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November 1, 2016 10:12 am

Dershowitz: Obama, Don’t Destroy the Peace Process by Turning It Over to the UN

avatar by Alan Dershowitz

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President Barack Obama. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

President Barack Obama. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Obama administration is sending strong signals that once the election is over it may make a major push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the United Nations. Despite repeated invitations by Prime Minister Netanyahu to President Abbas to meet without preconditions, the stalemate persists. Some blame it on Palestinian unwillingness to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and to compromise to the so-called “right of return.”  Others – including the current US administration — lay the blame largely at the feet of the Netanyahu government for continuing to build in the West Bank, most recently approval of between 98 and 300 new homes in Shiloh. Whatever the reasons – and they are complex and multifaceted — President Obama should resist any temptation, during his final weeks in office, to change longstanding American policy: that only direct negotiations between the parties will achieve a lasting peace.

In particular, Obama should veto an expected French resolution in the Security Council establishing an international peace conference under the auspices of the UN. The general parameters of the French resolution would likely call for: “Borders based on the 1967 Lines with agreed equivalent land swaps; security arrangements preserving the sovereignty of the Palestinian State and guaranteeing the security of Israel; a fair, equitable, and negotiated solution to the refugee problem; an arrangement making Jerusalem the capital of both states.”

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These guidelines may sound reasonable. Indeed, they are strikingly similar to the offers made to and rejected by the Palestinian leadership in 2000-2001 from former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former US President Bill Clinton and in 2008 by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The UN, however, has disqualified itself from playing any constructive role in the peace process. Recent attempts by the UN to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have produced unmitigated disasters. The so-called Goldstone Report — which sought to investigate allegations of war crimes committed during the 2009 Israeli intervention in Gaza — was so blatantly biased against Israel that Richard Goldstone himself had to retract some of its key findings in 2011.

Since then, the UN has done nothing to reassure Israel that it is capable of offering an unbiased forum for negotiations. In the past year alone, the UN has singled out Israel for special criticism on issues like health rights, and most laughably, women’s rights, while failing even to mention regimes whose record on these issues is truly abominable. Last year alone, at least twenty separate resolutions were adopted by the UN General Assembly, which singled out Israel for special criticism. Most recently UNESCO attempted to erase millennia of Jewish history with regard to the Temple in Jerusalem. In light of such behavior, the US should not trust that Israel would receive a fair hearing at any UN sponsored peace conference.

As Netanyahu said in his most recent speech to the general assembly, “The road to peace runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not through New York.” In other words, the only way forward for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is bilateral negotiations between the two parties. Netanyahu and Abbas must sit down and agree to necessary but painful compromises aimed at establishing a Palestinian state, while addressing Israel’s security concerns, and the realities on the ground. Resolutions such as the proposed French resolution undermine such efforts by encouraging the Palestinians to believe that direct negotiations — and the mutual sacrifices they would entail — are unnecessary, and that a Palestinian state can be achieved on the basis of UN resolutions alone. It would also make it more difficult, if not impossible, for the Palestinian Authority to accept anything less than that already given them by the UN — which would in turn guarantee the failure of any realistic negotiations.

It is for these and other reasons that American policy has long been to veto or otherwise derail UN attempts to interfere with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process even when it is stalled. As President Obama said in 2013:

“We seek an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people. The only way to achieve that goal is through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.”

Hillary Clinton, too, has stated in the past, that she supports bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, and her campaign has said that she “believes that a solution to this conflict cannot be imposed from without.”  So, too, has Donald Trump.

Recently, however, several past and present Obama officials have apparently advised the president to support, or at least not veto the French resolution, as well as a one-sided Palestinian push to have the UN declare Israeli settlements illegal. It would be wrong — and undemocratic –for Obama to unilaterally reverse decades of US foreign policy during the lame duck period. After all, in 2011 his administration vetoed an almost identical Palestinian proposal that called for Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”. Similarly, until now, Obama has repeatedly pressured the French and other European nations not to put forward any proposal related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on the grounds that such initiatives discourage bilateral negotiations. This is surely the view of the majority of the Senate—which has its own constitutional authority to participate in foreign policy decisions. In fact, eighty-eight senators signed an open letter to Obama in which they called on the President to veto any Security Council resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The period between the election and the inauguration is the only time a president can act without the checks and balances of American Democracy. He should not take action that would tie the hands of his successor.

