Obama: UN vote did not cause ‘major rupture’ in US-Israel relations


(JTA) — Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama said that his decision to allow the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution condemning Israeli settlements did not cause a “major rupture” in relations between the U.S. and Israel.

Obama acknowledged in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired Sunday evening that the decision for the U.S. to abstain in the vote, allowing it to pass 14-0, was ultimately his decision.

“I don’t think it caused a major rupture in relations between the United States and Israel. If you’re saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu got fired up, he’s been fired up repeatedly during the course of my presidency, around the Iran deal and around our consistent objection to settlements. So that part of it wasn’t new,” Obama told interviewer Steve Kroft during the interview at the White House.

Obama added: “And despite all the noise and hullabaloo — military cooperation, intelligence cooperation, all of that has continued. We have defended them consistently in every imaginable way.”

Obama said that “allowing an ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that could get worse and worse over time is a problem.”

He acknowledged that the settlements are not the sole reason for the conflict but that they are “a contributing factor to the inability to solve that problem.”

Through his abstention on the United Nations vote, Obama said he wanted to make this point: “We are reaching a tipping where the pace of settlements, during the course of my presidency has gotten so substantial that it’s getting harder and harder to imagine an effective, contiguous Palestinian state.

“We’ve been saying it for eight years now. It’s just that nothing seemed to get a lot of attention” until the abstention.

In an exit interview last week with Israel Channel 2’s Ilana Dayan, Obama stressed that he has been a good friend to Israel during the eight years of his term in office. He cited the 10-year, $38 billion defense assistance agreement he signed with Israel in September and said the military strength it provides to Israel gives Israel the ability to take risks for peace.

“Not stupid risks, not reckless risks, but some risks,” he said.

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