BY: ANDREW SVEDA, CONTRIBUTOR
The world watched with both praise and criticism as Trump was elected to be the 45th President of the United States. People anxiously awaited his selections for his administration. We have heard about his meeting with President Obama. We have seen him better realize the weight of his future office.
Many have applauded as Trump successfully negotiated with companies such as Carrier, and has boasted his triumph through Sprint, which will create 5,000 more American jobs. He has long been lauded as a great negotiator in his business, but now he has shown signs of promise domestically as a commander-in-chief. However, even before he takes the oath of office, he must initiate his foreign policy and become a diplomat for the United States.
The alliance between Israel and the United States has once again been threatened by the Obama Administration. In the United Nations Security Council, President Obama now has refused to follow decades-old convention of vetoing resolutions that appear hazardous to Israel or the peace process in the Middle East. Instead, the United States decided to abstain from voting on a decision that denounces Israeli settlements in the West Bank, allowing for the resolution to pass, 14-0.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has realized the gravity of this shift in America’s behavior. In recent years, Israel’s democracy and safety has been constantly put at risk by Obama and Secretary of State, John Kerry. For example, Kerry played a major role in negotiating the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015. This agreement was viewed not only as inadequate in preventing Iran, a nation which believes both Israel and the United States to be the “little and big Satans,” respectively, from obtaining a nuclear weapon in the near future, but it also resulted in 100 billion dollars of “sanction relief” to be flooded back into their economy. This could easily be given to Iran-sponsored terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and Netanyahu clearly understood what this deal meant for Israel. He knew that his own ally had put his nation at risk while benefitting their nemesis. In his words, he said the negotiation was a “mistake of historic proportions”. In addition, I am sure that Israeli officials did not forget the 400 million dollars that was airlifted to Iran as a part of a 1.7 billion dollar payment from the days of the Shah in 1979, which had to be given in foreign currencies, because it is against Federal law to provide Iran with American currency. Coincidentally, four American hostages were released upon the reception of this money. This possible ransom has become a symbol for Obama’s cooling relations with Israel. In addition, there is evidence that Obama even utilized taxpayer dollars to meddle with Israel’s elections in order to prevent Netanyahu from becoming re-elected! Obama has tampered with Israel’s democracy, and he has consistently placed Israel in an increasingly dangerous position. It is completely unacceptable, and is no wonder why Israel cannot trust America anymore.
And now, after all the damage Obama has caused to US-Israeli relations, he has allowed for this recent UN resolution to pass. However, this resolution requires further actions to allow it to have instant effect. Although this fact may appear reassuring to the state of Israel, these future resolutions may “issue parameters” on the most heated topics of this conflict, from the status of Palestinian refugees, to borders and the standing of Jerusalem as a capital of Israel. Furthermore, the Paris Peace Conference, beginning on January 15, will probably become the medium for these discussions, even though Israel has refused the invitation to attend (Palestinian officials will, however, attend). Thus, the world may attempt to start framing negotiations without one of the major parties in attendance. This absence in such an important meeting, in conjunction with the United States’ behavior at the UN Security Council, may prove to be extremely dangerous for Israel and the entire peace process. In fact, it is speculated that President Obama may soon join the ranks, among other Western leaders, in recognizing a State of Palestine on January 15, which would be a final blow to US-Israeli relations. As Netanyahu knows, too much is at stake for Israel in the final days of Obama’s presidency.
It is for these reasons that Netanyahu has taken this UNSC vote so seriously. Netanyahu has defunded the United Nations, and Israeli ambassadors have met with diplomats from ten countries that voted for the resolution. In addition, Netanyahu has also “suspend[ed] working ties with embassies” of these countries in order to show his clear opposition to this vote and the harm to Israel that may result. The Prime Minister has also met with Secretary of State, John Kerry, to seriously discuss the fact that the US did not protect Israel with the standard veto. Israel has also claimed that America may have played a part in forming this resolution “gang-up” on its ally. As Netanyahu said in a speech, “friends do not take friends to the Security Council”. Clearly, Israel’s feelings towards the US has reached a boiling point.
