for? The EU will only be happy to unite with the US in making Israel finally pay for all the crimes, and help the Palestinians get their statehood, independence, and human rights back.
    Time these poor victims of Israel’s violence and continued theft of their resources, were given their rights back. The UN owes them that much.

    • “UN created Israel in 1947.”

      This is inaccurate.

      The United Nations General Assembly passed its Partition Plan on November 29, 1947 that was merely advisory in nature.

      The State of Israel was not declared until May 14, 1948 when the British Mandate ended. It was the agreement of the British government – who voted against the General Assembly’s Partition Plan – that made the birth of the State of Israel a reality.

      • There are s many things wrong in Mark’s post that it’s hard to know where to start.

        MK: [UNGAR 181] “that was merely advisory in nature.”

        No, much more than that, as is made clear in its first sentence: “The General Assembly, Having met in special session at the request of the mandatory Power”….

        Get it? The UNGA was voting on this Plan Of Partition because the MANDATORY asked it to vote on it.

        Why? Because Partition required the extinguishing of the Balfour Declaration, and Article 27 of Mandate explicitly says that the Mandatory can’t do that without first getting the “consent” of its supervising body, which by 1947 was…. the UNGA.

        The Mandatory wanted to Partition this Mandate.
        It asked the UNGA if they were OK with that.
        The UNGA said: sure, we think that’s a swell idea.

        According to the plain text of the Mandate for Palestine that made it all legal, and very, very legally-binding.

        MK: “The State of Israel was not declared until May 14, 1948 when the British Mandate ended”

        The declaration itself didn’t end the Mandate.
        The end of Mandate didn’t create the declaration.

        One followed from the other, and the reason why one followed from the other was… because the Partition Plan said so.

        MK: “It was the agreement of the British government “..

        Yeah, the agreement of the Mandatory with its Supervisor that made the birth of TWO successor states the only l.e.g.a.l. outcome from the end of Mandate.

        MK: “who voted against the General Assembly’s Partition Plan”

        Ahem. A flat-out untruth.

        These are the countries that voted against the Partition Plan: Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen.

        The UK (i.e. the Mandatory Power) is the country that actually brought the Partition Plan to the Assembly for a vote of consent (as, indeed, it was required to do).

        But since it was, indeed, the Mandatory Power then the UK couldn’t vote of the Plan, for the most obvious of conflict-of-interest.

        It had to abstain, since it couldn’t both “ask” for consent and “give” that consent to itself.

        • The UNGA is not an executive body. The UN Security Council never formally approved the partition plan.

        • Juan’s reply begs a fuller post. there’s a lot of confusion about the legal basis for the creation of the state of Israel. Some suggested reading sources may be in order for us “less-than-fully-informed-to-comment”

        • JC, I didn’t say that the UNGA is an “executive body”, I said that it was the “supervising body” with respect to this Mandated Territory.

          I am perfectly correct on that point i.e. the old Mandatory Powers were never supreme, they were always intended to be under the supervision of the Council of the League of Nations.

          Read Article 27 of the Mandate for Palestine if you don’t believe me.

          And I am also quite correct to point out that upon the dissolution of the LoN that supervisory role was taken up by the United Nations General Assembly, it was not taken up by the UN Security Council.

          Article 85 of the UN Charter, if you don’t believe me.

          So I stand by my original point: if the Mandatory Power wanted to end its Mandate by splitting this territory into TWO successor states – one *here* and the other *there* – then it needed to gain the consent of the UNGA.

          The Mandatory did not need the consent of the UNSC to make that a legally-binding decision. It just needed the consent of the UNGA, because that was all that was need to satisfy the requirements of Article 27 of Mandate.

          Which it sought, and which it obtained.

          I can even tell you the margin: 33-13, with 10 abstentions.

        • Yes, of course, old white men in the imperial capitals get to decide if Palestinians are kicked out of their homes. Just so.

        • “Ahem. A flat-out untruth.”

          You missed my point.

          You are correct that Great Britain abstained from the General Assembly vote – however British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin was emphatically against the Partition Plan, the British Parliament later debated the matter in December of 1947 and in the end their own plan to leave on their own terms was implemented to dissolve the British Mandate.

          U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947 (the Partition Plan) had practically nothing to do with Israel’s creation – it was the British Crown that initiated the transition of power as they saw fit.

        • JC: “Yes, of course, old white men in the imperial capitals get to decide if Palestinians are kicked out of their homes. Just so.”

          An odd comment, if you are referring to UNGAR181 and the Partition Plan, because that plan didn’t involve anyone being kicked out of anywhere.

          Under that plan everyone stayed put, and old men (not all white, btw) then draw convoluted lines between and around them.

          But, no, those old men “decided” that nobody moved out of their houses during or after that process.

          That was a “decision” made by old white-haired dudes from eastern Europe who always planned to take it all for themselves, even while professing that they would be happy with just half.

        • MK: “the British Parliament later debated the matter in December of 1947 and in the end their own plan to leave on their own terms was implemented to dissolve the British Mandate”

          OK, there is something you need to understand, which is this: in legal terms “the Mandatory Power” was not the same thing as “the British Government”.

