While the question of what Donald Trump’s relationship with Israel will be once he is sworn in as President of the United States, Barack Obama remains the president for the next two months, and can use his time as a ‘lame duck’ against Israel if he so chooses.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and supporters of Israel are worried that Obama could use his last months in office to push a binding anti-Israel resolution through the UN Security Council. Even if the US does not initiate such a measure, simply letting an anti-Israel resolution pass without vetoing it would mark a shift in US policy and could cause significant damage to Israel’s interests and ability to defend itself.
The fear that Obama could betray Israel to tie the hands of his successor has grown now that that successor has been revealed to be the Republican candidate Donald Trump. When it seemed that Hillary Clinton was likely to win Israeli officials believed that Obama would seek to avoid taking any action that would tie the hands of his former Secretary of State.
Obama’s welll-known strained relationship with Netanyahu is another reason some fear that Obama will betray Israel now that he does not have to worry about the political ramifications of such a betrayal on the prospects of the Democratic party.
The US State Department has created a list of potential measures Obama could pursue at the UN Security Council to leave his mark of the peace process between Israel and its Arab neighbors, including submitting a resolution condemning the presence of Jews in Judea and Samaria or having the Security Council recognize a Palestinian Arab state.
Netanyahu will have to be prepared for a unilateral action by Obama from now until January 20, when he will step down and Trump will be sworn in.
Netanyahu would have little warning of an American intention to pass an anti-Israel resolution at the UN. He would learn of such a move in real-time like the rest of Israel’s citizens.
Obama would face fierce criticism from across the American political spectrum should he choose to act against Israel. However, such criticism may have little effect on an outgoing president who will not run for election again.
Obama’s plans for Israel remain to be seen, but in two months’ time Israel and Netanyahu will have to deal with a brand new president, and they will learn about his policies at the same time as the rest of world.