President Barack Obama’s decision to allow a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements pass Dec. 23 is the latest in a string of adversarial incidents between him and one of America’s closest allies.
Obama’s very first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set an adversarial tone between the two. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2009 to 2013, Michael Oren, said in 2015 that one of the core principles of the U.S.-Israeli relationship was “no surprises.” Yet, Oren noted that Obama “discarded it in his first meeting with Mr. Netanyahu” by reportedly “abruptly demanding a settlement freeze.”
Months later, he snubbed Israel again. One of Obama’s first major foreign policy acts was to give his 2009 Cairo speech, titled “A new beginning,” in which he tried to set a new paradigm for U.S.- Middle Eastern relations. Oren noted that U.S. officials typically provide Israeli officials with copies of Middle East policy speeches beforehand for input. Obama’s team refused to do so.
When Obama delivered the speech he emphasized, “America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam.” Obama continued to emphasize his desire for better relations with the Muslim world and Middle East, while trying to also highlight his commitment to Israel. He declared, “America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known,” and continued to say, “this bond is unbreakable.”
Despite being just a 45-minute flight away from Israel, Obama refused to visit the country in a break with traditional U.S. protocol.
Two years later, Obama again shocked Israel by becoming the first U.S. president to endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders as a method of creating a Palestinian state. The decision was a reversal of nearly 40 years of U.S. foreign policy toward Israel. Oren again said the Obama administration did not notify him of the impending change, and in fact repeatedly assured him such a policy was not forthcoming.
U.S. Israeli relations then reached their nadir in 2015, when Netanyahu visited the U.S. to personally campaign the U.S. Congress to oppose the Iran deal. Obama and Netanyahu did not see each other during Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, D.C. — indicating the level of animosity between the two.
Obama’s final snub of Israel came Dec. 23, in the U.S. decision not to veto a U.N. resolution condemning Israel for building settlements in disputed territory. The Obama administration defended the policy, saying it showed their commitment to an enduring two-state solution.