NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — President Obama is facing strong reaction at home and abroad to last week’s United Nations vote to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
In a stunning decision Friday, the Obama administration moved to allow the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution condemning Israeli settlements as illegal. The move to abstain, rather than veto, defied years of U.S. tradition of shielding Israel from such resolutions, and elicited condemnation from Israel, lawmakers of both parties, and especially President-elect Donald Trump, who tweeted Monday “The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. Sad!”
Israel has harshly criticized the Obama administration, and says it will limit its working ties with 12 nations that voted for the measure.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is blaming the administration for failing to block the UN Security Council resolution demanding Israel stop building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlement but we agreed the Security Council was not the place to resolve the issue,” he said over the weekend. “We know that going there would make negotiations harder and drive peace further away.”
Incoming Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it was “extremely frustrating, disappointing, and confounding” that the Obama administration did not veto the resolution that calls for an end to Israeli settlements.
Former Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz condemned the resolution and added the “irresponsible action moves us further away from peace and hastens the likelihood that we lose the trust of our allies around the world.”
The administration says it’s been warning Israel about accelerated settlement activity.
“Contrary to some of the statements I’ve seen out of the Israeli government, let’s be clear, the US did not draft this resolution,” the president’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said. “It was put forward by Egypt and we took a position in abstaining. That’s consistent with what we’ve been saying to the Israeli government for some time now.”
Meanwhile, in a podcast with his former senior adviser David Axelrod, Obama moved away from the controversy to ponder the broader implications of his presidency and his perceptions of Trump’s victory.
“A lot of people have — have suggested that somehow it really was a fantasy,” he said regarding the results of the November election.
Obama adds that he sees the change in Americans and he could have perhaps continued to lead if not for term limits.
“The majority does buy into the notion of a one America that is tolerant and diverse,” he said. “I’m confident that if I — if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could have mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it.”
Looking forward, he made it clear he has is eye on life beyond Jan. 20.
“With respect to my priorities when I leave, it is to build that next generation of leadership; organizers, journalists, politicians,” he said. “And I want to use my presidential center as a mechanism for developing that next generation of talent.”
Before any of that, he says there’s more personal business to tend to.
“Take my wife on a nice vacation, and she has said it better be nice,” he said. “Because she’s earned it.”
“I have to be quiet for a while,” he added. “I don’t mean politically, I mean internally.”
When asked what still touches him most deeply, the outgoing president mentioned two things; talking about or seeing his daughters, and his team — they’re the ones, he says, that inspire him with “just a lot of goodness and a lot of heart and idealism.”