Obama must realize that no lasting peace can be achieved in the remaining months of his presidency: there are a multitude of complex and contentious issues — most notably the status of Jerusalem, the rights of so-called Palestinian refugees, and the situation in Gaza — that must be thoroughly addressed in order to achieve a lasting peace. Our next president will undoubtedly have to wade into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process again. The new administration — with the agreement of the Senate — should have full latitude to do what it deems most appropriate. It should not be stuck with parameters bequeathed to it by a president desperate to secure a short-term foreign policy “victory” that in the long term will make a resolution of the conflict more difficult to achieve.

If Obama feels that he must intrude in an effort to break the logjam before he leaves office, he should suggest that the current Israeli government offer proposals similar to those offered in 2000- 2001 and 2008, and that this time the Palestinian leadership should accept them in face-to-face negotiations. But he should take no action (or inaction) that invites UN involvement in the peace process – involvement that would guarantee failure for any future president’s efforts to encourage a negotiated peace.

We should hear the views of both candidates on whether the US should support or veto a Security Council Resolution that would tie their hands were they to be elected president. It is not too late to stop President Obama from destroying any realistic prospects for peace.

Alan M. Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus and author of Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law and Electile Dysfunction. An earlier and somewhat different version of this article appeared in the Boston Globe.

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  • Holy Shirt

    Now that socialist Barry Subud-Soetoro-Obama is like the proverbial mouse running up-and-down the clock, note Pal Al Douchowitz’s crocodile tears

  • Michael Farmer

    The UN(League of Nations) invoked the conflict by granting an Israel, it should be the one to bring peace in the region. The US is NOT an unbiased player in this. It gives Israel its weapons to test and keeps Israel as its military base in the region, hence its decades long appeasement of Israel’s law and convention breaking.

  • Michael Farmer

    But, as far as the US is concerned there isn’t a ‘peace process’. America, because it wishes to have Israel as its base in the area will do nothing to upset that and so appeases Israel’s transgressions on Coonventions and International Law. It even gifts enormous amounts of advanced weaponry to that criminal state, constantly uses its veto to stifle any move by others to reel them in and warns the PA of consequences should they seek any move for justice against Israel.

  • MadBenny

    Listen to this weasel beg! Ha! Pathetic.

  • cpa cpa

    Alan, I don’t agree that Obama should suggest Israel make offers from the past. If anything, Abbas needs to make the overtures to Israel. He knows the phone number and address of the Knesset. Israel has nothing to gain by repeating offers of the past. Obama playing tricks at the UN in his sunset would only prove what so many have said about him from the start. It isn’t Netanyahu. That would be an infantile observation and incorrect. Obama doesn’t have solutions to this conflict, and he knows it. Only a bully would expose Israel to more heartache for the belligerent actions of Arafat, Abbas and their Arab brethren. So let’s see if Obama makes his move. He’s made so many poor foreign policy decisions already one more wouldn’t surprise. He’ll then be persona non grata in many circles in retirement (not that I care) and Israel will always find a way to overcome enemy aggression, even if it comes this time from a US President at the UN.

  • cpa cpa

    Alan, I don’t agree that Obama should suggest Israel make offers from the past. If anything, Abbas needs to make the overtures to Israel. He knows the phone number and address of the Knesset. Israel has nothing to gain by repeating offers of the past. Obama playing tricks at the UN in his sunset would only prove what so many have said about him from the start. It isn’t Netanyahu. That would be an infantile observation and incorrect. Obama doesn’t have solutions to this conflict, and he knows it. Only a bully would expose Israel to more heartache for the belligerent actions of Arafat, Abbas and their Arab brethren. So let’s see if Obama makes his move. He’s made so many poor foreign policy decisions already one more wouldn’t surprise. He’ll then be persona non grata in many circles in retirement (not that I care) and Israel will always find a way to overcome enemy aggression, even if it comes this time from a US President at the UN.

  • President Obama is not a “lame duck” like his predecessors. This President will continue to issue executive orders and memorandums to ensure his legacy. And when President Obama leaves office, his successor won’t be able to put the “nuclear genie back in the bottle.” As for any forthcoming Anti-Zionist UN resolutions, Israel is more than capable to meet any challenges and succeed.

  • YJ Draiman

    The UN must be dismantled. It is a criminal enterprise.

