US President Barack Obama has but a month left in office. But he has a month left. And he is using it. In the days remaining, Obama is using the full authority of his office to advance his policies with the hope of rendering permanent his mark on American policy.
Domestically, Obama is working to undercut the capacity of his successor, President-elect Donald Trump, to implement his plans of expanding domestic oil and gas exploration and development.
On Tuesday, Obama banned offshore drilling in large swathes of the Artic and Atlantic oceans.
In foreign affairs, Obama has Israel in his crosshairs.
It is now apparent that the lame duck president, bereft of any partisan restraints, intends to make good on his eight years of promises to use his last month in office to stick it to Israel at the UN.
The opening act of Obama’s onslaught on Israel came on Wednesday, with State Department Spokesman John Kirby’s fatuous and unprecedented claim that Israeli communities built beyond the 1949 armistice line – the so-called settlements – are illegal.
Late Wednesday, the UN suddenly announced it would hold a vote on an Egyptian resolution parroting that language, and calling for a complete halt on construction projects for Jews in the areas, including Jerusalem.
The draft resolution included a call for an international governmental embrace of economic warfare against Israel. It called upon member states “to distinguish in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
An indication of the depth of Obama’s commitment to enabling the resolution to pass came amid reports that Secretary of State John Kerry was planning to address the Security Council ahead of the scheduled vote.
In any event, following massive pressure from Israel and a statement by President-elect Donald Trump calling for Obama to veto the resolution, Egypt postponed the vote on its resolution “indefinitely.”
But with or without the resolution – and there are at least two others also poised for a vote – Obama is using his remaining time to empower the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions operation aimed at destroying Israel’s economy and international position.
As Anne Bayefsky reported in the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, Obama is supporting the UN budget which allocates funding toward the implementation of a UN Human Rights Council resolution promoting BDS. The resolution requires the Human Rights Council to compile a blacklist of companies worldwide with direct or indirect business ties to Israeli communities built beyond the 1949 armistice lines. Since all businesses doing business with Israeli entities have indirect or direct ties to the areas where some 750,000 Israeli live, the resolution represents a bid to conduct total war against the Israeli economy.
And Obama is funding its implementation.
Moreover, Obama is trying to box the Trump administration into continuing his supportive stance on the Human Rights Council. Whereas the Bush administration refused to join the inherently and incurably anti-Israel body, Obama has lavished it with legitimacy and funding.
This month the administration won a new three-year term for the US on the council beginning on January 1. This means that regardless of Trump’s approach to the phony human rights body, the US is now saddled with membership for the bulk of his presidential term.
One of the things operating in Israel’s favor as it seeks to undo Obama’s hostile legacy once he is gone, is that Trump’s election is part and parcel of a wide-scale change in Western politics that is fundamentally transforming the so-called “international community” that provides knee-jerk support for BDS and every other anti-Israel initiative.
The term “international community,” of course, is just a grandiose name for the collective views of the Western European elites and those of their counterparts on the US coasts. And as Trump’s victory and the British decision to withdraw from the European Union indicated, the elites’ capacity to impose their views on voters is fast disappearing.
The populist wave that approved Brexit and brought Trump to power is far from spent force. Next year will see general elections in Holland, France and Germany, and nationalist parties in all three countries are likely to win or at a minimum be profoundly strengthened. This means that the likelihood the EU will break apart is rising with each passing day. And the foreign policies of the separate states of Europe will be far different than their collective positions under the EU.
The main cause of the swift rise of the nationalist Right throughout Western Europe is the mass Muslim migration to Europe. Profound public opposition to the deluge of migrants from Muslim states is bringing about wholesale popular rejection of the multicultural and anti-nationalist values that dictated the tone and substance of European politics for two generations. The implications of this revolutionary shift in values and its impact on European politics are enormous. And Israel stands to be one of the first beneficiaries of this transformation, if our foreign policy bureaucracy is capable of understanding what is happening.
Unfortunately, actions by the Foreign Ministry this week indicate that our diplomatic bureaucrats haven’t the vaguest idea of what is happening, or why these developments can be beneficial for Israel.
