Although the US government’s response to the UN Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements may be forgotten by many, it will long be remembered – by those involved in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and by Jews. To be factual and fair, in 1987 the Reagan Administration similarly abstained from UN Security Council 605 which included Jerusalem in the Arab territories occupied by Israel. The reasoning for that abstention was just as weak as it is for this one—with one exception: 30 more years. Thirty more years of the UN’s pathological obsession with Israel; 30 years of peace efforts and Israeli withdrawals without Palestinian compromise, but rather with terrorism, rewards for terrorists, and the indoctrination of the youth against Jews.
It is highly likely that anti-Israel forces will use this official resolution for further verbal attacks and concrete measures for years. Over and over one can expect to hear about Israel’s illegal settlements, including the Old City of Jerusalem.
Jews, I hope, will remember that the United States did not protect Israel in the UN, that it reversed its own policies and thinking. When the new American ambassador to the United Nations, likely Nikki Haley (a strong supporter of Israel), takes her seat, she should disavow and literally tear up the resolution, as did Daniel Patrick Moynihan with the infamous 1975 “Zionism is Racism” resolution.
One may ask, “What is the big deal? – The United States has long opposed Israeli settlements as an obstacle to peace.”
1. The resolution specifically includes east Jerusalem – the site of our ancient Temple, nearly 3,000 years ago -- destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, rebuilt by the returning exiles in the mid 400’s BCE, defiled by the Hellenized Syrians in 167 BCE, purified and rededicated (Chanukah), and destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Jewish religion and Jewish history are inseparable. Due to ignorance and animus, political pressure and economic benefit, Jewish history in any meaningful way is denied, historical land severed from the Jewish people, despite clear evidence to the contrary, in ways that is not done to any other people. Who would stand for this? And this vote comes on the heels of last month’s UNESCO World Heritage Committee vote that refers to the Temple Mount only by its Arabic name – Al Aqsa Mosque / Al Haram Al Sharif – the attempt is to deny Jewish history.
2. The premise for Israeli-Palestinian-Arab negotiations is land for peace. By declaring all Jewish settlements past the 1967 borders, the UN has officially told the Palestinians that it is theirs without compromise. Indeed, the building of settlements might have been a reason to negotiate in good faith. But the Palestinians have never accepted a Jewish state and never accepted compromise – from before the 1947 UN partition, after the 1948 creation of modern Israel, after 1967, and through negotiations after Oslo. Dennis Ross is coming to St Louis on January 24 (see page 9). He will detail how Arafat walked away. Why? Arafat rightly feared that he would be killed and shamed forever by his own people. And when Netanyahu imposed a 10- month freeze, Abbas did not negotiate. Palestinian energies have been directed to ignorant and anti-Semitic international bodies to pressure Israel. (My last article quoted a Wall Street journal article that Israel is referred to as the “occupying power” 530 times in General Assembly Resolutions. By contrast none of the following occupying powers has been called such in UN resolutions: Turkey in northern Cyprus, Russia in areas of Georgia, Morocco in Western Sahara, Vietnam in Cambodia, and Russia in the Ukraine’s Crimea, and two others. And—since 1967, General Assembly resolutions have referred to Israeli-held territories as “occupied” 2,342 times, while resolutions addressing the countries cited above – a total of a mere 16 times!)
3. Israelis will less likely have the confidence to negotiate in good faith; the Palestinians will be emboldened to look for further international action, even without the support of a new US administration. And because regimes in international bodies have been bullies – brutal and ongoing human rights violators in their own countries with a platform to chutzpadikly criticize Israel – Israel knows “By declaring all Jewish settlements past the 1967 borders, the UN has officially told the Palestinians that it is theirs without compromise.” 3 From Rabbi Gordon... that any dispute will go against them. Conversely, since Jews broadly agree that east Jerusalem must be under Jewish sovereignty, not only because of history, but because only we can ensure that all religious faiths have access to its holy sites, this resolution will unify and harden Israel.
If the Obama administration had wanted to make a statement, it could have condemned Israeli settlements, but also equally condemned Palestinian terrorism, and its celebration of murderers, as well as its continued indoctrination of its youth to hate Jews and kill them and deny Jewish history. That might have been a fair statement – one which would have forced the international community to at least formally recognize all the serious obstacles to peace and to assign at least some responsibility to the Palestinians and Arabs, and send the message that nothing can be gained without holding everyone responsible. That’s what Secretary of State John Kerry could have said. But he didn’t, and we missed another opportunity.
What Obama-Kerry also ignore is that the Arab-Moslem world has not shown itself ready to live in peace with anyone – not with Christians, who have been oppressed and systematically exiled, nor with Jews, nor with their internal factions – Shi’ite and Sunni, Kurds, Syrians, and Palestinians.
Finally, what the Obama representatives don’t understand or don’t care to understand, is that they have inadvertently encouraged racism, or at least given legitimacy to anti-Semitism. What precisely is wrong with the settlements? If the Israelis withdraw from territory for peace – as they did from the Sinai, Gaza, and elsewhere – those settlements are irrelevant. Why? In a just peace, the Jews of those settlements can either leave, as most suspect they would, and return to live in a Jewish state, or the settlers could remain in a Palestinian state. Why not—at least in theory? A million and a half Arabs live in Israel. Most Arabs would likely prefer to remain in Israel, preferring their homes and to live in a country where they have done well, relatively well, even if imperfectly. Street signs are in Arabic as well as Hebrew and English, Arabs vote and are members of Israel’s Knesset, Arabs are given nearly full rights of citizenship – and where they are not -- I object. And Arabs in Israel have served in leading positions from judges to even “Miss Israel.” So why should Jewish settlements be illegal? Moreover, if history is any guide, Jews improve the areas, and when they leave, others benefit from it.
Kerry’s remarks are equally shameful. The number of references to Israel’s faults are numerous and few are those of Palestinian-Arab-Muslim thoughts or actions. And he delivered a long speech with unusual intensity. But so was his defense. Yes, it is true that President Obama has supported Israel militarily, providing Israel with the means to respond to rockets and military threats. But Israel wants peace, genuine and enduring peace, not to have its citizens killed and under constant threat, nor does it want to kill PalestiniansArabs-Muslims, or anyone else. Military support is vital, but it does not excuse stupidity – empowering the denial of Jewish history and empowering violence.
But a final word is also warranted. Now even more, we must be careful to not overcompensate, to completely foreclose on the possibility of peace, and thereby galvanize the Arab world. We surely should at this time close ranks, but we too need to be careful not to go too far and we need to avoid similar mistakes. We should never give up on peace, a just and secure peace, with compromises. This resolution will make that harder. But genuine peace is central to our great Torah and the Jewish people.
This infamous vote was a blow for truth, peace, justice, and Jewish history – and for the suffering Palestinians. This vote will not help them, but instead it will prolong their suffering and prolong hatred and violence. The world’s care for Palestinians, as it is for millions of victims of oppression around the globe, is a feigned care, held hostage by the oppressors and by the enablers of oppressors. The enablers think they are smart, but they are either fools or corrupt, or both. And now America is even more part of the problem, rather than the solution. It’s a crying shame.