“Israel can either be Jewish or democratic – it cannot be both” – John Kerry
“The entire Middle East is going up in flames, entire countries are toppling, terrorism is raging and for an entire hour the secretary of state attacks the only democracy in the Middle East.” – Benjamin Netanyahu
“There are roughly 50 majority-Muslim countries in the world. There is one — only one — Jewish state. The Israeli Knesset has 17 elected Arab members. It has Muslim members and Christian members. In contrast, one searches in vain for Muslim countries that have elected Jewish representatives. Obama and Kerry choose to attack the only inclusive democracy in the Middle East, while turning a blind eye to the Islamic terrorism that grows daily.” – Ted Cruz
On December 23, 2016, the United States abstained on a vote of a UN Security Council resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. By strategically abstaining from the vote, President Barack Hussein Obama ensured the passing of the symbolic measure. The resolution called for Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” The resolution further declared that establishment of settlements by Israel “has no legal authority and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” It was the first time in over 35 years the United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution directly addressing and criticizing Israeli settlements.
The settlements addressed by the U.N. resolution are in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – the remaining portion of lands captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967.
The Six-Day War was the culmination of ongoing terrorist attacks on Israel by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the shelling of Israeli settlements in the Huleh Valley from the Golan Heights by the Syrian Army. The PLO, whose charter called for the destruction of Israel, was backed and effectively controlled by Egypt and Syria. Both Egypt and Syria were being supplied arms by the Soviet Union. In mid-May 1967, Syrian forces massed on the Syrian-Israeli border along the Golan Heights while Egyptian forces massed along the Egyptian-Israeli border on the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian and Syrian forces arrayed against Israel were significant. Approximately 465,000 troops, more than 2,800 tanks, and 800 aircraft surrounded the country. The Israeli response was fierce, swift and led to a stunning victory. In a matter of six days, the Israeli Air Force decimated the air strength of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, and defeated the Egyptian tanks in the Sinai desert. Israel had captured the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and unified Jerusalem, conquering enough territory to more than triple the size of the area it controlled. Israel was also in a position to march on the capitals of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. This was not something Israel desired to do and a cease-fire agreement was signed on June 10, 1967. Eleven years later, through the Camp David Accords, Israel gave the vast Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt. Israel retained the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip was given back to the Palestinians in a gesture of goodwill in 2005 – and Gaza subsequently fell under control of the terrorist organization Hamas in 2007. As a result of the Hamas governance, Gaza is under economic sanctions while Israel controls the airspace. The West Bank is currently home to over 2.5 million Palestinians. It is also the site of the ancient Jewish State and home to many Jewish holy sites.
The West Bank has not really belonged to any state since the end of the Colonial Era. A better term for the West Bank would be “disputed territories”. The area now known as the West Bank had been under Ottoman rule for centuries. It was religiously diverse with Muslims, Christians and a smaller population of Jews. In the early 1900’s a sense of national identity began to evolve with many arabs in the area thinking of themselves as Palestinians. At the same time, Jewish people that had been scattered throughout Europe began to devise the idea of a Jewish state – Zionism – and looked to their traditional holy land – and their historic homeland – as the site for statehood. After the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Britain and France divided the Middle East into two partitions. Jewish immigration continued – often leading to conflicts between Arabs and Jews. After the Jewish holocaust of World War II, international support for a Jewish state grew and Israel was born as Jews accepted the 1947 Accord. Arabs did not agree to the 1947 Accord leading to the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli War – which Israel won. There has never been a recognized Palestinian state in the West Bank – the Palestinians rejected the 1947 Accord. Nor did the Armistice of 1949 create a Palestinian state – in either the West Bank or Gaza. Egypt took control of Gaza, and Jordan took control of the West Bank. When Israel won the Six-Day War, it took Gaza from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan – not Palestinians. In 1988, Jordan officially renounced its claims to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
And so we return to the language drafted by the United Nations Security Council Resolution – specifically the call for Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem“. The resolution further states that Israel “has no legal authority and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” The added language by the U.N. Security Council is crucial and fully intentional. The resolution does not call for Israel to “immediately cease all settlement activities in the disputed territories”. This language could be accepted as both factual and even worthy of discussion. Instead, the language chosen by the U.N. Security Council seeks to determine and establish the West Bank – including the Western Wall – as an area that is the Palestinians’ land by unquestionable legal right. This is factually incorrect – and under-handed. Stated more directly, the U.N. Security Council’s Resolution has issued a decree incorrectly stating that the highly disputed West Bank – which was captured from Jordan in a 1967 war – a territory that Jordan has subsequently renounced any claim to – is unquestionably Palestinian land by indisputable legal authority. The Security Council’s Israeli Resolution attempts to become a dictate. It is not.
The U.N. Security Council’s Resolution presents us with another problem as well. By making the claim that the West Bank is Palestinian land, the incentive for Palestinians to negotiate for lasting peace has been removed. As a matter of negotiation, this accord tells the Palestinians and their Islamist handlers that terrorism has proven to be an effective form of negotiation. As John Kerry himself noted, “Hamas continues to pursue an extremist agenda: they refuse to accept Israel’s very right to exist”. This resolution has implicitly stated that negotiation through terrorism is a viable and working strategy. Any chance for a real peace process has ended – or at least been severely impaired – with the passage of this resolution.
Israel has been portrayed as the aggressor and oppressor. This view contrasts starkly with actual reality. If the Palestinians and Hamas laid down their arms and announced they wanted peace there would be peace. Immediately. If Israel was to lay down all its arms and announce it wanted peace, Israel would cease to exist as a state due to Islamist aggression. Palestinians refuse to accept a Jewish state – in any form. Thus, we had the Palestinian rejections of the 2000 and 2008 peace settlements – settlements that would have given Palestinians control over Gaza and most of the West Bank – but carried the guarantee of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.
The Obama Administration claimed it had no hand in crafting the U.N. Resolution. This premise is absurd. Venezuela and New Zealand introduced the legislation. We are to believe that they were responsible for drafting the actual language? The Israeli government apparently shares my skepticism and claim they have “ironclad proof” that the United States was behind the resolution. Proof they have stated they will deliver to President-Elect Trump.
And so, with three weeks left to go in its lame duck administration, Obama chose to overturn 35 years of U.S.-Israeli policy directly in front of an incoming administration. He chose to attack the only Democratic country, long our ally in a region beset by Islamist terrorism and Islamist upheaval. He chose sponsors of terrorism over the sole sponsor of democracy. Obama chose to side with countries and regimes that disallow rights for women. Obama chose to side with our enemies. Obama chose to castigate and vilify Israel as he ignores Syria. Obama chose to subvert any real chance at a true peace process in the Middle East.
Our abstention from the United Nation’s Security Council Israeli Resolution was a moment of national shame.
But perhaps something greater can still be salvaged. Support for the Israeli state will resume at noon on January 20th. President Trump has promised change in our practices at the United Nations. I hope he is sincere.
It is not only time to de-fund the United Nations. It is time withdraw from it.
newer post De-Funding the United Nations
older post The Syrian Cost of Obama’s Iran Deal