A series of maps of Judea and Samaria, focusing on the placement of Jewish communities and Israeli military facilities in the area, provoked a dramatic change in the Obama administration’s policies vis-à-vis Israel, a report by The New Yorker claims.
According to the report Monday, a presentation by then-Secretary of State John Kerry to President Barack Obama in the waning days of the administration ‘shocked’ the president into taking a more aggressive stance towards Israel, withholding America’s veto on a United Nations Security Council resolution critical of Israeli policies in Judea and Samaria.
The Obama administration, like its predecessors, had in the past backed a final status settlement negotiated by Israel and the Palestinian Authority and opposed unilateral actions regarding core final status issues. In this vein, the US had traditionally used its veto power on the Security Council to block resolutions directed against Israel.
In December 2016, however, the Obama administration permitted UNSC Resolution 2334 to pass – a measure which demanded Israel unilaterally freeze all construction in not only Judea and Samaria, but eastern Jerusalem as well.
The decision to abandon Israel at the Security Council – a significant departure from traditional US policy – after the president was presented with a series of maps collected at the behest of a senior State Department official, Frank Lowenstein.
The collection of maps, assembled in 2015 by Lowenstein and updated by the State Department in 2016, was presented to Obama and key advisers by Secretary of State John Kerry during a 2016 Oval Office meeting.
Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes claimed the president was shocked by the maps showing the division of Judea and Samaria and the scope of Jewish settlement in the area.
The president expressed concern regarding the viability of a two-state solution following the presentation, leading him to take an even more aggressive stance regarding Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria, worsening an already frigid relationship with Jerusalem.
In a bid to signal the administration’s support for the Palestinian Authority’s opposition to Jewish housing projects in Judea and Samaria, Kerry later presented the maps to PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas, reportedly surprised by the move, later told an associate that the gesture signaled that the US had lost faith in the two-state solution, believing that “the chances of a viable Palestinian state is next to nil.”