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February 28, 2011

The U.S. Veto at the U.N. Security Council: Historically, Not Automatic

Listed in: Israel, NJDC News, Opinions

Originally Published in Politico’s Arena

By David A. Harris, President and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council

By now you may have seen plenty about the lone “no” vote cast by the United States before the U.N. Security Council a week ago that vetoed a resolution critical of Israel in the Israel-obsessed U.N. We praised the move by President Barack Obama, as did the breadth of the Jewish community—and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well.

But don’t be fooled by those who claimed this vote was easy, or something the U.S. always does. It wasn’t.

As JTA’s Ron Kampeas points out, “withholding a veto of a resolution that Israel doesn’t care for ... happened as recently as 2009,” during the end of the administration of President George W. Bush. There are many such examples from the last four administrations—on both sides of the aisle. A review of all the U.S. votes on Israel-related resolutions coming before the UN Security Council tells the full story.

U.N. history notwithstanding, time and again during his presidency, President Obama has stuck up for Israel at the United Nations. From being the only one to give Israel the benefit of the doubt during the Gaza Flotilla incident to standing by Israel at the United Nation regarding the miserably biased Goldstone Report, President Obama has been there, on the side of our democratic ally.

Which makes it all the more disturbing that some partisans have chosen to even make this action—in which the president stood by Israel yet again—a political bludgeon to wield against the Administration. As The Jewish Week’s James Besser writes, in the build-up of false rumors prior to this key U.N. vote, many sought “to use Israel as just another wedge issue in the U.S. partisan wars.”

It’s not ok. The U.S.-Israel alliance—like some other key bilateral relationships—is simply too important. Finally, at long last, it’s really time for those who keep using Israel as a partisan hammer to stop. You would think that those pointing to this most recent episode at the U.N. as evidence of President Obama’s lack of support for Israel to be shamed by the facts of what happened. But you would be wrong.

As we look to history, we’re reminded that vetoing an Israel-related resolution before the Security Council is not automatic. And it’s not easy, even in this case—for the reasons we outlined in our statement, and many more.

President Obama took the right step. And he deserves the thanks of all Americans who support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship… not more of the politics as usual from those who keep using Israel as a partisan wedge issue.