As President Obama finishes his final weeks in office, his actions at the United Nations last week where the U.S. delegation refrained from vetoing a resolution condemning Israel are causing quite a stir.
Last Friday, on the eve of Hanukkah, the United States opted to abstain from using its veto power at the United Nations Security Council, allowing a resolution condemning the state of Israel to pass 14-0. The resolution, among other things, states that Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem violate international law saying they have "no legal validity," and that those settlements are a barrier to peace in the region.
This historic decision is troubling notable members of Obama's own party, particularly Jewish Democrats. Likewise, many Christians supportive of Israel are raising objections.
Here are 4 things you need to know about UN Resolution 2334 that was passed on December 23, 2016.
There has not been a resolution of this kind at the UN in nearly 40 years
While the United States has backed UN resolutions criticizing Israel in the past, what sets this one apart from previous measures is its breadth and scope. Not since 1979 and 1980, during the Carter administration, has the US countenanced a resolution that makes such sweeping claims against Jewish rights to the land. Under this resolution, strong disregard is shown to Judaism's holiest sites and Jews who pray at the Western Wall are in violation of international law.
Some contend that this most recent move is especially dangerous given the rising climate of anti-semitism occurring all over the globe.
In a Wednesday post on their website addressed to UN Ambassador Samantha Power, UN Watch Executive Director Hillel C. Neuer, said that that UN Resolution 2334 has emboldened Islamic terror groups like Hamas and the United States had "joined the jackals."
By enshrining in the text of the resolution the "4 June 1967 lines," which were Israel's internationally recognized borders before the Six Day War in 1967 began, the United States has reneged on its prior promises to Israel, he argued.
Writing in Providence magazine Thursday, Anglican theologian Gerald McDermott, a professor at Beeson Divinity School in Alabama, noted that the resolution makes egregious allegations against Israel, including that it violates Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits forced deportations of peoples.
"This is ironic," McDermott said, "because this convention was adopted to prevent crimes like the Nazi deportation of Jews to death camps."
"But no Israelis are being deported against their will — they are moving voluntarily; nor is any Palestinian Arab being deported or transferred," he added.
Some contend President Obama orchestrated this move himself, pressuring nations to vote against Israel
According to the Times of Israel Monday, Israel's ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer said in a CNN interview that it is "an old story that the United Nations gangs up against Israel. What is new is that the United States did not stand up and oppose that gang-up. And what is outrageous is that the United States was actually behind that gang-up."
Similarly, in a Sunday CNN interview, Netanyahu spokesman David Keyes said "We have ironclad information, frankly, that the Obama administration really helped push this resolution and helped craft it, from sources internationally and sources in the Arab world."
Vice President Biden was also apparently in on this, pressuring Ukraine to vote for the resolution when they were considering abstaining, according to the Jewish magazine Tablet. The Obama administration wanted "the optics" of a unanimous vote.
According to an unnamed source whom Tablet called a "highly-placed figure within the Israeli government with strong connections to Ukrainian government sources," the Americans directly pressured the Ukrainian delegation at the UN and Ukrainian President Poroshenko in Kiev (Ukraine's capital) to vote against Israel.
"That Biden told them to do it is 1000% true,' the source affirmed," the report said.
Whether this is all true remains to be seen.
President-elect Trump attempted to thwart the resolution passing and is now saying he intends to undo these UN actions
Prior to UN vote on Dec. 23, Egypt had presented a resolution the day before condemning Israeli settlements. When the Egpyptians requested a delay on the vote, another one was put forward, sponsored by New Zealand, Senegal, Malaysia, and Venezuela, which ultimately passed.
As The New York Times reported last Thursday, the President-elect and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi spoke by phone after Israeli officials reached out Trump for help.
Shortly after the resolution passed, Trump tweeted the following: "As to the U.N., things will be different Jan. 20th."
"We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but.......
not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!"
Some suspect that Trump will pull U.S. funds from the UN, amounting to nearly a quarter of its operating budget.
Additionally, Trump recently named David Friedman, a New York bankruptcy lawyer who served as his advisor on Israel during the campaign, as his choice for the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Friedman has said that he intends to carry out his new job from Jerusalem, lending further credence to the idea that the Trump administration would keep its promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The move has divided Jewish Democrats, including some who have been strong Obama supporters
Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, has been one of the fiercest critics of this recent action.
In a Monday Fox News interview, Dershowitz recounted that when Obama called him into the Oval Office to solicit his support for president prior to the 2012 election, he promised to always have Israel's back.
"I didn't realize what he meant is that would have his back to stab them in the back," Dershowitz said.
"I supported his domestic policy, I liked him on Supreme Court appointments. But he created a terrible conflict for people, many like me, liberal Democrats who support his domestic policy but think he was an appalling, appalling, president when it came to foreign policy," he continued.
Former DNC head and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz also criticized the move.
Following the vote she said on her website, "It is baffling and unacceptable that the Obama administration would abstain on this blatant attempt to internationalize this conflict and perpetuate the UN's atrocious and biased record against our only true and dependable ally in the Middle East, the state of Israel. Simply put, today's vote did nothing to bring us any closer to a lasting peace. Instead, it has accomplished just the opposite."
Yet others have praised the move as a positive development. J Street, a liberal Jewish advocacy group that is an ardent proponent of the two-state solution, welcomed the resolution.
"The resolution is consistent with longstanding bipartisan American policy, which includes strong support for the two-state solution, and clear opposition to irresponsible and damaging actions, including Palestinian incitement and terror as well as Israeli settlement expansion and home demolitions," the group wrote on their Facebook page.