Votes have consequences. Pres. Barack “Abstain” Obama directed the U.S. to abstain rather than veto a vote by the UN Security Council in December 2016 just before leaving office called Resolution 2334 which condemned Israel for its settlements in occupied territories. In previous votes on this matter, the U.S. vetoed said condemnation. Without the U.S. veto of the Resolution, the vote passed at 14-0. This was Obama’s parting “gift” to Israel. It legitimized and thereby intensified Arab hatred for the Jewish settlers.
This abstention which in effect branded Israel as a violator of international law – the Fourth Geneva Convention — at the expense of the Arab population living within its borders since the Israeli victories of 1967 and 1973 (the Yom Kippur war). The enemies of Israel never tired of stating that Israeli Jewish settlements in occupied territories, especially in the south of Judea and Samaria, were expanding too rapidly. Judea and Samaria were the original names of the land areas of present-day Israel which names were abolished by the Romans in 135 AD who re-named the land area Palestina. That is why the residents of that area, prior to the recognition by the United Nations of Israeli statehood, were called Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs.
Many uninformed persons today do not realize that the United Nations also authorized the creation of a state for the Palestinian Arabs at the same time the State of Israel was authorized, but the Palestinian Arabs, coached by the neighboring Arab countries, turned down the offer. Instead, the Arabs in the region intent upon destroying the new Jewish state and annihilating all the “Palestinian Jews” (now properly called Israelis) called upon all Arab residents of the newly formed state of Israel had to flee so they could wipe out all of Israel. After the intended “wipe out” those who fled could return to the homes and property they had left as well as take over all the property of the Jews.
It was an all or nothing plan, and they ended with nothing. The fledgling state of Israel that was completely outmatched in terms of equipment nevertheless won the war in 1948, and the Arabs who had fled from Israel now found themselves living in camps and unable to occupy the homes they had left in Israel (“Eretz Yisrael”).
Some commentators, in particular Shalom Lipner, saw Obama’s abstention on the vote condemning Israel as more of a personal confrontation between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Further, like so many elitist commentators he expressed his understanding in opaque, highly educated language. He wrote “Lacking critical texture, the resolution paints the entire parcel in question with the same truth, effectively equating the most isolated of Israeli settlements – which Israel would surely dismantle in the even of a bona fide peace agreement….” He is thereby disagreeing with the resolution but sees it as a finesse to favor Obama’s perspective over that of Netanyahu. Yet the florid language obscures the reality that Israel was betrayed.
However, although Obama was President, there was considerable backlash against his decision to abstain. Obama found himself opposed by Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Cory Gardner, President elect Donald Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and even Democrat Senator Charles Schumer. The decision not to veto was not only pro-Islamic, it also represented a twisted interpretation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which was supposed to be the reason for the abstention.
The Fourth Geneva Convention (FGC) has an entire section about the legal treatment of occupied territories going from Article 47 to Article 78. These articles cover such topics as children, repatriation, and hygiene in occupied territories. Section 47 is one of two sections that may seem to apply to the Israeli occupation per se. it states, “Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention by any change introduced, as the result of the occupation of a territory,….” Reviewing the articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention, this writer concludes that the meaning inferred by Obama was that the increase of settlements by Israelis in lands acquired in earlier wars with Arab states deprive local Arabs in those territories “…of the benefits…by any change introduced as a result of the occupation….” To me, this is an extreme and hostile view of the Israeli settlements in lands taken during wars. The presence of Arabs in those lands is in no way oppressed by the presence of Jewish Israelis in expanded numbers in neighboring acreage. Thus, Israel is right in conceiving of this interpretation of Section 47 of the Convention as illegitimate, and that Obama sacrificed truth for the sake of the Islamic false claims. The Arabs simply did not want to live near increasing numbers of Jews. No international law was breached.
Also, Article 49 of the FGC states, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The Israeli settlements have been voluntary movements into the territories. The Israeli settlers moving into areas near the Arab settlements were not deported there nor were they transferred there by the Israeli government. The settlements have legal status. Since 1967, government-funded settlement projects in the West Bank are implemented by the “Settlement Division” of the World Zionist Organization, a non-governmental organization. During the Trump administration, the U.S. position was that the Israeli settlements are not inconsistent with international law.
More important for evangelical born-again Christians like myself is that the Jewish settlement expansion is a prophetic fulfillment of Ezekiel 37 where Ezekiel has a vision of a valley of dry bones which are restored to life by Almighty God. Then the Lord God Almighty said to Ezekiel “Son of man these bones are the whole house of Israel….Behold O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel….I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land….”
By failing to veto the false claim of the terrorist world that surrounds Israel, Obama opened the door to a fundamentally false understanding of the Israeli settlements in lands taken during the horrible wars that beset that wonderful country. This was an encouragement to Hamas and to all those bitter murderers who deny the right of Israel to exist as a country. The Arab bias is driven by a non-rational sense of Islamic hegemony as being valid in any lands they had conquered at one time.
Whatever Pres. Obama may or may not have thought, Israel is not in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Horrible murders of the residents of Jewish settlements and towns in no way proves the Obama agreement. It is a bloodthirsty and primitive reaction that must be smashed.
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