Settlement veto means “Obama has joined Likud”

“A friendly America should have mobilised to wean Israel of its addiction.”

Unlikely to reflect majority opinion in Israel, the Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy has heavily criticised the decision of the United States to reject a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories as an obstacle to peace.

Of the 15 Security Council members, the US was the only one not to endorse the resolution. It was the first time Barack Obama has used the veto during his presidency. On the campaign trail in 2008, Obama had promised not to play the veto card as George W Bush did.

Writing in Haaretz, Levy declares:

The first veto cast by the United States during Obama's term, a veto he promised in vain not to use as his predecessors did, was a veto against the chance and promise of change, a veto against hope. This is a veto that is not friendly to Israel; it supports the settlers and the Israeli right, and them alone.

Levy says Obama decision has condemned him to the "hawkish right" of Binyamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, "somewhere between Tzipi Hotovely and Danny Danon". Hotovely, a former Israeli TV personality, is an emerging star of the religious right while Danon is one of Netanyahu's biggest critics from inside the party.

Levy adds:

A friendly US, concerned for Israel's fate, should have said no. An America that understands that the settlements are the obstacle should have joined in condemning them. A superpower that wants to make peace, at a time when Arab peoples are rising up against their regimes and against the US and Israel, should have understood that it must change the old, bad rules of the game of blanket support for the ally addicted to its settlements.

Levy is a hero of Israel's left, but dismissed by his critics as a propagandist for Hamas. Last September the Independent asked, Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?

For its part, the Israeli government insists that it did make serious concessions, freezing settlement-building for ten months from the end of November 2009 to the end of September 2010. That peace talks didn't begin until 1 September 2010 is proof, it says, that the Palestinian Authority is not fully committed to peace and that the call for a freeze was a mere diversion.

It's not a line that Levy buys:

A friendly America should have mobilised to wean Israel of its addiction. Only it can do so, and it should have started, belatedly, at the Security Council on Friday.

(Read our moderation policy)

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.