In eighteen days time, Barack Hussein Obama’s presidency will have ended and President-elect Trump will have been installed as the 45th president of the USA. By now, many have likely forgotten how Pres. Obama, in office for only a few months and before he had accomplished anything of note, was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Widely criticized for their choice of recipients, the Norwegian Nobel Committee justified their selection of the fledgling US president thus: It was because Pres. Obama had “created a new climate in international politics.” (The award was intended, as much as anything, as a rejection of the foreign policies of Pres. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.)
In 2009, Pres. Obama hadn’t as yet created the “new climate in international politics” that the Norwegian Nobel Committee believed he had. But that is not the case eight years later. Just look around at the world he leaves for his successor. The world’s greatest exporter of terrorism, Iran, is billions of dollars wealthier, courtesy of the US. An ascendant Russia now ‘calls the shots’, literally, in the Middle East, thanks to a leader content to “lead from behind.”
Not only has Pres. Obama empowered two of the biggest threats to the West and, ultimately, to world peace–Iran and Russia–he has abandoned the one and only true democracy in the Middle East, Israel. It had been a longstanding tradition that when the United nations Security Council (UNSC) attempted to pass resolutions targeting Israel over the issue of so-called ‘settlements’, the US as one of the permanent members would use its veto power, and thus the resolution would fail to pass. On 23 December 2016, the Obama administration, breaking with tradition, abstained rather than using its veto power, thereby allowing UNSC resolution 2334 to pass.
This unprecedented abstention will have far-reaching consequences. Resolution 2334, unlike previous resolutions, calls for Israel not only to withdraw to the pre-June 1967 borders, but to withdraw from East Jerusalem. Consider what such a withdrawal would mean for the Jewish people: It would mean abandoning the Temple Mount, site of the First and Second Temples; it would mean forsaking the Western Wall where Jews pray; it would mean turning over to the Palestinians the entire Jewish Quarter of the city, including the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, the Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus. Resolution 2334 calls for the Jewish people to deny their historic and religious connections to Jerusalem. It calls for Israel to do the unthinkable!
(Personal photo taken on a trip to Israel in 2014)
Israelis remember all too well what life was like when Jordan occupied the same territory (1948-67). During the 1948 war between the nascent Jewish state and its Arab neighbours, Jordan seized control of the west bank of the Jordan River as well as the Old City of Jerusalem. Jordan’s seizure and annexation of this territory, interestingly, was viewed as an illegal act by the Arab League; Britain recognized it. The 1949 Armistice Agreement that ended the war was supposed to give Israelis access to their religious sites in the Old City/East Jerusalem, but Jordan never honoured the agreement. Israelis were barred from entering the Old City; some 58 ancient synagogues in the Jewish Quarter were either desecrated or destroyed; and tombstones from the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives were used to build army barracks and even latrines for the Jordanian army. Slum dwellings were allowed to abut the Western Wall where Jews once prayed. The site most sacred to Jews worldwide came to resemble a garbage dump.
Contrast Israel’s treatment of religious sites today with that of Jordan’s. In Israel, all religious groups are allowed administration over their own holy sites. The administration of the Temple Mount has been retained by the Islamic Waqf, as it has been for centuries.
Because the US president abandoned Israel at the UN, expect to see more boycotts, divestment, and sanctions placed on Israel goods (economic warfare); more Israelis and their supporters hauled up before the International Criminal Court (lawfare); and, ominously, anticipate even more resistance a.k.a. terrorist attacks. The Palestinian Arabs have had their claims to East Jerusalem affirmed by the UN Security Council, so why bother to negotiate with the Israeli government?
With the West’s enemies empowered and Israel abandoned at the UN, war is more likely now after eight years of an Obama presidency than before. This is the new climate in international politics created by the 2009 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize: Pres. Obama.