Ben Rhodes, President Obama's national security adviser, said on Monday that Obama sought to use the United Nations as a vehicle to isolate and pressure the Jewish state.
Rhodes, speaking at the anti-Israel group J Street's annual conference in Washington, D.C., discussed efforts by the former administration to weaponize the U.N. to force Israel into concessions to the Palestinians.
Obama, near the end of his tenure in office, drew sharp criticism across the pro-Israel community for permitting the United States to abstain from a U.N. vote criticizing what it described as Israeli settlements.
The U.N. was allowed to proceed with the vote to censure Israel when the Obama administration declined to exercise its veto power, as the United States had historically done in the face of anti-Israel efforts at the international body.
"Oftentimes even the degree of pressure that President Obama pursued, which is largely rhetorical, can invite some retrenchment in Israeli politics or resistance to it," Rhodes said while interviewing Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) at J Street's annual forum. "At the same time, given that direction in the status quo, the question becomes what are the levers available?"
"Another one that we wrestled with in the Obama administration was the U.N. process," Rhodes continued.
"At the very end of the Obama administration, we abstained on a resolution essentially critiquing Israeli settlement construction, along the same lines as what we would say in our own words, also condemned incitement on the Palestinian side," Rhodes said. "I know you were uncomfortable with that, but what about the diplomatic international context? Is there any way in which given that the U.N. has been one-sided on this issue, would you rule out that the U.N. can be used as a ‘potential’ pressure point vis-a-vis Israel."
Bennet said he would not rule out engaging the U.N. on the issue.
"I would not rule it out. I would not rule it out," Bennet told Rhodes." You've got a prime minister who is talking about annexation now. That's obviously a different situation than we were confronted with before and we need to be paying attention to that now."
"We need to be thinking about—of course we have no idea what the government is that's ultimately going to be formed, but if he had been able to form the government and he went through on his campaign promises on annexation question, that's a very profound question," Bennet said. "That's a seismic question for the United States to answer and I think we should be very careful about it, extremely deliberate about it, and it is a huge deal if you were to do try to do something like that."