The Pitiable, Pathetic Paris Peace Parley
Barack Obama’s and John Kerry’s “peace” summit in Paris, to which neither Israel nor the Palestinians even bothered to show up — was a farce. The anti-Israel, anti-settlement declaration issued at the conference was predictable and pre-established, and one wonders what possible justification there could be for 70 nations to waste so much money sending their representatives — including 35 foreign ministers — to a ridiculous and useless one-day gathering that achieved precisely nothing.
The principle purpose of the conference, it seems, was to serve as Obama’s and Kerry’s last anti-Israel gasp. After passing UN Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements, they needed one more international move to confirm the sentiment.
Well done, gentlemen.
I predict that when the Obama administration is over, we will still continue to hear Kerry bloviating about how Israel is the reason there is no peace. This follows a long and predictable pattern that has emerged over the last several decades of US Middle East policy: The State Department urges the president to pursue its formula for bringing about peace between Israel and the Palestinians; the president and his secretary of state waste years in this quixotic endeavor, marked by their inability to confront Palestinian terror and incitement; then, after entrenching their failures, the diplomats retire and use the media to pontificate on what their successors should do.
The latest representative of this class to speak out is Daniel Kurtzer, who served as George W. Bush’s US ambassador to Israel. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Kurtzer complained that Trump’s selection of David Friedman as United States ambassador to Israel is a serious mistake. He asserted that “Mr. Friedman would be representing not the American people but a small, extreme minority of Americans who have in mind the interests of a small, extreme minority in Israel.”
I know David Friedman. He is a man of integrity, professionalism and total dedication to the Jewish people. And it is Kurtzer, not Friedman, who represents the fringe of Jewish opinion in the US and Israel.
Kurtzer argued that Friedman is wrong for the job because, he “has been publicly arguing that Israel has a right to build settlements and annex parts of the West Bank. He believes that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
But Israel — historically, politically, religiously and geographically — has more rights to sovereignty in Judea and Samaria than the Palestinians.
No one disputes that the West Bank was the Biblical cradle of early Jewish civilization and that the land was unlawfully occupied by Jordan between the 1948 War of Independence and the 1967 Six-Day War. Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank in 1950 was recognized only by the United Kingdom, Iraq and Pakistan. So what illegal occupation of the West Bank is Kurtzer referring to? Which legal entity did Israel illegally occupy? A vanished Ottoman Empire? A dissolved British mandate? A Palestinian state that has never existed? From who, pray tell, did Israel take this land?
Eugene Rostow, a former undersecretary of state for political affairs in the Johnson administration, observed that UN Security Council Resolution 242, the backbone of all peace negotiations, gives Israel a legal right to be in the West Bank. The resolution “allows Israel to administer the territories” it won in 1967 until “a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” is achieved.
So Friedman is correct when he says that Israel has a right to build settlements in the West Bank. In fact, the Palestinians agreed to it when they signed the Oslo Accords. Whether doing so is in Israel’s best interests is for Israel’s government (the current one having been elected three consecutive times) to decide.
As for annexing parts of the West Bank, Israel is under no obligation to maintain the status quo forever, because the Palestinians refuse to coexist with a Jewish state. Israel has been incredibly patient in holding off annexation of some or all of the West Bank.
Regarding moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Kurtzer knows that Congress passed a law to this effect in 1995. But Congress made the mistake of providing the president a loophole to ignore the law, which is why the embassy remains in Tel Aviv. So, Friedman not only has the law on his side, but the foresight that Palestinian apologists lack: the understanding that recognizing Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of Israel will end the Palestinian fantasy of one day controlling Jerusalem.
From there, the Palestinian house of cards will collapse. Arab governments that have used innocent Palestinian refugees as pawns to demonize Israel will recognize that these refugees will never migrate to Israel and demographically overrun the Jewish state, and that Palestine will never be liberated “from the river to the sea.”
Many critics seem frustrated that Friedman will carry out a foreign policy that treats Israel as an ally, as opposed to President Obama’s favorite whipping post. The fact that Friedman is close to the president-elect and is a solid friend of Israel’s will ensure that he has an important voice in ensuring that the democratic state of Israel is not forced to make concessions to non-democratic terror entities bent on its destruction.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is referred to by The Washington Post as “the most famous Rabbi in America.” He is the author, most recently, of “The Israel Warrior: Standing Up for the Jewish State from Campus to Street Corner.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.