Petulant. Petty. And personal.
That’s the only way to describe how outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama and outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry used their final days in office to punish Israel – and especially Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As I speculated in my November 28 column about what the election of Donald Trump might mean for Israel, Obama decided to make up for eight years of weak foreign policy and a complete misunderstanding of the Middle East by taking a parting shot at Israel.
Make that two parting shots. The U.S. decision not to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2234, declaring that Israel has no right to any territory conquered in 1967, was soon followed by Kerry’s speech, chastising Israel and blaming settlements for the failure of the peace process.
By the time you read this, it’s possible that the lame-duck duo will have rallied other countries behind their anti-Israel stance, or even let the UN recognize “Palestine” and grant it full membership.
Desperate politicians do desperate things.
Kerry, of course, claims that no U.S. government has done more for Israel. In fact, no U.S. government has done more to alienate Israel.
Scolding Israel on the international stage appears to be the Obama administration’s idea of tough love to bring Israel to its senses and re-energize the peace process.
It’s likely to have the opposite effect. And, as much as it’s an attack on Israel, it’s not doing the Palestinians any favours either.
As Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post points out, Resolution 2334 “effectively abrogates” Resolution 242. That 1967 resolution stipulated that, in exchange for Arab recognition of Israel’s right to exist in secure and defensible borders, Israel would cede some of the territories it took over in 1967.
Resolution 242 is deliberately phrased to ensure that Israel would not be expected to cede all of the lands it took control over in the Six Day War,” Glick writes. http://tinyurl.com/go5vvgc
But Resolution 2334 rejects that assumption. It states that Israel has no right to any of the land it took over in 1967 – including the Western Wall and the Old City.
Gee, wasn’t all this supposed to be negotiated in peace talks? Now that the UN has declared that Israel has no right to hold any territory from 1967, there is absolutely no motivation for the Palestinians to return to negotiations.
Israel isn’t doing itself any favours by turning a blind eye to unauthorized “outposts” deep within territory that is bound to be part of a future Palestinian state if the elusive two-state solution ever becomes a reality.
And it’s foolish to assume that, just because terror attacks have decreased dramatically since the construction of the separation barrier, there’s no urgency for Israel to try to revive negotiations.
But what the Obama administration consistently failed to acknowledge over the past eight years is the Palestinian Authority’s role in stalling the peace process.
If settlements were indeed the major obstacle to peace, then the Palestinians could have had a peace deal years ago. Former Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were willing to risk Israel’s long-term security by offering the Palestinian Authority vast amounts of land in exchange for peace.
Olmert was even prepared to divide Jerusalem into Israeli- and Palestinian-controlled neighbourhoods, and to relinquish sovereignty at the Temple Mount and the entire Old City.
The Palestinians walked away. When Netanyahu acceded to the U.S. request for a settlement freeze in 2010 as a precondition to resume peace talks, the Palestinian Authority rejected the gesture until the freeze was about to expire.
Focusing on settlements clouds the real issue: The Palestinian Authority leadership doesn’t really want the pre-1967 borders. It wants things the way they were before that pesky Israel became a Jewish state in 1948.
“We have refused and still refuse to say that Israel is a Jewish state,” senior Palestinian Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi said in response to Kerry’s speech. Ashrawi also rejects any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. http://tinyurl.com/jqvnd8f
Israel is not blameless. And I fear that Trump’s apparent bromance with Netanyahu and his obsession with obliterating Obama’s legacy – not to mention his choice of David Friedman, a vociferous opponent of a two-state solution, as the new ambassador to Israel – will encourage the Netanyahu government to move further right.
That won’t help anyone in the long term.
But, unless Western politicians acknowledge and address the real obstacles to peace, there’s no motivation for either side to return to negotiations.