UNSCR 2334

December 27, 2016 § 16 Comments

In the wake of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, there are two points that need to be emphasized. The first has to do with the resolution itself, the second with how we got here and where it will lead. Both are important, and it is impossible to completely understand either in isolation.

Point one is that UNSCR 2334 is a deeply flawed resolution that should not have passed and that will only make matters worse. This is not because Israel should get the benefit of an American veto no matter what it does, or because settlements are little more than a distraction from the real issues. It is because this particular resolution laid out a line regarding settlements that the overwhelming majority of Israelis do not and cannot accept, treating the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and Amona as one and the same. It is because it made absolutely no mention of the fact that one of the two territories that will make up a Palestinian state is controlled by a terrorist group that poses a far larger obstacle to a permanent solution than any single Israeli settlement. It is because it betrayed a complete and total misunderstanding of the state of Israeli politics and created an immediate incentive for this Israeli government to build anywhere it wants with total abandon. It is because it provided succor to the BDS movement, which is not interested in altering Israeli behavior but in altering Israel itself. It is because it offended Jews across the globe by treating Judaism’s holiest site as occupied territory. To put it bluntly, when expanding the Western Wall plaza is deemed an illegal and illegitimate act of an occupying power, something has gone way off the rails. That this resolution was more balanced than previous ones does not make it objectively balanced, and to assert that anyone who opposes it is ipso facto a shill for settlements misses the reasons why it is problematic.

Contrary to many people whom I respect who have argued that this will be the first step in halting Israeli settlement activity and putting the two-state solution on a firmer footing, I believe the opposite will be the case. By not adopting a policy that distinguishes between settlements, the incentives now run the wrong way. This is an Israeli government that is ideologically committed to building in the West Bank, but were the United States and the broader international community to institute a system by which Israel could build unfettered within the blocs – contingent upon Israel laying down hard borders defining the blocs absolutely – in return for a complete and total freeze outside of them, it would do more to enshrine two states than any UN resolution or sanction could possibly accomplish. The plan from Commanders for Israel’s Security to complete the security barrier and freeze all construction to its east is as wise a policy as exists. If such an understanding were reached and Israel violated it, I would be all for coming down on the Israeli government like a ton of bricks.

Instead, the net effect of what this resolution actually did is to convince Israelis that the world is out to get them no matter what they do, and provide a fresh tailwind to hardline efforts led by Habayit Hayehudi and much of Likud to annex Area C outright. After all, if Gilo and Alon Shvut are no different than Ofra, why bother to make any distinctions at all and suffer a domestic political cost? The countdown has now officially started not only toward a serious push to annex much of the West Bank, but also toward Israel building in previously untouchable places like E-1 and Givat Hamatos. Once that happens, we really will have crossed the Rubicon absent an enormous upheaval. The passage of this resolution makes that crossing a lot closer than it was before Friday.

Point two is that you can inveigh against President Obama all you want, but the one who actually owns this debacle is Prime Minister Netanyahu. If you truly want to be upset at someone, direct your ire at him. When he says that Israel had a commitment from the U.S. for diplomatic protection, he is right, but he entirely elides the reality that this is not a blank check that exists in perpetuity irrespective of changed circumstances. Let’s leave aside for a moment the terribly inconvenient fact that before Friday, Obama was the first post-1967 U.S. president to never allow a resolution targeting Israel to get through the Security Council, making the claims of this being unprecedented utter tripe. When Obama vetoed a similar resolution in 2011, it was before Netanyahu publicly said that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch; before Netanyahu created a governing coalition comprised of a majority of MKs who are on record as opposing two states; and before Netanyahu rhetorically supported and voted for a Knesset bill legalizing illegal West Bank construction that his own attorney-general denounced as violating both Israeli and international law. In Netanyahu’s estimation, is there any line at all that he could cross that would nullify an American commitment to wield its veto on Israel’s behalf? The extremely flawed resolution itself now allows Netanyahu to issue jeremiads against those who would try and remove a Jewish connection to the Western Wall, but it is not Israel’s presence in the Jewish Quarter that led to this move at the UN. Netanyahu brought his country to this point, either never believing the myriad warning signs he received or knowing that this was coming and thinking that it did not matter. Either way, it gives him the ignominious distinction of presiding over a disastrous diplomatic failure that was entirely predictable and entirely avoidable.

