These past few weeks have been frustrating and confusing for the vast bipartisan majority of Americans who support Israel and who believe in the unbreakable bond tween the U.S. and Israel – one that is founded on our shared values.
Like many Americans, I watched as the United Nations voted on an unprecedented, one-sided resolution condemning Israel and making peace far more difficult to achieve.
I watched a few days later as Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Climate divides conservative Democrats in reconciliation push Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Altria — Walrus detectives: Scientists recruit public to spot mammal from space 12 top U.S. officials to join Biden at major climate conference MORE shared his view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his guiding principles to resolve it – just days before President Obama leaves office.
Then I watched as a broad bipartisan majority in Congress voted to rebuke the UN resolution and reject Kerry’s harsh criticisms of the Israeli government.
All this begs the question - why have so many so many Israelis, peace negotiators and experts united in criticism against this resolution? And why are Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress so overwhelmingly opposed to it?
Both the UN Security Council and Secretary Kerry failed to address in detail the real challenges facing the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiation: Palestinian incitement and violence, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ refusal to negotiate, and the split between Fatah and Hamas - one waging a diplomatic war against Israel in the international arena and the other waging a war of terror on Israel – killing and intimidating Israeli citizens.
Instead, the UN focused entirely on Israel, rejecting the Jewish people’s longstanding ties to their holiest religious sites by labeling – for the first time - the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall as “settlements.” This ignores the history of the Jewish people and it ignores the history of the Middle East.
Several years ago, Israel froze settlement construction to demonstrate good faith to the Palestinians and to allow the Obama Administration to attempt to convene negotiations between the parties. The Palestinians refused to come to the negotiating table, and they rejected the eventual product of this process – Secretary Kerry’s 2014 framework document.
Time and again, Israel has made efforts at peace only to face unwillingness or inability from the Palestinian leadership.
These latest efforts have been idealistic, yet out of touch with the reality on the ground and of peace making. Dennis Ross, who headed American peace efforts for years, put it bluntly during an interview on Israeli radio: “Part of the problem with the Kerry approach is that it is an ‘all or nothing’ approach, and the problem with an ‘all or nothing’ approach is that it always produces nothing.”
Congress passed their resolution to send the message that the American people reject this “all or nothing” approach that singles out the only true democracy in the Middle East for special condemnation. And for that, our leaders deserve our praise.
Despite the anti-Israel bias that pervades the UN and Kerry’s gloom and doom perspective, the vast majority of the Israeli public still supports peace with the Palestinians and Kerry missed this critical audience with a speech that failed to address the current reality in the Middle East.
The bottom line is that peace can only be achieved through direct bilateral negotiations without preconditions. Israelis and Palestinians must sit down and work out an agreement; solutions imposed from abroad will never be accepted and won’t last.
The American people still have hope, and there is still time to ensure that peace can be achieved between Israel and all her neighbors, including the Palestinians. Israelis yearn for it and are willing to take risks to achieve it, if they know they’ll have a trustworthy, strong and supportive America behind them. Israelis also have to believe that their negotiating partners’ commitment to reject violence and terror as a means of political expression is genuine.
In an ‘all or nothing’ approach, the UNSC resolution and Kerry’s speech push the sides closer to ‘nothing’ – a result that leaves neither Israelis nor Palestinians better off.
Josh Block is the CEO and President of The Israel Project, a non-profit organization providing resources on Israel and the Middle East
The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.