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Joining the Jackals

The Obama administration abandons Israel.

7:55 AM, Jun 2, 2010 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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At the United Nations, a lynch mob for Israel is always just a moment away.  The Islamic countries are a reliable source of venom, led by the Arab bloc; what we used to call the “non-aligned” are all aligned against Israel and happy to join the fun; and the Europeans can be counted on for hand-wringing rather than staunch resistance. Only the United States, and a few brave allies like Canada and Australia, can be counted upon to oppose diplomatic lynchings year after year; and only the United States can stop them in the Security Council.

Joining the Jackals

United Nations Headquarters

In the American government, it is never the State Department bureaucracy that wishes to brave the endless assaults at the UN. Normally the resistance comes not from the various regional bureaus or from the International Organizations bureau, where Israel is so often viewed as a giant pain, but from the White House and sometimes (example: George Shultz) the Secretary of State.

This week the mob formed again, instantly, after the Gaza flotilla disaster, reinforced this time by the leadership of Turkey, whose language at the UN was more vicious than that used by the Arabs.  As usual there was really only one question once the mob began to gather.  It is the question that arose repeatedly in the Bush years—when the Hamas leaders Sheik Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi were killed by Israel, when Israel acted in Gaza, when Israel put down the intifada in the West Bank, and during the 2006 war in Lebanon and the late 2008 fighting in Gaza: would Israel stand alone, or would the United States stand with her and prevent the lynching? Would the U.S., in Daniel Patrick Moynihan's memorable phrase, "join the jackals?"  

This week the Obama administration answered the question: Yes we would, and Israel would stand alone.  It is simple to block the kind of attack issued as a “President’s Statement” on behalf of the Council, for such a statement requires unanimity.  The United States can just say “No,” and make it clear that orders have come from the White House and will not be changed.  Then negotiations begin on a serious statement—or, there can be no statement at all.  The killing of dozens of South Korean sailors by North Korea in an action that truly threatens the peace did not evoke the kind of action the Security Council took against Israel, proving that the UN does not always act, or act in the same way, when news flashes hit.  Whether Israel is slammed depends on whether the United States is willing to take a stand.

On the Gaza flotilla, the Obama administration waffled and straddled.  It agreed to a statement in which the United Nations condemned the “acts” that led to loss of life but did not say “We condemn Israel.”  Presumably White House congratulated itself on this elision, but no one is fooled: the world media keep repeating that the Security Council condemned Israel, and in this case it is hard to argue.  Yet it would have been simple to stop the mob had the White House wanted to.  The facts were not in yet and indeed are still not in.  The videos suggest that dozens of people (all Turks, it appears, but that too is not fully clear) on the boats were armed and dangerous.  Reports are circulating here that some of those “peace activists” had gas masks and night vision devices, carried no identification papers, wore bullet-proof vests, and carried large amounts of cash.  The background, the Hamas coup in Gaza and more than three thousand rockets into Israel from Gaza, is clear.  The fact the Egypt has for three years (until the pressure mounted this week) refused to open its border to Gaza is understood at the UN.  So the material was at hand to block the lynch mob and say we would accept only a statement that mourned the loss of life.  We did not have to accept the word “condemn” or join in the call for another Goldstone Report.

No doubt the administration will claim it avoided a worse result, a Council resolution condemning Israel.  To which the answer is, "not good enough." The U.S. has the power to block all anti-Israel moves in the Security Council, not just some of them, and to do so without agreeing to unfair, damaging compromises.

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