Furthermore, this episode reveals the hollowness of Netanyahu’s arguments about Israel’s place in the world. After spending years touting lines about Israel never being less isolated, how the world cares about Israeli high tech to the exclusion of anything it does in the West Bank, and that mutual interests over countering Iran and fighting Islamist terrorism make the conflict with the Palestinians irrelevant, it turns out that the joke is on the prime minister. Look at the countries that voted in favor of this resolution – not abstained like the U.S. did, but actually voted in favor. Egypt, which is supposed to be Israel’s close regional ally and a country about which we are told that fighting ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood together with Israel outweighs everything else. Great Britain, which under the Conservative leadership of Theresa May was supposed to be Israel’s great supporter in Europe. Russia, which allegedly cares more about purchasing Israeli drones than about anything Israel is doing with regard to two states. China, which also supposedly does not care about the Palestinians but only wants to increase trade ties with Israel and benefit from Israeli ingenuity. All 14 countries that cast votes on Friday cast them the same way. All of these countries, counted upon as some of Israel’s closest relations, stated loudly and clearly that they will not compartmentalize settlements and Palestinian issues from their larger dealings with Israel. That is a fact, and no amount of Netanyahu spin about Start-Up Nation and desalination plants can change that.

Netanyahu’s statement on Sunday calling the vote “the swan song of the old world” and heralding a new era in which a heavy price will be exacted by Israel against countries that oppose its policies could not possibly be more obtuse. You have to seriously lack a semblance of self-awareness to issue a statement like that. This is not a blip on the radar, and it will not be an isolated event should Israel continue down its current path. As rightly proud as Israelis and many American Jews are of Israel’s economic successes and military strength, it is not a world power and it cannot afford to behave like one. Threatening countries like Senegal and Ukraine while studiously avoiding eye contact with China and Russia is the hallmark of a paper tiger, and does not make Israel look any stronger coming out of this episode.

The Israeli government simply cannot have it both ways. Either you get to do what you like, the rest of the world be damned, but you accept the consequences of your actions, or you recognize that no action is taken in isolation and you change your behavior to avoid the consequences even if your principles dictate otherwise. Netanyahu has to choose which road he wants to tread. The choice seems like an obvious one to me, but even for those who disagree, do not make the mistake of thinking that Netanyahu and Israel do not have to choose. Be angry about the UN’s moral bankruptcy and be frustrated with the Obama administration’s myopic decision making; I share those sentiments. But no matter what, if you take one thing away from UNSCR 2334, it must be that the mantra of “settlements don’t matter” is an apocryphal myth. In the real world, actions have consequences.

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§ 16 Responses to UNSCR 2334

  • alan w says:

    I was waiting for your very reasonable commentary. I am struggling personally at how to possibly support Israel after its juvenile and self destructive behavior at going after every nation in the world, and ignoring the US electoral process. Right now, I feel like every dollar I commit to Federation, to JNF, to Israel Bonds emboldens Netanyahu and the Netanyahu coalition allowing him to run roughshod over all reasonable behavior.

    frankly, I don’t care what the Palestinians do or do not do to obstruct peace (short of outright killing and raining rockets down). Bibi’s policy has been to do NOTHING to advance peace and possibility of two state solution, and if he put as much effort at that as he does at expanding the settlements or looking the other way, we would be much further along.

    I did not realize the language of the UN Resolution includes Jerusalem–the press did not make that clear–and Obama should not have abstained given that, but Obama’s hand is forced by Bibi’s attitude. Had Bibi not called PEOTUS Trump, though, I doubt very much Obama would have felt the need to assert his power.

    Dermer, in particular, has been obnoxious, disrespectful to US political system, and between he and Bibi, I do not have any faith that they respect. I think Bibi and Trump deserve each other–two arrogant individuals who respect nobody, who KNOW that they are smartest people in the room, and are leading us to a path of destruction. If Bibi is able to alienate people like me, gosh help us for future support from world Jewry.

    • Yonatan says:

      I’m seeing lots of Jews abandoning ship at this point. Sit still in the dark in Mitzrayim if that’s what you want to do. Enjoy your stay.

      • alan w says:

        Yonatan–rather than giving me a pointed negative answer like you did, I’d love to see you convince me why I should support Bibi’s government. What is it about this nation’s leadership that is appealing to an admittedly liberal supporter? How do I make my voice heard vis-a-vis American support if I continue to blindly follow like sheep?

