Obama and Netanyahu
Credit: Pete Souza/Official White House

The reporting on the U.N. Security Council resolution that passed last week has focused almost entirely on its statements condemning the Israeli’s continued expansion of settlements on the West Bank. You might not have heard about two of the other items that were included:

Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism;

Calls upon both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law, and their previous agreements and obligations, to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, with the aim, inter alia, of de-escalating the situation on the ground, rebuilding trust and confidence, demonstrating through policies and actions a genuine commitment to the two-State solution, and creating the conditions necessary for promoting peace;

In a press call with reporters, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes explained that the inclusion of those items is a major reason why the Obama administration chose to abstain rather than veto the resolution.

And again, just the last thing I’d say is that if you look at this resolution as against the resolution in 2011, it is more balanced. There is a more direct condemnation of violence and incitement of violence, and a call upon leaders to reject incitement to violence. So we felt that that balance is also very important, because we completely understand that the conflict is not purely about settlements. It has to be about whether or not Palestinian leaders are taking the necessary steps to reject incitement, to condemn incitement, to reject terrorism, to reject rocket fire to individual citizens of Israel. And I think if you look at our track record, it’s consistent in that regard.

We’ve supported Israeli efforts to defend themselves against rocket fire. We’ve condemned terrorism. We’ve condemned incitement. We’ve opposed previous one-sided resolutions that did not have the balance that was in this resolution.

Because so much of the reporting in this country on issues related to the Israel/Palestinian conflict focus on how events affect Israel and/or emanate from an Israeli point of view, this important part of the resolution – which is primarily aimed at Palestinian leaders – has been almost completely ignored. But Rhodes indicates that without this balance, it is likely that the U.S. would have vetoed it – as they have with previous resolutions that did not contain a condemnation of violence and incitement to violence.

Overall, Rhodes summarized the Obama administration’s position on the resolution with this:

We exhausted every effort to pursue a two-state solution through negotiations, through direct discussions, through proximity discussions, through confidence-building measures, through a lengthy and exhaustive effort undertaken by Secretary Kerry earlier in the President’s second term. We gave every effort that we could to supporting the parties coming to the table.

So within the absence of any meaningful peace process, as well as in the face of accelerated settlement activity that put at risk the viability of a two-state solution, that we took the decision that we did today to abstain on this resolution.

Way back in March 2014, President Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg that his message to Netanyahu was that time was running out.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House tomorrow, President Barack Obama will tell him that his country could face a bleak future — one of international isolation and demographic disaster — if he refuses to endorse a U.S.-drafted framework agreement for peace with the Palestinians. Obama will warn Netanyahu that time is running out for Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy. And the president will make the case that Netanyahu, alone among Israelis, has the strength and political credibility to lead his people away from the precipice.

Since then, Netanyahu made the decision to dig in his heels and keep heading toward that bleak future Obama warned him about. That is why Martin is right, Netanyahu brought this on himself. But this isn’t about a personal pique the President has with the Israeli Prime Minister. It is about – just as he noted with the Cuban embargo – when something isn’t working, it’s time to try something different. This administration did everything they could think of to pressure both Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table to work towards a two-state solution. It didn’t work. The final step was to allow passage of this U.N. resolution.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.