December 29, 2016
John Kerry’s speech Wednesday responding to allegations that the Obama administration was the driving force behind last week’s United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements was everything that we have come to expect from him: long, self-referential and mostly beside the point.
Security Council Resolution 2334 states that Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and demands that it stop. The resolution passed because 14 of the 15 states on the council voted for it, and the U.S., usually the bulwark against anti-Israel measures at the U.N., abstained.
The resolution is both absurd and disgraceful. It suggests that Jewish occupation of the area where King Solomon built the first great temple in Jerusalem 1,500 years before Islam existed, is illegal. It rejects Israeli building even in areas that Palestinians acknowledge would be part of Israel in any final peace settlement. It promotes terrorism and undermines U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 (the basis of the land-for-peace policies of the past half century) by removing the land in question from negotiation and hands it all theoretically to the Palestinians. It will cause more violence and death where the Obama administration claims it seeks peace. And it does so on the assumption that Israel will not hand over land in which it has built homes, despite the fact that Israel did precisely that in both Gaza and Sinai.
President Obama has spent the last eight years sniping at the Israelis for building homes in disputed territories, portraying them as the main obstacle to peace with Palestinians. Kerry conceded that the settlements “are not the cause of the conflict,” but reiterated the administration’s view that they are a threat to peace and thus put the two-state solution in “jeopardy.”
But peace is impossible when your adversary rejects your right to exist. The administration dwells on settlements, but what would happen if Israel ceased constructing homes in disputed territory? Would Palestinians suddenly be ready to negotiate a peace deal in good faith? They have rejected such opportunities three times before, walking away from peace deals without making a counter-offer.
As contributor Michael Rubin noted in the Washington Examiner‘s Beltway Confidential blog, whenever Israel has frozen settlement construction, or relinquished territory, they have done so without receiving any reciprocal concessions. Palestinians have simply pocketed the concessions and continued their belligerence.
After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it forcibly expelled some 8,500 of its own citizens from their homes there, some at gunpoint. Palestinians in Gaza then voted to be governed by Hamas, a terrorist organization with a charter that demands the destruction of the state of Israel. Hamas has since fired some 15,000 rockets at Israeli civilians.
Any peace deal would be negotiated with the more moderate Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas. But Abbas recently proposed forming a unity government with Hamas.
The Obama administration has undermined Israel’s government at every turn. The nuclear deal with Iran’s theocracy represents an existential threat to the Jewish state. The Obama State Department even sent taxpayer money to finance an effort to defeat Netanyahu in the last election.
President-elect Trump has pledged to change course on Israel. He seems to understand that Israel is an important American ally, not only because the two countries share geopolitical interests but also because they are both democracies founded on Judeo-Christian principles. This recognition alone makes it more likely that, having survived Obama’s presidency, Israel will thrive under his successor’s.
In a Middle East overrun with Muslim extremists, it is essential that the U.S. retain its alliance and friendship with the Jewish state.