Obama’s Self-Defeating Settlements Policy
President Barack Obama’s collaboration with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2334, which condemns Israel’s settlements policy, has defied history and reality, injuring the peace process and US national security.
While President Obama greets the Jewish people upon Hanukkah, which commemorates the victory of the Maccabees in a series of heroic battles in the crux of the land of Israel, the mountain ridges of Judea and Southern Samaria – Beth El, Beth Horon, Hadashah, Beth Zur, Ma’aleh Levona, Adora’yim, Elazar, Beit Zachariya and Ba’al Hatzor – he contends that these are “occupied lands.” When Shimon the Maccabee (who succeeded Judah and Jonathan) was confronted with such a contention, he responded: “We have not occupied a foreign land; we have not ruled a foreign land; we have liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation.”
President Obama’s and the State Department’s support of UNSCR 2334 undermines the peace process and US national security interests in the following manner:
1. It provides a tailwind to the UN demand to halt Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria, while encouraging the thirty-time-larger Arab construction there; an attempt to prejudge and force – not negotiate – a solution.
2. It dis-incentivizes Arabs to negotiate, since they expect further global pressure on Israel. Thus it undermines direct negotiation, which is the most effective way to advance peace, as documented by the Israel-Egypt and Israel-Jordan peace accords. On the other hand, the litany of US and international peace initiatives failed due to attempts to force a solution and bypass direct negotiation.
3. Just like previous US and international initiatives, this too radicalizes the Arabs, forcing them to outflank the US and the globe from the maximalist side, escalating their expectations and demands — thus, further reducing prospects of resolving the highly complicated peace process.
4. Experience proves that placating and appeasing the Palestinians — as highlighted by the 1993 Oslo Accord and the 2005 uprooting of all Jewish settlements from Gaza — has intensified terrorism, hate-education and violation of agreements, in addition to three wars erupting from Gaza.
5. Peaceful coexistence, on the one hand, and the uprooting of Jewish or Arab communities, on the other, constitute an oxymoron. If 450,000 Jews, among 1.8 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria constitute an obstacle to peace, are the 1.75 million Arabs among 6.6 million Jews within pre-1967 Israel an insurmountable impediment to peace?! The belligerent rejection of Jewish presence/settlements (since the 1920s!) reflects the chief Palestinian concern: the existence, not the size, of the Jewish state.
6. Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria are legal under international law. UNSCR 2334 violates the 1993 Oslo Accord and the 1967 UNSCR 242, which do not prohibit Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. In fact, 242 requires Israeli withdrawal “from territories,” not “from all the territories.” In 1979, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula; 90% of “the territories.” Moreover, in the 1948 and 1967 wars, Israel acted defensively in the face of Arab aggression, while possessing a valid title over the land west of the Jordan River as allotted to the Jewish state by Article 80 of the UN Charter that incorporated the 1922 Mandate for Palestine, and entrusted Britain to establish a Jewish state in the entire area west of the Jordan River. In Article 80’s own words, the British were “[to] encourage…close settlement by Jews on the land…” According to same article, which supersedes the 1947 UN General Assembly recommended Partition Plan, the 1967 war of self-defense returned Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to its legal owner, the Jewish state. The 1949 Jordanian belligerent occupation of Judea and Samaria violated the Mandate for Palestine, and was recognized only by Britain and Pakistan.
7. Are the Jewish settlements an obstacle to peace? Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria were erected after the 1967, 1956 and 1948 wars, the 1964 establishment of the PLO, the 1929 decimation of Hebron’s Jewish community, and the uprooting of the Jewish communities of Gush Etzion, in Judea and Samaria, in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s.
8. UNSCR 2334 enhances the profile of the UN – which is inherently anti-American, irrespective of the $2.4 billion the US provides the UN each year, constituting 22% of the international body’s budget – thus undermining US national security. For example, 95% of the UN member states that receive US foreign aid, vote against the US most of the time.
9. The 1967 UNSCR 242 – which was unanimously adopted in the aftermath of the Six Day War — does not refer to a “two state solution.” Is it in the US interest to establish another Palestinian state (in addition to Gaza), against the backdrop of the performance of Gaza; the tectonic Arab Tsunami (more commonly known as the “Arab Spring”); the well-documented Palestinian track record of collaboration with anti-American boys, from Nazi Germany, to the USSR, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, China and modern Russia; the Palestinian subversion in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon; the Palestinians’ active collaboration with Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait; and the institutionalized K-12 education of hate, incitement, terrorism, repression, corruption and the persecution of Christians (e.g., a 86% Christian majority in Bethlehem in 1950 has been transformed into a 12% minority in 2016!)?
10. Is it in the US interest to reduce Israel to a 9-to-15-mile-wide sliver along the Mediterranean? Should Israel concede the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria – which would transform Israel from a national security producer, extending the strategic arm of the US, to a national security consumer; from a strategic asset to a strategic liability/burden; from the largest US aircraft carrier with no US boot on board to a light boat?
11. Are the national security of the US, and Middle East stability, well-served by focusing on Jewish settlements and the Palestinian issue – which is not the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Arab policy making and Middle East turbulence – while all pro-US Arab regimes are facing lethal threats (and benefiting from Israel’s posture of deterrence), and the Middle East is burning, featuring an unprecedented number of fatalities and refugees, due to factors which are totally unrelated to the Palestinian issue and settlements: the megalomaniacal Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Arab Tsunami, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Islamic terrorism, etc.?
In 1977, Prime Minister Menachem Begin replied to a request by President Jimmy Carter to freeze Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria: “Why is it permitted for a Jew to settle in Bethel or Shiloh in the USA, towns named after places in Judea and Samaria, but forbidden to build in the original Shiloh or Beth El?”
US national security and the peace process will be well-served by avoiding gross misperceptions and misrepresentations, as reflected by the current US policy and the State Department bureaucracy, which enabled UN Security Council Resolution 2334.
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, lives in Jerusalem, Israel, and is the author of “Second Thought: US-Israel Initiative.” A version of this article originally appeared in Israel Hayom.