Barack Obama, Israel's unsung protector

The number of such resolutions fell to just three during Bill Clinton’s presidency, which was characterized by promising Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, and then rose to six under George W. Bush, whose term in office saw increased violence with the outbreak of the second intifada. In May 2004, one such resolution, also deemed “one-sided” by Israel, condemned Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza. Another, in March 2002, called for a cease-fire and a withdrawal by Israeli forces from Palestinian cities they had re-entered to stem the uprising; Israel protested that the resolution lacked “a similar call for an end to terrorism in all its forms and in particular suicide bombings.”

President Obama, in contrast with his predecessors, has completely shielded Israel from such resolutions. This fact is all the more striking given that his presidency has overlapped with governments that have been among the most right-wing in Israel’s history — governments that have continually and openly defied American-led peace efforts and American policy opposing settlement expansion.

The rationale behind Mr. Obama’s United Nations policy was hinted at in 2011, when the United States vetoed a draft resolution related to Israeli settlements. In remarks explaining her vote, Susan E. Rice, then the United States ambassador to the United Nations, made clear that the administration objected to the resolution not over its substance, but over concerns that it could poison efforts to foster peace negotiations. In other words, the administration hoped that vetoing the resolution would encourage the Netanyahu government to engage more constructively in peace efforts.