The Obama administration did the right thing last week by vetoing a United Nations resolution on Israel’s settlements policies that would only have set back a peace process that the Palestinians, who pushed hard for the measure, claim they still support.
Once again, the Palestinian leadership demonstrated its preference for unilateral actions and stunts on the international stage over serious negotiations with Israel, and the UN showed itself a willing enabler. Once again the nations that voted to condemn Israel — in this case, the 14 other Security Council members — demonstrated that they do not understand the difference between legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and provocative, one-sided actions that would inevitably inflame the conflict, not contribute to the search for solutions fair to all parties.
Last week the administration took some criticism when it pressed for a compromise — a “statement” that criticized Israel’s settlements policies, but also condemned “all forms of violence, including rocket fire from Gaza.” That effort strikes us as naive, a judgment borne out by its quick rejection by the Palestinians, but hardly inconsistent with longstanding U.S. policy.
Groups on the Jewish left, including Americans for Peace Now and J Street, urged the administration to consider letting the resolution stand without a veto, arguing that it would boost U.S. efforts to revive the stalled peace process.
We strongly disagree. By labeling Israel’s building in West Bank settlements and eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods “illegal” — and by contributing to the Palestinian strategy of internationalizing the conflict — the resolution, if enacted, would only have added to the PA’s recalcitrance and made it even harder for Prime Minister Netanyahu to make the compromises peace process progress will require.
Some groups on the Jewish right charged that a decision not to veto would have been a first for U.S. policy, citing that as proof of the Obama administration’s animus toward Israel. That conveniently ignores the numerous such decisions by Republican and Democratic administrations alike over a period of decades.
The Jewish community should criticize administrations when they take positions that damage the critical U.S.-Israel alliance and weaken Israel’s security — and praise them when they do the right thing, with our activism always informed by need to advance U.S.-Israel ties no matter who sits in the Oval Office.
In this case the Obama administration did the right thing and deserves our thanks.