When the British Prime minster and the Australians foreign minister both criticize the Obama administration for being unfair to Israel, you can be sure that something is very wrong with what President Obama and Secretary Kerry have been doing. This is what Theresa May said:
"We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. [W]e are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long."2
This is what Julie Bishop, the foreign minister of Australia, said in explaining why Australia would not have voted for the U.N. Security Council resolution:
"In voting at the UN, the [Australian] Coalition government has consistently not supported one-‐sided resolutions targeting Israel."
And these are only the public criticisms. In private several other countries have expressed dismay at the problems caused by the last minute moves of the lame duck Obama administration.
Initially, the New York Times failed to report these important international developments,
presumably because they disagree with them. Only after other media featured the British and Australian criticism did they decide to cover it. They did immediately report that the Jewish community – both in the United States and Israel – is divided between right-‐wing Jews who oppose the Obama administration's moves and liberal Jews who support them.3 This is simply fake news: Israel is not divided over the Security Council's resolution and the Kerry speech. All Israeli leaders and the vast majority of its citizens opposed these developments. This is true even of the Israeli leftists and centrists who are critical of Israel's settlement policies. The same is true with regard to American Jews, despite the New York Times reporting to the contrary. Many liberal Jews and non-‐
Jews, including Senators Schumer, Blumenthal, Gillibrand, and Wyden have been vocally critical. So have numerous liberal congressmen and pundits.4 I certainly count myself as a liberal Democrat, who opposes Israel's settlement policies, but who is strongly critical of the Obama/Kerry moves.
Only J Street -‐-‐ which carries Obama's water -‐-‐ has expressed support, along with a few handfuls of hard-‐left reform rabbis and professional Israel bashers, who the Times reporter quoted as if they
were representative of the larger Jewish community.
In contrast to the relative uniformity of the Israel's leaders and citizens in opposition to the Obama/Kerry initiatives, the Obama administration itself and the Democratic Party are divided.
Most who have expressed views have been critical, but we have not yet heard from several leading Democrats, especially Keith Ellison who is seeking the chairmanship of the DNC. This is an issue on which silence is not a virtue. It is important for all Democrats to stand up and be counted.
There is actually some good news growing out of the Kerry speech. Arab leaders have expressed support for his proposal, which would require the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as a Jewish state (or as I prefer to put it "the nation state of the Jewish people.") Despite this implicit support for such recognition from Arab leaders, the Palestinian Authority adamantly persists in refusing to recognize Israel's Jewish character.
This is the phony excuse Hanan Ashwari, the official spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, gave for why it would be "against our principles" to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people:
If you want to give religion to states, then this is against our principles. I don't recognize Islamic states. I don't recognize Christian states. I don't recognize Jewish states. A state is a state for all its citizens. It has to be Democratic, inclusive, tolerant, and has to be genuinely representative of all its people. You cannot give added value to any people because of their religion or ethnicity."5
This statement may win the award for Ashwari as hypocrite of the year. The Palestinian Authority, which she officially represents, has the following in its Constitution:
"Islam is the official religion in Palestine.... The principles of Islamic Shari'a shall be the main source of legislation."6
Moreover, the Palestinian Authority recognizes Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, which are all countries that define Islam as their state religion and discriminate against non-‐believers in their particular brand of Islam.
Is Ashwari really saying that the principles of the Palestinian Authority require it to renounce their own Constitution and to withdraw recognition from all their Muslim allies? What about from Great Britain, which has an official state religion? If so, I challenge her to say that explicitly!
Israel is the only state in the Middle East that grants religious equality to all its citizens as a matter of law.7 Israeli Arabs enjoy more rights than do Arabs (let alone Jews) of any Arab state. They serve in all branches of government, including the Knesset and the Supreme Court. They have their own religious authorities recognized by the state.
Contrast this to the Palestinian leadership that has vowed that "not a single" Israeli Jew will be able to reside in the future Palestinian state.8 Furthermore Israeli Jews are banned from Palestinian universities and other institutions.9
So let's have three cheers for Great Britain and Australia, a cheer and a half for Arab leaders, and a big raspberry for the hypocrisy of Hanan Ashwari and her Palestinian Authority.
1Alan M. Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus and author of Taking the Stand: My Life in the
2 Michael Birnbaum, British Leader Theresa May Breaks with John Kerry's Condemnation of Israel, Washington
3 Adam Nagourney& Sharon Otterman, American Jews Divided Over Strain in U.S.-‐Israel Relations, New York Times, Dec. 29, 2016. See also Peter Baker, In 'Red' and 'Blue' Israel, Separate Lives and Divergent Narratives, New York Times, Dec. 29, 2016
4 Rebecca Kheel, Obama Faces Widespread Backlash After Abstaining from UN Israel Vote, The Hill, Dec. 23, 2016.
See e.g. Eli Lake, Obama Fulfills His Prophecy on Israeli Settlements, Bloomberg View, Dec. 27, 2016.
5 CNN New Day with Don Lemon, Dec. 27, 2016.
62002 Basic Laws, Art. 4, available at http://www.palestinianbasiclaw.org/basic-‐law/2002-‐basic-‐law
7 Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948
8 Abbas: 'Not a single Israeli' in future Palestinian state,' Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2013, available at http://www.jpost.com/Middle-‐East/Abbas-‐wants-‐not-‐a-‐single-‐Israeli-‐in-‐future-‐Palestinian-‐state-‐321470 9Amira Hass, When A Haaretz Journalist Was Asked To Leave A Palestinian University, Sept. 28, 2014