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Barack Obama delivers last-minute hit to democracy

Barack Obama delivers last-minute hit to democracy

Barack Obama’s presidency is ending with a fine contempt for democracy as he exhibits every trait of hubris, arrogance and disregard for the messy business of elections and democratic mandates in his efforts to tie the hands of his successor on contentious policy that Obama was never willing to take to the electorate, or put before congress.

On two contentious issues — Israeli settlements and offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic — Obama is taking ­actions directly against the spirit and practice of democracy by using bureaucratic and legal manoeuvres to try to put policy decisions beyond democratic ­revision. Obama chose to wait until after the presidential election to take these steps. Obama, with Hillary Clinton, was always the best advertisement for Donald Trump, even more so now, for Obama, at the extreme end of lame duckery, demonstrates a peerless elite disregard for democratic process and the messy and inconvenient business of elect­oral results.

It is Obama, not Trump, who pioneered American weakness and retreat from leadership.

Obama has been kind to America’s enemies, but he is a dangerous friend. America’s ­allies, in this case Israel, have been his chief victims. By abstaining, Obama allowed a resolution to go through the ­Security Council that the US had always previously vetoed. It is a one-sided and expansively worded condemnation of all ­Israeli ­settlements outside the lines of the state of Israel as it ­existed before the 1967 war.

On its face, the resolution makes no sense as the land the resolution chiefly concerns was never officially Palestinian land but, before 1967, belonged to ­Jordan. Israel has always ­accepted that the final status of this land must be worked out in negotiations and has made at least three serious offers to give more than 90 per cent of the land in question to a new Palestinian state.

In exchange, the Palestinian leadership must accept that this is an end of claims, must recognise the legitimacy of Israel, and must commit to its future security. The Palestinians have not been able to meet these conditions.

No one who lives in the real world thinks the Israel-Palestine dispute can be solved in today’s environment of a Middle East in flames.

Let’s be quite clear about this. Obama, with extreme irresponsibility, is licensing a new wave of global anti-Semitism. And he knows exactly what he’s doing.

Because of the blanket terms in which the UN resolution condemns Israel — simplistically equating every Israeli suburb in East Jerusalem with the most provocative and, in Israeli terms, ­illegal settlement outpost in Palestinian population centres in the West Bank — it will give massive encouragement and legitimacy to every international effort from the most toxic actors in the world to demonise Israel and to demonise Jews.

And to be reversed it will require another Security Council resolution, which Trump’s ­administration will no doubt move, but will be surely vetoed by Russia and China.

Obama’s contempt for democracy is equally evident in the Atlantic and Arctic oil drilling bans.

He has every right to prevent such drilling if he wishes, but he has chosen to do so under an ­ambiguously worded law that means that when Trump reverses Obama’s edict this will inevitably be challenged in court.

This is just the behaviour which brings democracy into contempt and fuels a backlash like that which propelled Trump to the presidency.

Obama cannot leave office a day too soon, though God alone knows what other harm he might accomplish before January 20.

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