As if 2016 hasn’t been acrimonious enough: Now, in the closing days of the Obama administration, a bitter public brawl has broken out with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — one likely out of frustration over the failure of a U.S.-brokered Middle East peace pact to take hold during President Obama’s presidency.
Already relations have ranged from cool to Arctic between the two countries since the Iran nuclear deal was approved, a pact Israel denounced. But the latest trigger point happened last week when a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the expansion of Jewish settlements was passed — and the United States failed to defend Israel by calling for the resolution’s veto, as Israel expected from its ally.
At best, it was a petty move from the Obama administration. At worst, it put yet another roadblock on the path to peace, giving Palestinian hardliners new impetus to resist negotiations. Mr. Obama was accused of firing a parting shot at the gut of Israel for not considering a two-state solution with the Palestinians. The United States sees that solution in danger if Israel continues to build settlements deep into the West Bank and East Jerusalem, considered Palestinian territory, but not by the Jewish state.
But if the U.N. vote fiasco was a final push by the United States to force Israel to bend on the two-state solution — which is said to be backed by Mr. Netanyahu, but not his coalition — then our country acted with as much finesse as a bull in a china shop.
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In fact, it acted just like an administration in its final days — with a willingness to let the chips fall where they may because, “Who cares at this point? We’re out of here.” That’s dangerous diplomacy. Dare we say, a Trump-like move?
Then on Wednesday, in his final speech, an impassioned Secretary of State John Kerry warned Israel to support the two-state solution with the Palestinians, calling it the only path to peace in the Middle East. The U.N. resolution preserves that possibility, Mr. Kerry said. “We cannot in good conscience do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hope of peace slipping away.
“Friends need to tell each other the hard truths.”
Rightly, in the same breath, Mr. Kerry denounced terrorist acts against Israel and reminded the world that the United States spends billions funding Israel’s defense.
Mr. Kerry also denied accusations that the Obama administration played a key role in authoring the Security Council’s Jewish-settlement resolution.
Liar, liar pants on fire, was the response from an angry Mr. Netanyahu, who quickly appeared on television to blast Mr. Kerry, calling his speech a “deep disappointment.” He threw gas on the fire by saying there is “absolutely incontestable evidence that the U.S. organized” and advanced the U.N. resolution. Sounds Trumpian, too.
Mr. Netanyahu says he hopes to mend fences — but with President Trump. He’s done with Mr. Obama. No doubt, the feeling is mutual. The Israeli prime minister has given Mr. Obama the back of his hand more than a few times.
Mr. Trump has begun his own Twitter diplomacy, tweeting to Mr. Netanyahu that things will be different under his administration. “Stay strong Israel. January 20 is fast approaching.” Comforting words for the Israeli prime minister, but, not necessarily providing a smoother path to peace and the elusive two-state solution.