          The UK was not the “sovereign” of the territory of Palestine, it was the “mandatory”, which is akin to a trustee under common law.

          Therefore the Mandated Territory of Palestine didn’t actually belong to the British Government, and so it was not the British Government’s territory to dispose of as it saw fit.

          The British Government could ask a committee to draw up a Plan and, yes, it can accept that plan or it can reject that plan. Whatever.

          But what it couldn’t do is adopt that plan WITHOUT first gaining the explicit consent of the UN General Assembly to its adoption.

          To do so would be to make a decision that the British Government did not have the authority to make.

          Equally, the British Government couldn’t “decide” on an Altogether Different Cunning Scheme(tm) and adopt it WITHOUT taking that new scheme to the UN General Assembly for its consent, and for exactly the same reason i.e. that would amount to the British Government making a decision that they did not have the authority to make.

          Britain what the m.a.n.d.a.t.o.r.y., and so the only decision that LEGALLY stood was whatever decision that mandatory took to the UN General Assembly for its vote of consent.

          Everything else was under-the-table and without any legal underpinning at all.

          Don’t take my word for it: read the Israel Declaration of Independence, wherein Ben Gurion clearly anchored the “rights of Jews to be here” in the Balfour Declaration, and he anchored *his* authority to declare a sovereign and independent State of Israel on UNGA Resolution 181.

          He most emphatically didn’t stand up and say that he had a right to declare the state of Israel because “Ernest Bevin Said It Was OK”.

  5. Mai Waby

    Not create a Palestine but to re-instate Palestine is what it should be,israel created 1948, exsisted Palestine through centuries

  6. T Tum Tum

    nonsense, US will support res affirming need for 2SS and outlining principles. Juan shouldn’t suggest US will support recog of Pal

    • A “need”, support for a need? That’s only advisory; it’s essentially a cop out. What’s actually needed is a Declaration of Statehood based on the green line and an invitation to join the United Nations. It would declare that the occupation is a breach of international criminal law, but should Israelis be withdrawn from the new state within six months, both parties will be favorably considered for amnesties.

  7. There has been something very wrong about the US-Israel relationship at least since the attack on the Cole. I was a recent high school graduate then–a long time ago.

    Maybe now there will be a healthier relationship, and some progress towards peace.

    • I don’t know about the attack on the Cole, but I’d say an appropriate relationship with Israel was knocked off-track when the US allowing Israel to away with its attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 link to aljazeera.com

      Until that time there was certainly a political relationship in flux, as there will always be with any number of other countries.

      When Israel got away with what they did, however, a precedent was established that has harmed genuine US interests in the region enormously ever since—indirectly and directly— for nearly 50 years.

  8. I don’t get Obama at all. Of course, Netanyahu (and any other leader of Israel) wants to keep every worthy part of the west bank—and wants an undivided Jerusalem. So Obama says he (and Kerry) won’t even try any more settlement talks. This is totally music to Bibi’s ears! What a month Bibi is having! He wins America’s heart (see congressional appearance), he wins the election, and America throws in the towel on the Palestinians !
    What’s next: America bombs Iran for Bibi?
    You go Bibi!!! You are on a roll. America will be there to kiss your tushie! As for Obama, he wears a sign on his back: Kick Me!

  9. There were rumors a couple of weeks ago that Kerry was gearing up for a third try at negotiations after the Israeli elections.

    A third try by Kerry!! Really? How delusional can he be?

  10. the US spends what $3 billion a year in foreign aid to Israel and who stands up for the Palestinians? which country? Russia? China? the EU?? any Arab states? its so one sided. Palestinians can’t even get building permits to build houses on their own land! and, if they do build a house for their family a few months go by then armed Jewish settlers backed by the military police come and evict them!! If the US can sanction Russia fo what they’re doing in Crimea then they should be able to support the EU’ s sanctions in Israel??

  11. Sure appears that Obama, Kerry, Biden tired of Israel’s persistent expansion of illegal settlements while saying the words that they support a two state solution. Acts speak louder than words.

    Amazing to hear Richard Engel and so many others spin that this Obama/Netanyahu “rift” is a “personality issue” and never even make the effort to address the serious substantive foreign policy differences.

    Mika Brzezinski has been really playing hardball on Morning Joe (Scarborough away) all week on this issue. She has even asked guest who will not deal with facts “what are you afraid of” Mika “who will cut through the bs” She has stepped out more than any other MSNBC host this week on this issue.

    Chris Matthews had Bob (Iraq warmonger) Woodward on to discuss Iran. Woodward also said the Plame outing “was much ado about nothing” Why do these host allow those who were so knowingly deadly wrong about Iraq and other very serious issues to share their opinions about middle east issues….enough!

  12. The current president’s learning curve regarding this situation has been unusually slow for such a purportedly bright man.

  13. Israel can play hard ball back….no water..power..tax payments..on and on…the Palestinians lose any way it’s cut

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