    As an example of the way in which the principles of pan-Arab national self-determination then applied to Israel, Stone cited:
    a letter dated February 20, 1980 to the Secretary-General, transmitted for UN circulation to the General Assembly and the Security Council in connection with item 26 of A/35/11000-S/13816 (Situation in the Middle East) [which] declared a propos of inclusion in the Charter of a principle of non-use of force:
    “The principle of non-use of force shall apply to the relations of the Arab Nation and Arab States with the nations and countries neighboring the Arab homeland. Naturally, as you know, the Zionist entity is not included, because the Zionist entity is not considered a State, but a deformed entity occupying an Arab territory. It is not covered by these principles.

    How many holidays do the Arabs-Muslims celebrate due to historical events in the land of ancient Israel and Jerusalem. r9
    The Jewish people celebrate most of their holidays and fast days in memory of Jerusalem and Israel since 70 AD (that is over 2,000 years).
    Jewish people pray at least 3 times a day, remembering Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple destruction. Pleading the Jewish goal and aspiration to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem – where it was before it was destroyed and desecrated by the enemies of the Jews. Most of the Jewish prayers for thousands of years recite the love of Israel and the Jewish aspirations to return to their ancestral land and bring back its glory and holiness.
    At Jewish weddings they break a glass in memory of Jerusalem and the aspiration to return and build the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
    Every day at the end of the meal the Jews recite a blessing and thank G-d for providing sustenance and beseech G-d to return and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
    Most Jewish prayers mention our glorious memory of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple and pleading to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.
    YJ Draiman

  • YJ Draiman

    I tell the Arab-Palestinians. Go ahead try and take my/our Jewish land if you want to try!

    There are laws that will stop you and than there is me/us the IDF that will stop you! We are done being pushed around by anyone. We will fight back and defend ourselves; we will not let the Holocaust repeat itself – NEVER AGAIN.

    As it is now, Israel has the Jewish land by right!

    That is just the fact!

    I am also telling the rest of the world to mind its own business and stay out of Israel’s internal affairs.
    They have their own problems to contend with.

    They were complicit during WWII when over 6 million Jews, men, women and children were exterminated. This will not happen again! The world stood by while the Arab countries terrorized and expelled over a million Jewish families and their children where they have lived for over 2600 years. These expelled Jewish families now reside in The Land of Israel, their historical homeland.

    There is a real status quo that requires energy to make the change!

    Are you going to put in the energy to try to change it???

    Maybe it is better to cut your continued losses and accept whatever generous package we the Israelis offer you the Arab-Palestinians, because quite frankly under the current conditions we do not owe the Arab-Palestinians anything (there is also the Faisal Weizmann Agreement of 1919) and we can just unilaterally set our own legal borders insisting that viable land for real Arab-Palestinians self determination already exists in Jordan on Jewish land which is originally over 77% of Jewish allocated land under the San Remo Treaty of 1920!
    The Arab-Palestinian can also relocate to the Jewish homes and land (over 120,000 sq. km. which is 6 times the size of Israel) previously owned by the million Jewish families who were terrorized and expelled and all their assets and land confiscated by the Arab countries, the confiscated assets and land which is at over six times the size of Israel and is valued in the trillions of dollars.

    Israel has resettled the million Jewish families refugees expelled from Arab lands, with limited resources. It is time that the Arab countries resettle the Arab-Palestinians refugees, in Jordan which was suppose to be part of the Jewish state, or the over 120,000 sq. km. of land that the Arab countries confiscated from the Jews who owned it for over 2,300 years.

    The options we are proposing to the Arab-Palestinians is more than fair, considering you are constantly terrorizing and killing our people every chance you get. That is what you teach your Arab children and masses to do.

    It all depends on whether we can see the Arab-Palestinians
    as peaceful neighbors and there is nothing that they have ever done to date
    that can lead us to believe that they will be good peaceful neighbors! On the contrary; their actions and incitement has been more terror and violence, and the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children, including babies in their cribs.

    YJ Draiman

  • watsa46

    He has shown that he cares only about himself!

  • DansDaMan

    A bit late to appeal to Obama now, isn’t it Alan? You asked Jews to vote for him TWICE and still never once said you regret it. You’re a pathetic Jewish liberal, and you’ll never be anything else.

    • Isahiah62

      and he endorses HILLARY CLINTON WHO has the exact same views on Israel that Obama has. And more incentive to keep trying in order to revive her husband’s OSLO fiasco.

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