Sisi lets Obama off the hook

As it turns out, President Obama isn’t even going to get a chance to cave to Benjamin Netanyahu one last time before he departs the White House, because that UN Security Council resolution on halting Israel’s annexation/ethnic cleansing of the West Bank isn’t coming to a vote today after all. Why? Because Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi decided to do the caving for everybody:

Egypt postponed a U.N. Security Council vote on Thursday on a resolution it proposed demanding an end to Israeli settlement building, diplomats said, after Israel’s prime minister and U.S. president-elect Donald Trump urged Washington to veto it.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told Egypt’s U.N. mission to postpone the vote, which would have forced U.S. President Barack Obama to decide whether to shield Israel with a veto or, by abstaining, to register criticism of the building on occupied land that the Palestinians want for a state, diplomats said.

In a sign that they feared Obama might abandon the United States’ long-standing diplomatic protection for Israel at the United Nations, Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the White House to veto the draft resolution.

Sisi put off the vote after a request from Israel, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Egypt was the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.

So now we all know what happened. Sisi’s government drafted the resolution, with Palestinian input, in order to boost Egypt’s standing in the Arab world. Egypt’s standing in the Arab world has taken quite a tumble from the days of Nasser, and Sisi has overseen its transition from the, or at least a, leading Arab state to partially owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia, Inc. And now that even that Saudi aid, for which he sold Egypt’s international standing, has stopped flowing, Sisi wants to do a course correction. Bringing up a pro-Palestinian resolution in the Security Council, one sure to be vetoed by the Americans, was a nice, low cost way to claw back a little of Cairo’s former credibility.

Only then it started to look like maybe the US wouldn’t veto the resolution. Sisi didn’t actually want the resolution to pass, as now seems clear, because then it might damage his chummy relationship with Netanyahu, so he was counting on that US veto. Then he could trumpet the failed resolution, and his own leadership on the Palestinian issue, to the Arab world, while not doing anything tangible that might piss Netanyahu off. When the veto started to look wobbly, he had little choice but to pull the resolution, because while greater prestige in the Arab world would be nice for Cairo, maintaining good relations with Israel is more essential to its foreign policy status quo.

So Israel gets what it wants, Donald Trump gets what he wants, Barack Obama (let’s be honest) gets what he wants, and Egypt loses a bit but keeps what it needs. The only real losers in this little drama, as always, are the Palestinians. So it shall ever be.

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