Secretary of State John Kerry went on national TV to give a 70-minute tirade bemoaning the state of things in Israel and explaining the U.S.’s historic abandonment of the Jewish State in the recent UN resolution. The resolution, which passed 14-0 with the U.S. abstaining, declares the settlements “in flagrant violation” of international law. It states, in part, that Israel should: “…immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and that the Israeli settlements have “no legal validity”. Ouch.
You might think that a resolution is non-binding, and will have no real consequences. Here, however, are three questions:
1) Doesn’t the act of declaring Israeli settlements illegal make the settlers criminals? Can they be tried in international courts? There is, indeed, an International Criminal Court (ICC). Palestinian leaders say they will see if Israel abides by the resolution and ceases settlement activity. If not, they may choose to file charges against Israelis under the Geneva Convention.
2) Wouldn’t a resolution like this give validation to Palestinians who believe the Israelis to be interlopers and encourage renewed violence against settlers?
3) If Israel is now declared a rogue nation, won’t its detractors feel free to double down on all these anti-Israel boycotts? What will that do to the country’s economy?
Indeed, non-binding resolutions in and of themselves carry little weight, but may become the basis for further action. With a Middle East peace conference (70 UN members invited plus the Palestinian Authority) convening in Paris just before President Obama leaves the White House, such further action might be already in the planning stages.
Speaking of plans, Secretary Kerry has one to “help” Israel get to a two-state solution. He laid it out during his marathon speech:
1: “…provide for secure and recognized international borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine negotiated based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed equivalent swaps. Resolution 242, which has been enshrined in international law for 50 years, provides for the withdrawal of Israel from territory it occupied in 1967 in return for peace with its neighbors and secure and recognized borders…”
Has anyone looked at the current borders of the Palestinian Authority? The Gaza strip and the rest of their territory isn’t anywhere near “contiguous”. It would take some pretty imaginative redrawing of the map to make a contiguous Palestine.
The territory taken in the 1967 war, by the way, came from Jordan, not Palestine, and was renounced by Israel’s eastern neighbor in 1988.
2: “…fulfill the vision of the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 of two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens…”
Recognition for Israel as a Jewish state has been hard to swallow for the Palestinian Authority. PA President M. Abbas says he’ll accept this concept when he talks to the UN but not when he talks to his own people. It’s clear that most Palestinians aren’t in favor of recognition of Israel’s right to exist, but, hey, so do a lot of others. It’s clear that Palestinians won’t be welcoming Israeli tourists anytime soon.
3: “…provide for a just, agreed, fair and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. With international assistance that includes compensation, options and assistance in finding permanent homes, acknowledgment of suffering another measures necessary for comprehensive resolution consistent with two states for two peoples…”
Are they including the million Palestinian refugees who have left Israel and Palestine in the last several decades? Who’s paying for this “compensation”?
4: “…provide an agreed solution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of the two states and protect and ensure freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo…”
Certainly, holy sites should remain open to all, but it seems ridiculous that Jerusalem could function as the capitol of two nations on its face, even less so when those two nations aren’t on good terms with each other.
5: “…satisfy Israel’s security needs and bring a full end, ultimately, to the occupation…”
There are close to 600,000 Jews living in “occupied” lands at present. If you think deporting 11 million illegal immigrants from the U.S. is a fool’s errand, how about moving 600,000 settlers in as small an area as Israel.
6: “…end the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling normalized relations and enhanced regional security for all as envisioned by the Arab peace initiative…”
The Arab peace initiative was a step forward, but took into account the situation of more than a decade ago. The initiative was drafted without Israel’s input, and changes to the initiative should be considered with all parties involved having their voices heard.
The Obama administration’s concern is keeping a two-state solution alive. But if Palestine becomes its own state, it will be a state without the resources to support its people. The majority of Palestinians live on the largess and support of other nations with regards to food and other necessities; being declared a sovereign nation doesn’t change the realities on the ground.
Better still would be the 3 state solution suggested recently by former UN Ambassador John Bolton: Convince Egypt to accept the Gaza Strip as part of its territory and do the same with Jordan for the Palestinian areas that abut their border. Israel should consider this option preferable to a Palestinian state; from a land for peace standpoint, this makes the most sense.
Under this concept, Palestinians will have the chance to become part of nations that have viable economies into which they can be absorbed. There won’t be an (unsustainable) nation called Palestine, it’s true, but the life of Palestinians in general would be greatly improved.
Would Egypt and Jordan consider this option if it were presented? I can’t say. It would certainly take some serious incentives, but if accepted, would mean more stability in the region and a better life for Palestinians. The grand majority of Israel’s settlements are here to stay, regardless of UN resolutions. We should consider the hard realities of today’s Middle East and be creative about how to deal with them.
Joe Alton, MD