My college roommate Ed Atkins and I were commissioned second lieutenants in the US Air Force the day before we graduated in June 1970. My eyes were lousy and Ed’s weren’t, so our paths diverged. I went to law school and he went to flight school, the lucky dog. After all, the mission of the Air Force is “to fly and to fight.” He was going to do it, and I was being trained to risk only paper cuts in the law library. I was (and still am) jealous as hell.
Fresh from a combat tour in Vietnam, during which he accumulated a slew of Air Medals and a Distinguished Flying Cross, Ed was stationed in Germany when the 1973 Yom Kippur War broke out. Israeli forces were caught on the ground on the highest holy day of the Jewish year, and things went badly for the first few days. At that point the Soviet Union was moving to intervene on the Arabs’ side. President Nixon ordered our nuclear forces to DefCon 3 and our Air Force to prepare to fly into the fight. Ed and his squadron were arming and fueling their F-4 Phantoms to fly to Israel and engage anything — Soviet or Arab — that stood in their way when Israel turned the tide and won without our help.
That’s the way it’s been since 1948, when Israel became a nation. We’ve always been the big brother willing to deter or defeat Islamic aggression against the only democracy in the Middle East.
That lasted until January 2009, when President Obama came into office and began shunning Israel. Then came last Friday, when Barack Obama ordered our UN ambassador to abstain rather than veto a UN Security Council resolution that declared Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank illegal, and those territories illegally “occupied.” Israel was thus delegitimized and ordered to return to the borders it had before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
President Obama’s enmity toward Israel, though often denied, has been obvious since his inauguration. Through many meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his attempt to force a false peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and his nuclear weapons deal with Iran, Obama has made it clear to anyone who wanted to see that his hatred of Israel coincided with his intention to diminish our national security as well as that of the Jewish state.
The Friday resolution, first offered by Egypt, was withdrawn as a result of hard lobbying by Israel and the statement by President-elect Trump that it should be vetoed. New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela, and Malaysia picked it up and offered it for a vote. The Obama administration denies orchestrating the resolution and vote, but the Israelis accuse it of doing precisely that. And therein lies an important lie.
Secretary of State John Kerry visited New Zealand in mid-November. In a meeting with New Zealand’s foreign minister, Murray McCulley, Kerry told him that the New Zealand government could play an important role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
McCulley said, “It is a conversation we are engaged in deeply and we’ve spent some time talking to Secretary Kerry about where the U.S. might go on this. It is something that is still in play.” He added, “I think there are some very important decisions that the Obama administration is going to have to make in its lame-duck period on this issue.” That was the preliminary to Friday.
The resolution, apparently orchestrated by Obama, passed only because the U.S. didn’t veto it to protect Israel as it has on similar resolutions on countless occasions. It was a huge victory for the Palestinians and the Muslim nations — and terrorist networks — which have Israel’s destruction as their principal foreign policy goal.
We were surprised by Obama’s perfidious action, but we shouldn’t have been.
Obama is not just pro-Palestinian, he is anti-Israel. Set aside the issue of whether he and Kerry are anti-Semitic. They probably are. More importantly, to the narcissistic Obama, opposition to Israel and Netanyahu is a very personal fight.
Obama has always seen his presidency as a vehicle for the accommodation of Islamic nations. This is the president who ordered his director of NASA to make his primary mission an outreach to the Islamic world, rather than other planets. In his June 2009 speech in Cairo, Obama told the Islamic world that part of the job of America’s president is to fight against negative stereotypes of Muslims. There was no mention of the need to fight against Islamic nations’ aggression against our allies.
Beginning about that time, Obama formulated a policy designed to drive Israel back behind its pre-1967 borders. Israel has said those borders are indefensible, but that’s no concern to Obama. Weakening Israel in that manner would also weaken the United States because Israel is seen by the Islamic nations as a surrogate for America: if they can weaken Israel, they are implicitly weakening us.
