US PRESIDENT Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry: ‘Not anti-Israel, anti-settlement.’.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As both a proud Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel, I was disappointed by President Barack Obama’s failure to veto the recent United Nations Security Council resolution criticizing Israeli settlements, and if I were still in Congress, I would have supported the House resolution in opposition to the action at the UN.
Those of us who support Israel have varying opinions on the impact of continued development and expansion of settlements, but the UN, with its history of double standards toward Israel, is not the proper venue for such a discussion. The world body repeatedly has put forward one-sided, unfair and discriminatory resolutions against Israel, and this measure was no different. The UN once again ignored the major international trouble spots, choosing instead to focus disproportionately and unfairly on the world’s only Jewish state.
For those who want to criticize President Obama, let’s remember that last month’s US abstention marked the very first time during Obama’s eight-year presidency that our country failed to use its veto power against such a one-sided Security Council resolution.
While I don’t agree with the abstention, for the record, the past eight presidents, prior to Obama, have abstained from or voted in favor of UN Security Council measures critical of Israel. It was president Ronald Reagan who had the most abstentions – seven – on UNSC anti-Israel resolutions.
Likewise, during the George W. Bush administration, the US had one abstention and supported one condemnation. So let’s keep proper perspective.
Throughout Obama’s tenure, he not only vetoed every other UN resolution targeting Israel, but also fought to ensure that the UN does not deny accreditation to Israel’s nongovernmental organizations, advocated for Israel to be admitted to a UN regional body and successfully had Yom Kippur added as a UN holiday.
The most important metric, however, of the past eight years is that despite a cold personal relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the two of them jointly pursued and supported, at the highest level since 1948, unprecedented military and security cooperation. This has included the development of Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and the Arrow missile defense systems, and the recent delivery of Israel’s first F-35 fighter jets. The Obama administration also negotiated the just-signed, record breaking, 10-year appropriation of security assistance to Israel for $38 billion. Clearly, during President Obama’s eight years, Israel’s qualitative military edge over its adversaries has drastically increased.
On a going-forward basis, we must, in bipartisan fashion – Republicans and Democrats together – continue to support Israel. There can be no tolerance for partisan efforts to make Israel a political football with which to drive a wedge in the Jewish community.
If our relationship with Israel becomes a partisan issue in the halls of Congress, the probability of a democratic, secure Jewish State of Israel living peacefully beside a Palestinian state, or in any other form, will be severely diminished. America’s strategic interests in the Middle East and around the world are best served by a strong Israel. It is and will always be our true, reliable friend, strategic partner and perpetual homeland for the Jewish people.
The author is a former Democratic member of Congress from Florida, chairman of the Jews for Progress super PAC and board member of the National Jewish Democratic Council.