The Foreign Ministry announced this week that the government was boycotting a delegation of visiting European lawmakers because Kristina Winberg, a member of Sweden’s rightist Swedish Democrats party, was among its members.
In recent weeks, the Foreign Ministry has managed to boycott Sweden’s entire political spectrum. Last week, the ministry announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had rejected Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s request for a meeting due to scheduling difficulties.
Wallstrom richly deserves the government’s unofficial boycott. Among other things, Wallstrom blamed Israel for the massacres in Paris last November.
While the Foreign Ministry used a procedural excuse to brush off Wallstrom, it threw diplomatic protocol to the seven winds when it announced that Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely’s scheduled briefing of the delegation of European lawmakers was canceled due to Winberg’s participation.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that the Swedish Democrats party “has neo-Nazi tendencies, and therefore the Foreign Ministry decided not to include [Winberg] in the meeting with Hotovely.”
Winberg’s colleagues, who included a member of Trump’s transition team, were appalled by the boycott. To protest the move, the entire delegation canceled its meeting with Hotovely.
The delegation was in Israel to participate in a leadership summit in Jerusalem. Due to its position on the Sweden Democrats, the Foreign Ministry caused Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to cancel her scheduled remarks at the conference.
In other words, the Foreign Ministry adopted and implemented a comprehensive, public and undiplomatic boycott of the rightist party.
It is unclear who stands behind this policy. But whoever is responsible should be subjected to a career review. The policy is as destructive to Israel’s national interests as it is unjust to the Swedish Democrats.
The Swedish Democrats party is the only pro-Israel political party in Sweden. It is the only party that opposed Sweden’s recognition of “Palestine.”
The Foreign Ministry’s claim that the party has “neo-Nazi tendencies” is tendentious. Earlier this month, the party took the extreme step of banning one of its own lawmakers from the party after she made an antisemitic statement. In the past it disbanded its youth wing and formed a new one amidst allegations of antisemitism.
How many Nazi parties expel their members or disband their youth wings for hating Jews? The Swedish Democrats party, which is identified with the nationalist right, has built is political position around its unqualified opposition to immigration. For its opposition to immigration, the Democrats are castigated continuously as racists by their political rivals.
There is every reason to believe there are Jew-haters among the party’s members. But unlike members of Wallstrom’s Social Democratic Party, Swedish Democrats don’t participate in anti-Israel demonstrations where Hezbollah and Hamas flags are prominent. Indeed, they don’t participate in anti-Israel demonstrations at all.
Moreover, they are the fastest growing and largest party in Sweden. This fact makes the Foreign Ministry’s treatment of Winberg not only unjust, but deeply stupid as well. A mere decade after it won its first representation in parliament, the Swedish Democrats have been leading political polls for the past year. And the Foreign Ministry just called it a Nazi party.
Sadly, it isn’t much of a surprise that the Foreign Ministry has failed to read the writing on the walls in Sweden and act appropriately. Our foreign and defense bureaucracies have a storied record of missing major developments. They are too busy talking to their bureaucratic counterparts to pay attention to what the public is saying.
In Egypt for instance, no one was more surprised at then-president Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow and the concomitant rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt than the defense establishment, whose members were largely responsible for handling Israel’s bilateral relations with Mubarak.
In the decade or more that preceded Mubarak’s overthrow, anyone paying attention to open source polling data of public opinion in Egypt, or to what was being said in the Egyptian media, was aware of the deep-seated and rising public frustration and disgust with Mubarak, his sons and his cronies. But since the only people that Israel’s defense establishment spoke to were Mubarak, his sons and his cronies, they were taken by complete surprise when he was overthrown and replaced with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Obama will continue to be the president until 12:00 p.m. on January 20. And Israel can expect him to use this time to take the actions against Israel that he has been threatening to take for eight years. One way or another, he will exact his pound of flesh.
But at 12:01 on January 20, a new era will begin.
And in the coming months, as the next wave of populist right-wing parties rise to power in Europe, the “international community” that has been unanimous in its backing of the anti-Israel policies for a generation will become an altogether different body.
This new era presents Israel with profound, indeed unprecedented opportunities. But if our foreign and defense bureaucrats continue to behave as though nothing has happened, we will fail to benefit from any of them.