Obama is Not Done Slamming Israel
By Jonathan Schanzer
New York Post
December 27, 2016
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fuming over
President Obama’s abstention in last week’s anti-Israel vote at the United
Nations. Israelis warn Obama may have even more in store for the Jewish state
before he leaves office.
Here’s why they might be right.
Since September, if not well before that, Obama has been
weighing a menu of possible actions to hammer Israel before leaving office. I
know this because US officials openly admitted this to me. Indeed, they were
almost boasting about it.
This is what we know of the options on Obama’s menu:
The first was recognizing a Palestinian state. Mohammed
Shtayyeh, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called upon Obama
to do this in The New York Times on Oct. 26. His piece was titled, “How to
Save Obama’s Legacy in Palestine.” The piece didn’t receive much attention
at the time, given that such a move would fly in the face of decades of US
Another option, as we now know, was to push for a
resolution that took Israel to task for building settlements. Administration
officials insisted that it wouldn’t allow for such a measure if it lacked
“balance.” Apparently, last week’s resolution, which denied Israel’s
right to the Western Wall, somehow met that criteria.
Obama was also mulling a “parameters resolution” at the
United Nations, which would lay out the president’s complete vision for a
two-state solution — including everything from borders and Jerusalem to
refugees and settlements. This seemed like a particularly tall order, given how
difficult it can be for UN member states to agree on such complex issues —
especially in such a short amount of time.
In the event Obama couldn’t get traction at the United
Nations, he had the option of a formal speech — the “Obama Parameters” —
to delineate his full vision for the two-state solution and, at least in his
view, have that speech endure as a milestone for future negotiations.
Finally, the president was reportedly mulling punitive
measures against Israel, either by sanctions or new guidance at the IRS. The
goal, it appeared, was to deny 501c3 tax-deductible status to US-based
organizations that funded settlement construction. A US official confirmed to me
that he was tasked with exploring sanctions opportunities, but found the
prospect “legally challenging.”
Interestingly, in an Oct. 6 press release, the
controversial left-wing J Street lobby, which reportedly has good access to the
Obama White House, openly called for denying “tax-deductible treatment for
donations to NGOS that advance settlement expansion.”
Fast forward to Obama’s UN abstention last week — which
his UN ambassador Samantha Power bizarrely tried to spin as pro-Israel in her
speech after the vote. The media billed this as Obama’s “parting shot,”
implying that this was his administration’s last slap at Netanyahu after eight
years of antagonism.
But there’s no reason to think Obama isn’t considering
at least one of the other menu options — if not three.
Secretary of State John Kerry (not Obama) is now set to
deliver a final speech on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Israelis fear
that this speech would present pre-packaged solutions for the thorniest
negotiating issues, including borders and Jerusalem, making bilateral
negotiations unnecessary for the Palestinians, who would get most of what they
want. Israel’s diplomatic leverage would be obliterated.
But wait, there’s more. Israel’s Channel 2 and the
Times of Israel now report that Netanyahu fears Obama will take these parameters
to the UN to be ratified by the international community.
And new reports suggest that Obama is preparing to
recognize a Palestinian state at the Security Council.
The dangers of these final two moves cannot be overstated.
They are tantamount to a green light for the Palestinians to launch, through
diplomacy, lawfare or violence, a war to claim what Obama granted them. They
would also set the stage for a tsunami of Arab and European delegitimization or
economic-warfare efforts that the Israelis would be forced to battle for years
Netanyahu has understandably reached out to President-elect
Donald Trump, hoping he’ll intervene. Trump can and apparently will try to
mitigate the damage Obama has wrought — both before and after he becomes
The goal now for Team Trump is to come up with its own menu
of options, both to protect America’s only reliable Middle East ally from
Obama’s vicious broadside and to devise punitive measures against those who
colluded with him. They should start by taking a hard look at the United
Nations, the countries that voted in favor of Obama’s parting shots and even
those shameful elements of the US bureaucracy that are all too willing, under
any administration, to gang up on the Jewish state.