Why Israel opposes the UN resolution on the settlements
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On Dec. 23, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, which condemned “[Israeli] settlements in the Palestinian territory” as “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution[.]” The U.S. abstained from vetoing the resolution.

Following the U.N.’s actions on Israel, Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Biden faces balancing act Budowsky: Trump October surprise could devastate GOP Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers MORE gave an extraordinary speech on Res. 2334 and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in general—extraordinary in its length and detail, and also in the bluntness of its criticism of Israel’s settlement policy.

Now a sea of bitter accusations and counter-accusations engulfs the Obama administration and the Israeli government. Israel has many objections.

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The Israelis believe that the resolution is not fairly balanced, because it focuses entirely on settlements and does not mention Hamas. Hamas, which is deemed a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union, now rules the Palestinian territory of Gaza, after violently seizing control from the Palestinian Authority in 2007.

Hamas sincerely believes pious Muslims must obliterate Israel. It digs attack tunnels, and periodically fires rockets, into Israel. From Israel’s perspective, the resolution’s failure to condemn Hamas by name is inexcusable.

The Israelis also believe Res. 2334 encourages the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel. The resolution calls on states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967[.]” To many Israelis, this sounds like boycott.

But by far the most fundamental problem with Res. 2334, from Israel’s perspective, relates to the Old City of Jerusalem, which is located entirely in modern East Jerusalem. The Old City contains sites that are sacred to all three great monotheistic religions.

In particular, it contains the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, holy to both Jews and Muslims.

Here, some history is required.

In 1948, Israel declared its independence and was immediately attacked by the bordering Arab countries. Israel successfully defended itself and, when armistice lines were set, West Jerusalem was controlled by Israel, and East Jerusalem, including the Old City, was controlled by Jordan. (The 1949 armistice lines are very frequently referred to as the “Green Line”.)

Jordan sought to officially annex East Jerusalem, but the annexation was never recognized by the international community.

Nevertheless, Jordan denied Jews all access to holy sites in the Old City.

In 1967, war erupted between Egypt and Israel, and within hours Jordan attacked Israel. When fighting ceased, Israel controlled East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza—all beyond the Green Line.

With Israel controlling the Old City, Muslims have, albeit with some restrictions, enjoyed access to their holy sites. An Islamic Waqf, or religious committee, continues to administer the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary under Israeli authority.

After the 1967 war ended, the Security Council passed Res. 242, which set forth the “land for peace” formula that underlies the two-state solution. In doing so, the Council affirmed this principle: “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict[.]” 

Res. 242 does not refer to withdrawal of Israeli forces from “the” or “all” occupied territories. It has therefore always been the position of Israel and every US administration that the areas beyond the Green Line from which Israel would withdraw would be a matter of negotiation between the parties.

Thus, if the parties could not agree that Israel should withdraw from some or all of East Jerusalem, then East Jerusalem would remain in Israeli hands.

This understanding of Res. 242 was reflected, for example, in a letter then-President George W. Bush wrote to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, when Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza. Pres. Bush wrote: “[I]t is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the [Green Line]…. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”

Now we come to Res. 2334 of Dec. 23, which states that the Council “will not recognize any changes to the [Green Line], including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations[.]”

In his speech, Kerry said: “[S]ome criticized this resolution for calling East Jerusalem occupied territory. But to be clear, there was absolutely nothing new in last week’s resolution on that issue.”

That simply is not factually correct. Not a single one of the ten prior Security Council resolutions cited in Res. 2334 contains the language quoted above. And it is extremely sensitive language.

The Old City is holy to both sides; the idea of either side negotiating away control over it is hallucinatory. This is why the language of Res. 2334 is so sensitive. It means that, if the Palestinians simply refuse to negotiate with regard to East Jerusalem, all of East Jerusalem will end up in Palestinian hands, including the Old City.

Res. 2334 also contradicts the position of all previous US administrations. As reflected in Pres. Bush’s letter, the previous policy was that, if the parties could not negotiate mutually acceptable changes to the Green Line, Israel would not have to return any territory. In that event, East Jerusalem would remain in Israel’s hands.

Res. 2334 turns previous US policy on its head, because it says that, if the parties cannot successfully negotiate changes to the Green Line, then all territory beyond that line, including East Jerusalem and the Old City, reverts to Palestine.

Israel is a democracy. No Israeli political party—except one representing Arab Israelis, who are approximately 21 percent of the population—no matter where it stands on the political spectrum, could agree to surrender the Old City.

For that reason, above all others, Res. 2334 is unacceptable to Israel.

In response to adoption of the resolution, Hamas stated that it “appreciates” the Security Council action and considers it an “important evolution in international positions.” If a group dedicated to the destruction of Israel applauds Res. 2334, one perhaps should not be surprised that Israel vehemently rejects it.

David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the New York state bar. He currently resides in Cary, North Carolina, and has published pieces on the Social Science Research Network and in The Times of Israel.


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