Thankfully, Netanyahu has seen support from American politicians across the aisle. Sen. Charles Schumer (D, NY), declared that Kerry’s speech rebuking Israel would “embolden extremists on both sides”. He specifically critiqued the Secretary of State further when he said, “While Secretary Kerry mentioned Gaza in his speech, he seems to have forgotten the history of the settlements in Gaza, where the Israeli government forced settlers to withdraw from all settlements and the Palestinians responded by sending rockets into Israel. This is something that people of all political stripes in Israel vividly remember”. Moreover, many statesmen such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, SC) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R, TX), have ordered the Security Council to revoke the resolution, or America, who provides the UN with 22% of its budget, will defund this institution. Thus, Washington clearly understands, in the words of Rep. Hoyer (D, MD), that this UNSC vote has allowed for Israel to be openly condemned for their actions by an outside peacekeeping group that has been accused of ignoring genocide, thus only inciting hostilities and making peace even more difficult.
Resolution 2334 will not bring peace closer. Already, President Abbas [of the State of Palestine] is using that resolution to justify stalling peace efforts by Palestinians and insisting on unilateral steps by Israel…The United States will have a role to play in helping both parties reach the goal of lasting peace, even if that involves highlighting uncomfortable facts on the ground, as Secretary Kerry did. Nonetheless, I continue to believe that the U.N. Security Council is the wrong forum for critiquing Israeli policies. As I have said many times, no solution should be imposed from outside, nor should the United States, the United Nations, or any other nation or international organization seek to prejudge any formulation for a final settlement, which must be worked out by the parties themselves. Now is the time for the United States to play a constructive role by supporting Israel in its efforts to reach a lasting peace that brings real security to its people.
Now, Trump will be faced with a difficult diplomatic mission as he steps into the White House on January 20th. However, he must continue to have a voice in international politics, even while he still is President-elect. Trump has already made his position known on Twitter, but he must depart social media and enter into serious conversations with Netanyahu to not only reassure him about US’ support for Israel, but discuss how to move forward towards peace.
If he plays his cards right, Trump could gain allies in the legislature through opposition of the current administration’s actions. Trump could diplomatically bring congressmen from both parties together to formulate a plan to respond to the UN. If the President-elect is able to negotiate a well-supported compromise in Congress, he could begin to lay a foundation of bipartisanship for future legislation. To see true progress, Trump must realize he will have to build a coalition of politicians from both parties, and this may prove an ideal time to start building cooperation in Washington.
Nevertheless, Trump’s focus must be on doing everything in his power to halt this dangerous Security Council resolution from producing such a dramatic impact in obstructing future peace agreements.
Trump must surround himself with diplomats in order to move towards a truly fair peace. President-elect Trump should, coincidentally, take advice from Obama during his 2011 UN speech: “Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations. If it were easy, it would have been accomplished by now”. Trump must embrace his negotiating skills on a global level, and he must learn from both Netanyahu and Obama about the true importance of peace. Israel has faced crises that have constantly threatened the existence of the state of Israel, thus he knows how valuable peace would be for his nation and the region:
Hundreds of suicide bombings, thousand, tens of thousands of rockets, millions of Israelis in bomb shelters are not throwaway lines in a speech; they’re the realities that the people of Israel had to endure because of mistaken policies, policies that at the time won the thunderous applause of the world. I don’t seek applause; I seek the security, and peace, and prosperity and the future of the Jewish state.
Trump must understand the difficulty of this task and its absolute necessity.
This will be one of Trump’s first major tests in foreign policy since the election. The fate of an entire continent, and thus the entire globe, is at stake in these future negotiations. Success, however, is possible on multiple fronts, but only if Trump realizes the true gravity of his actions, for good or ill, and embraces a new “Art of the Deal”: one of patience and diplomacy to search for and reach the common goal – a lasting peace.