opinions | Is U.N. settlements resolution a step forward or back?by Rabbi David J. Cooper and Mervyn Danker
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My Hanukkah present — U.N. Resolution 2334
I was 16 years old in the summer of 1967. After my teen trip to Israel that summer was canceled due to the likelihood of war, it was reinstated when that war only lasted six days.
Four weeks after the war, we arrived. I was excited by my first trip to Israel and by the exhilaration that Israel had not been wiped out as we had feared. And this meant that my trip would include the Old City, the Wall and other locations I never expected to see.
We were told to get to Jericho, Hebron and Bethlehem because no one knew how much longer they would be under Israeli control as they were bargaining chips for peace. And I was resigned to the idea that these areas would eventually return to Jordanian sovereignty because that might mean peace.
I followed the news, and within a number of months I began to hear about Israelis moving into the occupied territory. And I wondered to myself, “Isn’t this going to foul up the bargaining process?”
That was almost 50 years ago. I’m no longer a teenager, and I’m left with that question and many others.
So my Hanukkah present this year was hearing the news that the U.S. allowed UN Resolution 2334 to pass. In addition to calling the Palestinian Authority to confront and stop terrorism, the resolution reaffirms that the transfer of Israeli settlers into the occupied territory is not only illegal under international law, but is imperiling the viability of a two-state solution.
How is it illegal? The Geneva Convention of 1949 sought to prevent one source of military conflict by making it unacceptable to expand national territory by force. Article 49 recognized that in the course of armed conflict, occupations would happen, but these were to be temporary and were not necessarily illegal. But the occupier was forbidden to turn the occupation into a de facto acquisition by settling its civilians in the occupied land.
In 1967, the legal counsel of Israel’s foreign ministry, Theodor Meron, wrote a memo for the ministry that unequivocally held that under the Geneva Convention civilians could not be legally settled into the territories taken in June of the year. His analysis was soon tossed aside.
But apart from the illegal nature of the Israeli settlements — long recognized as such by successive U.S. administrations — there is the issue of how they prevent a viable solution to the conflict. Yes, there are other factors that have acted as obstacles to peace, such as terrorism and the failure of Palestinian leadership.
But none of these factors has ever necessitated any increase or expansion of the settlements deeper into the territory.
The more these settlements prevent a contiguous Palestinian sovereign territory on the West Bank, the more remote the possibility of a two-state solution.
No one can realistically claim to support a two-state solution and also support building and expanding settlements. They do nothing to increase Israel’s security and nothing to further Israel as a democracy and as our Jewish homeland.
Rabbi David J. Cooper serves the East Bay’s Kehilla Community Synagogue, which recently declared its official rejection of Israeli settlement policy and its support for the end of the occupation.
Security Council fails to see that settlements aren’t the problem
The passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 taught one important lesson: When someone tells you he has your back, be very, very wary!
Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, a dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrat, related last week how he was called to the White House by President Obama before his second inauguration in 2013. The president asked him for his support, Dershowitz said, “and he told me he would always have Israel’s back.”
“I didn’t realize,” Dershowitz continued on “Fox and Friends” on Dec. 26, “what he meant: That he would have their back so he could stab them in the back.”
The odious, one-sided resolution, which passed 14-0 (the abstention of the United States was tantamount to an aye vote), “reaffirmed that Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal viability, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders,” according to a UN.org summation.
This resolution says that all the territory gained by Israel in 1967 (in what I will point out was a defensive war against Arab states) is illegally occupied — and that includes the Western Wall and the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount. According to the U.N. Security Council vote, it should be part of a future Palestinian state.
Shockingly, the Obama administration did not veto such language, thereby reversing decades of U.S. support for Israel in the hate-filled, anti -Semitic chambers of the United Nations.
Rather, it threw its only democratic ally in the fiery cauldron that is the Middle East under the bus and joined “the jackals” (a phrase first used by the late Sen. Daniel Moynihan) of the United Nations. This group of “jackals” includes two co-sponsors of the resolution, Venezuela, whose Maduro regime has imprisoned opposition leaders and caused mass starvation, and Malaysia, a hotbed of anti-Semitism.
Eran Lerman, of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, wrote the following last week: “Anyone who encourages the Palestinians to believe that the forced removal of hundreds of thousands [of Jews living beyond the 1949 armistice lines] is preferable to a convoluted but practical compromise that would involve human dislocation on a much smaller scale — and that leaves Jerusalem a living, united city — is abetting a pipe dream.”
Perhaps the most unkind cut of all is the allegation that not only did the Obama administration collude with Israel’s enemies in presenting the resolution, but that it also orchestrated it.
The State Department has vigorously denied this, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he has “ironclad” proof that the United States pushed the U.N. vote.
According to reports, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabi published a detailed account of a secret meeting on Dec. 15 between senior officials in the Obama administration and key Palestinian figures. The newspaper claims to have received a transcript of the meeting and its report is detailed, naming names and even providing quotes made at the meeting. (U.S. officials said the newspaper report was false, according to the Washington Post.)
Additionally, there is clear evidence that outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry visited with New Zealand’s minister of foreign affairs, Murray McCully. Was Kerry’s visit to Wellington to discuss rugby or the potential resolution by the U.N. Security Council on a two-state solution? New Zealand was one of the resolution’s three sponsors.
If Jews living in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) is the impediment to peace, why did the brutal uprooting of thousands of Jews from Gaza in 2005 lead not to peace but to thousands of rockets being fired into Israeli towns and villages, a murderous terrorist organization on Israel’s doorstep and the loss of cherished youth in three wars?
As every Jew left the Gaza Strip, it surely would have been the ideal opportunity for the Palestinians to establish a successful enclave with a robust economy akin to a city-state like Singapore. Instead, it had the exact opposite effect. Every vestige of Israel’s former presence (including greenhouses that yielded millions of dollars in export value) was smashed and destroyed; beautiful homes left behind were razed to the ground.
And then the deadly rockets started raining down on Sderot and elsewhere in Israel’s south.
The supposition that “settlements” represent the obstacle to peace is a false one and nothing more than a red herring. The Palestinian Arabs’ refusal to accept Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, a Jewish state existing in the Middle East, is the true obstacle.
Arabs have waged war after war to destroy Israel. The goal of the Palestinians may be a state — but not one confined only to Judea and Samaria. They are aiming for one that includes the entire area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. They view Haifa and Jaffa as occupied land.
In the past, they did not accept offers of statehood made by Israel, generous, far-reaching offers. In 1947, U.N. Resolution 181 divided the Mandate into two states, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs — and was rejected by the Arabs. In 2000 at Camp David, a meeting with President Bill Clinton, PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak culminated in Arafat walking away from the offer and instigating the second intifada.
In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas 97 percent of Judea and Samaria. Again, it was rejected. Palestinian Arabs have turned down statehood three times.
Israel and the Jewish world yearn for peace. But peace will come only when the Arabs accept the reality of the presence of a Jewish state in the Middle East — and not through sanctimonious and heavily biased resolutions passed in the cesspool of the U.N. Security Council.
Mervyn Danker is a program associate at the MZ Foundation and the past Northern California regional director of AJC. He lives in San Mateo.
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