        What does “mitzrayim” (or Egypt for those who don’t know Hebrew) have to do with this? What has Bibi and his government to advance the cause of Israel other than doing nothing and get in occasional wars? For those American and worldwide Jews who had a vision of Zionism and Judenstaat, what it has become is surely not what any of us have envisioned

      • Jonathan says:

        If by “liberal” you mean the American warped meaning of the term, in fact left-wing progressive, and not the usual meaning, so no, this is not a government for you.
        If you are a liberal conservative and a Zionist, it is.

  • Jonathan says:

    I disagree with your accusations against Netanyahu. A few things:
    – It is true other presidents did not veto resolutions but they did veto all the relevant resolutions and let only empty and irrelevant one go. This one is a relevant and potentially dangerous one.
    – Obama is the main culprit. He did not just abstain, we know have proof that he managed everything and pushed countries who wanted to abstain to support the resolution. Egypt did not want the resolution to pass, Obama pushed it anyway. And when the USA tells you to vote for a resolution you vote for when you are Ukraine. Russia and China has always voted against Israel, there is noting new, this is just inertia.
    – Netanyahu has done all he could to appease Obama. He froze all constructions in the territories – nobody ever did that – and he built less than any other Primer minister before. He supported publicly the two State idea even if he rightly does not believe in it and knows it will never happen (like most Israelis know).
    – The timing says it all – Obama was just waiting for the moment when he is not accountable to anybody. It’s personal, and even ideological in his case. Nothing to do with what Bibi did or did not.

  • Paul S. Weintraub says:

    Well, when you call the leader of the Isreali state bibi, your argument is moot to me. You are as arrogant as the man you claim is.

    • alan w says:

      Mr. Weintraub:
      In one sentence, you misspell the state of Israel, and then call me out for using PM Netanyahu’s commonly referred to nickname? and you call me arrogant??

      Let’s get back to issues rather than calling each other names.

  • Shahar says:

    Alan,
    I am curious if you are equally offended by US land theft, settlements and ethnic cleansing?
    Best,
    Shahar

    • alan w says:

      This is always a great (if not typical) response. One cannot compare 1800s mentality and racism to 1970s era (starting in 67 of course) occupation. If Israel annexed the territories and created national rights for the Palestinians, finalizing the problem of occupation–for sure it would lead to numerous other problems, but at least then the Palestinians would be citizens rather than “occupied”.

      Israel wants it both ways–they want to expand on the West Bank/Judea/Samaria (call it what you want) but they want to give no national rights to the nonJewish citizens living there. and they are creating a situation where the settlements will need to be incorporated into Jewish Israel and not Arab Palestine, thus destroying any possibility for a 2 state solution (as PM Netanyahu has publicly supported but privately loathed).

      Yes, the way the US has treated minorities, Native Americans, and others has been and continues to be deplorable. But they are all citizens now and given full rights of the US protection. There is no stopping checkpoint on every Reservation to get out, as there is in many areas of the West Bank.

  • Y Shallal says:

    Why refer to the West Bank as a series
    Of settlements , whether existing or planned. It would be helpful to know
    What area C is, and what Palestinian land it Covers. Otherwise you are conflating
    Palestinian land with Israeli settlements.
    Thank you
    Ps: I hope it’s ok for a non Jew
    to voice an opinion

    • Milo V. says:

      There are three types of areas classifed by the military. Area A’s are for IDF and israeli police jurisdiction. Area B’s are IDF only, like settelment areas. Area C’s are for IDF and policing, these areas are not safe for isreali citizens.
      P.s Of course its okay to voice you opinion, i hope this helped.

  • Barry Meislin says:

    I think we can all agree that it was performed masterfully.

    That it is being performed masterfully:

    Destroy UN resolution 242.

    Pull the rug out from under Oslo (though to be sure, Oslo was not in such hot shape).

    Totally wipe out American credibility on the globlal stage.

    Align with countries such as Venezuela and Malaysia, etc. as arbiters of the new (progressive, no doubt) global morality.

    Place Israel in an indefensible position morally and, one might hope, militarily.

    And Bibi is the fall guy!

    Truly masterful!!!

    P.S. Oh, and take that, Donald!–I’ll show you not to mess around with me and mine….

  • […] Ottomans and Zionists blogger Michael Koplow criticizes the resolution and its “all construction east of the Green Line is equally evil” approach while also laying heavy blame on Netanyahu. […]

  • […] la resolución de la ONU y la decisión de Obama de no vetarla, dos opiniones: Michael Koplow critica al gobierno israelí por tener un doble discurso; Sergio Della Pergola da un pantallazo general de la […]

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