John Kerry finally gets to deliver that anti-Israel speech he’s been practicing in the mirror all these years
I’m excited for him. It’s no small thing for a man to realize a fantasy he’s cherished for decades, even though literally no one cares what he has to say. Obama’s a sport for letting him live the dream.
That sounds like a joke but it isn’t. What explanation could there be for this except that Kerry badly wanted to extend a rhetorical middle finger to Netanyahu’s government, whose agenda he attacked today as being “driven by its most extreme elements,” on behalf of the Obama administration as they head out the door? Nothing will flow from it policy-wise. The best you can do to justify it as something other than pure spite or wish-fulfillment by a preening Beltway mainstay who’s always dreamed of giving a big televised address lecturing Israel about a two-state solution is that Team O wanted to lay down a marker for the historical record registering its disapproval of Netanyahu and the settlements. I’m … pretty sure the historical record has already noted that, though. This is an administration whose State Department sent taxpayer money to an Israeli NGO to campaign against Netanyahu in the last Knesset elections and whose members have been quoted on record calling Netanyahu a “chickensh*t” because he wasn’t prepared to make the concessions on the “peace process” that the White House wanted him to. Obama’s proudest foreign-policy accomplishment is a nuclear giveaway to Iran over Netanyahu’s objections that’ll place Israel — and most of the Sunni world — in mortal danger within 15 years. Which historical textbook writer was waiting for Kerry’s speech today before rendering a verdict on how Obama felt about Israel’s policies over the last eight years?
Anyway. Let’s talk about something that does matter, namely, how Trump and the Republican Congress plan to react to the UN’s Israel resolution of last week. Josh Rogin says options on the table range from “micro” reprisals to bolder measures, but full defunding of the UN remains unlikely.
There are several options under consideration, two senior Senate aides working on the issue told me. Some are considered “micro” options, such as passing a resolution that would bar any funding that might go to implementing the anti-settlement resolution. Other options include withdrawing the United States from U.N. organizations such as UNESCO or passing legislation to protect settlers who are American citizens and might be vulnerable to consequences of the resolution…
Senators are also looking at ways to withhold U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority or perhaps punish the Palestine Liberation Organization representative office in Washington. Republicans in the Senate don’t plan to wait until Trump is actually in office; aides said to expect action as soon as senators return to Washington next week…
Danielle Pletka, who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff under [Jesse] Helms, said … taking on the United Nations can be done, but not without costs and the risk of retaliation. The United Nations could stop doing things that the United States sees as important. Allied countries that value U.N. operations will be upset if those programs are affected. Also, the dues don’t go just go away.
Interesting timing there. Republicans in Congress are going to push something next week to test Democrats’ support for Israel by daring Schumer to block whatever they end up proposing. Normally you’d expect Schumer to protect an Obama policy by filibustering the Republican response, but what incentive does he have to do that in this case? He’s pro-Israel himself, and Obama will be gone in less than a month. Support for Israel in Congress is also sufficiently bipartisan that McConnell might be able to find eight Democratic votes even if Schumer opposes the GOP’s bill, which would mean that Republicans will be able to pass something in January anyway that’ll be signed into law by Trump. All McConnell needs right now, in fact, is six votes to send a bill to Obama’s desk for an inevitable veto. But that raises a second question: Is support for Israel so bipartisan in Congress that it might produce a two-thirds vote in both chambers for the GOP’s bill, which would be enough to override an Obama veto? That would be a stinging rebuke from his own party on Israel as he prepares to leave office.
I assume Dems will spare him from that humiliation knowing that Trump is waiting in the wings to undo O’s policies anyway. Granted, Steny Hoyer did sound pretty pissed in that statement attacking Kerry for his speech today, but there’ll be enough rank-and-file liberals demanding that Democrats protect the UN, if not Obama, that Schumer and Pelosi will have to proceed cautiously on any retaliatory defunding measures. Two-thirds of both houses is too heavy a lift under the circumstances — but it’ll be fun watching Obama be embarrassed as the GOP tries. Here’s a snippet of Kerry’s speech today; it ran more than an hour, another clue that the motive here was mainly self-indulgence, not shaping policy. Exit question: How should Trump respond to this on Twitter? I imagined him tweeting “Ignore everything that man just said” as Kerry wrapped up, but a well-timed “You’re fired, John” would work too.