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More on the U.N.'s Israel Resolution

Now that we've had some good news for Joe Biden, let's move on to a real headache for him, namely the situation in Israel. Earlier this week, when we wrote about the cease-fire resolution that passed the U.N. Security Council 14-0 with the U.S. abstaining, we were unable to read the text because of a programming error on the U.N.'s website. We also didn't know if Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu was reacting appropriately to the resolution in canceling planned meetings at the White House, or if he was overreacting.

Now, we have a definite answer to the first issue, and a pretty good answer to the second. The text of the resolution has been posted to many websites (such as this one), so it's not necessary to rely on the U.N. to be able to read it. It's pretty short, so you might consider clicking through, but the executive summary is that it's remarkably mild. Mainly, it calls for a ceasefire during the month of Ramadan with an eye toward a permanent ceasefire, demands that Hamas release any remaining hostages, and insists that humanitarian aid be allowed to flow freely. Only the first of those three provisions is at all controversial, right?

Now that we see the text, we are strongly inclined to the view that Netanyahu was the one who was in the wrong. Of course, we are far from being experts in diplomacy, particularly U.S.-Israel diplomacy. Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, whose authors are far more expert than we are, sees things similarly. Consider this piece from Alon Pinkas, which begins like this:

Monday's UN Security Council resolution "demanding" an immediate cease-fire—adopted by 14 members, with the United States abstaining—puts Israel on a collision course with both the UNSC and, particularly, the Americans.

No one should be surprised by this. We have repeatedly written since last November that this would happen, and the U.S. warned Israel incessantly it was in the cards. Israel ignored the threats and is now disingenuously pretending to be surprised and shocked.

When you ignore U.S. requests, dismiss a president's advice, inundate the secretary of state with endless spin, casually deride American plans, exhibit defiance and intransigence by refusing to present a credible and coherent vision for postwar Gaza, and actively pursue an open confrontation with the administration—there's a price to pay.

Since we don't really know Pinkas' work, it's possible he's in the bag for the far left, an Israeli version of Cenk Uygur or Markos Moulitsas. But we don't think so, since he's got extensive government and media experience, and since we read many other pieces from Israeli media outlets saying this same basic thing.

Indeed, it's pretty clear to us, even as non-experts, that Netanyahu's leadership of the Israeli war effort is much more about politics than it is about what might be best for his people. He's highly dependent on a far-right faction in the Knesset, and he's also likely to get booted out of office (and to face his long-lingering criminal charges) once this war ends. Both of these things incentivize the PM to keep the conflict going, not to find a way to bring about a temporary or permanent peace.

Of course, none of this is helping Joe Biden politically, as he cautiously plays his hand. After the U.N. resolution was passed, the President was lambasted by a whole bunch of pro-Israel Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Their argument is that the resolution emboldens Hamas because it does not condemn the organization, and instead just says the hostages should be released. This appears nitpicky to us; a case of finding something to gripe about in order to keep the voters at home happy. We do not think anyone is going to find Hamas to be an upstanding organization, right up until they read some critical comments by the U.N. Security Council. Anyone inclined to think that Hamas is worthy of condemnation has already reached that conclusion themselves.

Adding to Biden's woes, yesterday, a now-former State Department official, Annelle Sheline, got a fair bit of attention for resigning her job and penning a scorching op-ed in which she explains that she quit in protest of Biden's approach to Israel. She says that many of her colleagues are in agreement with her, although of course you have to take her word for that.

Undoubtedly, Sheline is a person of conscience and she did what she thought was the right thing. However, it is also the case that Biden is not going to change his Israel policy because of the resignation of one low-level State Department employee. Also, the resident Civil War historian can't help but see such things through the lens of that conflict. There were many people in 1861 and 1862 who wanted IMMEDIATE action on slavery. However, if Abraham Lincoln had moved too far, too fast, he risked a backlash that could have ruined the Union War effort, leading to the perpetuation of slavery for much longer than it actually survived. Is the war in Gaza a situation where a cautious approach is essential? Certainly, Biden thinks so, while the rest of us are going to find out if he's right in the next 6 months or so. (Z)

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