Columns: U.S. leadership back at the U.N.

Jacob Millner

Time and time again, the Obama Administration took a back seat on the international stage. Whether it was the president’s “red-lines” in Syria — crossed without consequence, the ill-conceived Iran nuclear deal, or the sad spectacle of last December’s U.S. vote to abstain, rather than veto, a one-sided, anti-Israel resolution in the U.N. Security Council, the Obama Administration’s view of American foreign policy stood in sharp contrast to previous administrations.

The United Nations’ obsession with Israel is nothing new. It is well known and well documented. The U.N. Human Right’s Commission has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than all other nations combined. To this point, Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said in 2015, “Sadly, with members like China, Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Venezuela and Qatar, the UNHRC today may possibly rank as a more corrupt international organization than FIFA.”

Another U.N. agency, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been renowned for its anti-Israel bias. In October 2016, Israel suspended ties with UNESCO after the cultural agency passed a resolution criticizing Israel as an “occupying power” and denying Jewish ties to the region’s holy sites.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was outraged by the resolution. “Would UNESCO vote to deny the Christian connection to the Vatican? Or the Muslim connection to Mecca? The UNESCO vote claims there is no connection between the Jewish people and the Western Wall. In fact, it is the UNESCO vote that has no connection to reality.”

Recent UNESCO decisions have been equally devoid of reality. In May, on Israel’s Independence Day no less, UNSECO again passed a resolution on “Occupied Palestine” that said Israel has no legal or historical rights anywhere in Jerusalem. In July, UNESCO declared the Old Town of Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs as a Palestinian World Heritage Site. In response, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted, “UNESCO seems intent on sprouting anti-Jewish lies, while it remains silent as the region’s heritage is destroyed by brutal extremists.”

The recent decision by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — American law since bipartisan passage of the 1995 Embassy Relocation Act — is a welcome reassertion of American global leadership at a critical time. No one personifies this resurgence more than America’s ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley.

Following the president’s speech, the U.N. Security Council met to consider a resolution calling for the dismissal of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Ambassador Haley correctly utilized American veto power, stating, “The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy. What we have witnessed here is an insult. It won’t be forgotten. It is one more example of the U.N. doing more harm than good in addressing the Israeli Palestinian conflict.”

Ambassador Haley was right about the damage the U.N. has done to the prospects for peace.

Israel’s enemies use the U.N. as a tool — not, as they would have us believe, to advance Palestinian rights, but to undermine Israel’s very legitimacy as a Jewish state. Attempts to erase the eternal connection of Jews and Israel to the very birthplace of Judaism is not about Palestinian rights, but unmistakable evidence of an agenda that is clearly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

These efforts have done significant harm to the peace process, appearing to justify the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to come to the negotiating table and providing little incentive for PA leaders to negotiate in good faith. And why should they, especially if their “friends” at the U.N. will impose a “favorable” solution that requires little or no compromise on their part?

Israel will never accept a solution that is imposed on it from the U.N. and the Palestinians are delusional if they believe such tactics will yield them “victory.” Real victory for both parties in the conflict can only be achieved through face-to-face bilateral talks that result in a permanent peace agreement.

Ambassador Haley’s statements in defiance of one-sided anti-Israel resolutions is a signal that once again America will defend our allies. American leadership is back, and no matter what political affiliation, every American should be pleased that we are no longer “leading from behind.”

Jacob Millner is midwest regional director & senior policy analyst for The Israel Project.