With Obama in the Oval Office, talks with Israel and the Palestinians have always been aimed at forcing the Israelis to give up land relinquished by the Arabs in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem (though Jerusalem is Israel’s capital) and the entire West Bank area.
Obama brought Netanyahu to Washington in March 2010 to drive home that point. When Netanyahu demurred, Obama left him to stew while Obama went to have dinner with his wife and daughters. Leaving the room, he reportedly told Netanyahu to consider the error of his ways, saying “I’m still around. Let me know if there is anything new.” Obama treated the prime minister of our only real ally in the Middle East as if he were a disobedient child.
Obama’s personal conflict with Israel and Netanyahu got steadily worse. It was worsened (in Obama’s view) by Netanyahu’s annual addresses to the United Nations General Assembly on the dangers of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Year after year, Netanyahu warned against Iran’s nuclear weapon development, pleading that the “international community” stand up to Iran. He knew that the UN was primarily comprised of a cacophony of dictators, despots, rogues, and terrorists but he made his case again and again.
At the same time, Obama had Kerry engaged in eighteen months of pointless negotiations, trying to force an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians on a land-for-peace deal which, as usual, would have forced Israel to give up East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Obama’s approach was historically ignorant. Three times since 2000, Israeli prime ministers have offered land for peace and been rebuffed. Ehud Barak offered up East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank in a plan designed by Bill Clinton, but Yassir Arafat, then Palestinian “president,” walked out of the talks. In 2005, Ariel Sharon withdrew all Israelis from the Gaza Strip and pulled Israel back across the pre-1967 borders. The Palestinians answered by raining missiles on Israel from Gaza. In 2008, Ehud Olmert offered essentially 100 percent of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and a divided Jerusalem to be the capital of both the still non-existent nation of Palestine and Israel. Mahmoud Abbas took the offer to study it and left never returned to the negotiations.
In 2009, Obama promised to negotiate with Iran on its nuclear weapons without preconditions. In 2011, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad still in power, Obama began secret negotiations. Netanyahu continued to warn the UN against Iran.
In March 2015, Netanyahu did something Obama never forgave. He addressed a joint session of Congress, at then-Speaker John Boehner’s invitation, forcefully warning against the Iran nuclear deal. Obama made that deal later in the year. As President-elect Trump has said many times, it was an awful deal. And, as this column has detailed many times, it is a deal that drastically diminishes America’s national security.
Instead of properly submitting the Iran deal to the Senate for ratification (as every preceding nuclear deal had been), Obama took it to the UN, obtaining a Security Council resolution blessing it. But it remains unratified, so Trump can void it any time he wishes.
The Friday vote was Obama’s revenge against Israel and Netanyahu, and an effort to block Trump’s moves on Iran and Israel. Because UN Security Council resolutions supposedly establish international law, Israel was branded an outlaw by Obama’s refusal to veto it.
Netanyahu has stood bravely against Obama and the UN’s action, declaring that Israel will ignore it. Trump has said that things at the UN will be different after January 20. But the damage to Israel has been done, and won’t be undone easily.
There is every reason to believe that Trump will re-establish our friendship with Israel. There is no reason for him not to do so. But he has to do more.
When I was researching my 2004 book, Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think, I was welcomed into the London home of British historian Paul Johnson. Over tea and biscuits, Johnson told me, “The UN is now a central problem for the world because we take too much notice of it.”
Ronald Reagan was a conservative internationalist. He wanted to engage with the world, but chose wisely not to do so through the UN. Trump must pursue our foreign policy on those grounds. The UN is only a danger because Obama has allowed it to govern our foreign policy for the past eight years.
Some in Congress have advocated diminishing our funding of the UN which accounts for at least 22 percent of its annual revenue. Trump should demand that Congress drastically reduce our payments to the UN. We await his decision to press Congress to do so. We’ll see if he does. Part of history’s judgment of his presidency will be rendered on it.
It’s time to walk Reagan’s path again and not let the anti-American, anti-Israel United Nations decide our policies.
Was this Obama’s last betrayal of our national security interests? There are still 25 days left. What more damage will he do?