From time to time we hear that US President Obama hasn’t given up his plan to impose a solution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now there is a hint of the way he may try to do it in his remaining months in office.
The Palestinian Authority has presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council which asserts that Israeli settlements in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” are “illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of peace on the basis of the two-state solution,” demands that Israel stop all “settlement activity” (including in eastern Jerusalem), and calls for the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians on “final status issues.” There is more, but these seem to be the important parts.
In 2011, a very similar resolution declaring settlements illegal was proposed to the security council. It garnered ‘yes’ votes from 14 out of 15 members, but was vetoed by the US. Ambassador Susan Rice said at the time that
…her country rejected in the strongest terms the legitimacy of settlement activity, which undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for a peace settlement. There was an urgent need to resolve the situation through negotiations that would bring about a viable State of Palestine, she said, noting that her country had invested enormous efforts in that regard. The only way to reach that goal was through sustained negotiations between the parties, with active international support, she continued. The great impetus for democracy and reform in the Middle East made it all the more urgent to end “this bitter conflict.” [my emphasis]
Since 2011, Obama has become more and more frustrated that US efforts to get Israel and the Palestinians to sign an agreement have failed. But he has always maintained, as Rice’s statement implies, that the parties must reach an agreement between themselves.
That does not mean that the “active international support” can’t be coercive to some extent, and last month it was hinted that he might consider not vetoing a resolution declaring settlements illegal.
A typically anti-Israel Ha’aretz editorial called for Obama not to veto the new resolution:
The Palestinian resolution does not set out new conditions for the resumption of talks. It is supported by agreements and resolutions that the United Nations has already passed as well as remarks made by U.S. President Barack Obama over the years in favor of new talks and against continued building in the settlements. …
A veto of the latest resolution, which does not include a single clause that contradicts U.S. policy, would constitute a diplomatic and moral renunciation of the peace process. It would give Israel permission to continue its settlement policy and would heighten the Palestinians’ frustration and despair, which feed the terror attacks. [my emphasis]
I wonder if the wording of this editorial was inspired, suggested or even dictated by the Obama administration? Although it clearly does contradict US policy to have a UN resolution define the terms of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, the administration might argue that, since it calls for negotiations, then the final agreement will ultimately be determined by the parties, not the UN.
In reality, the resolution forecloses options, such as “secure and recognized” (in the words of UNSCR 242) borders different from the Green Line, the establishment of some kind of autonomous region less than a sovereign state, or the continued presence of some settlements in Palestinian territory. It implies the forced relocation of some 500,000 Jewish residents of Judea, Samaria and Eastern Jerusalem. It requires nothing from the Palestinians.
Most important, it enshrines the Arab narrative of the conflict. It treats the 1967 war – a defensive war in which Israel recovered territory that was illegally taken and occupied for 19 years – as a war of aggression by Israel and punishes her for it! It is as if we are Germany in 1945.
The resolution would make it difficult for Israel to maintain – as she never has, but as historical fact, law and justice demand – that there is no occupation, and that Judea and Samaria are legitimate parts of Israel, which has inherited its borders from the original Palestine Mandate.
Nevertheless, Israel must take this position. She must argue her case that she has a legal right to the territories and Jerusalem, even if she intends to cede part of them to Palestinian control. Otherwise she is placed in the position of admitting that she is in possession of stolen property but begging to be allowed to keep it. Why would we expect anyone to support us if we call ourselves thieves?
Barack Obama has always insisted that he cares about Israel’s security, but it is also clear that he has always accepted the Arab view of the conflict. At this point, he has little to lose politically. Since 2011, his positions have hardened and his personal animus toward Benjamin Netanyahu has if anything gotten stronger.
What I expect is that he will present Israel with a choice: agree to some kind of framework that he dictates and begin negotiating on the basis of the framework, or have the parameters dictated by a UN resolution that this time he will not veto. There will probably also be pressure applied via the negotiations on the military aid memorandum that has been held up until now.
Israel will have a stark choice: knuckle under to the anti-Zionist president of the US and continue trying to delay the implementation of terms that will squeeze us bit by bit and ultimately destroy our state – or stand up and assert our historical, legal and moral title to the land of Israel, and face the consequences.