Originally published under the title, "Picking Another Fight with Israel."
Will Obama Pick Another Fight with Israel?
President Obama is considering abandoning the decades-long U.S. policy of standing with Israel at the UN.
The concessions that President Obama is making to Iran have alarmed
not just the right in Israel but also the left, and forced pro-Israel
Democrats to choose between loyalty to the President and steadfast
support for the Jewish state. Even former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton has cautioned that "we need to all work together to return the
special U.S.-Israel relationship to constructive footing, to get back to
basic shared concerns and interests."
But the President apparently intends to go in another direction, to
open a second conflict with Israel over its vital interests. According
to Bloomberg News, "The administration has signaled that it might
abandon the decades-long U.S. policy of protecting Israel at the UN and
back a [French]Security Council resolution laying out terms for a
two-state solution …Robert Malley, the Middle East director for
President Barack Obama's National Security Council, told at least one
European nation" that the Administration may support a resolution
"defining the parameters for a Mideast peace agreement, according to a
report on the conversation to superiors by a Washington-based European
diplomat…viewed by Bloomberg News."
President Obama apparently intends to open a second conflict with Israel over its vital interests.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, says
the purpose of his UN resolution is "pressure…from the international
community" to dictate "clear parameters" for negotiations that must be
concluded within 24 months. According to the French draft circulated in
November, it is the UN Security Council that "decides" the parameters of
the "negotiated solution." It also rules that henceforward the
negotiations should include "close involvement, alongside the parties,
of major stakeholders" to continue to pressure the parties during the
This resolution would be a triumph for those who have long wanted the
Great Powers to dictate Israel's future, as demanded by the Arab League
since Israel's creation. The Jewish people returned to their ancestral
home so they could make a Jewish decision about their own destiny and no
longer be subject to the will of others.
This resolution seizes that authority and moves it to a forum where
Israel is not even a member, a body aptly described by U.S. Ambassador
Jeanne Kirkpatrick three decades ago: "The Security Council more closely
resembles a mugging than either a political debate or an effort at
problem-solving….Israel is cast as villain…in [a] melodrama…that
features…many attackers and a great deal of verbal violence…The goal is
isolation and humiliation of the victim."
A UN resolution imposing solutions to the conflict contradicts the Obama Administration's own declared principles.
A resolution to impose solutions also contradicts the Obama Administration's own principles enunciated
on February 18, 2011, by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice (now the
President's National Security Adviser), "We think it unwise for this
Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and
Palestinians… The only way to reach that common goal is through direct
negotiations between the parties… It is the Israelis' and Palestinians'
conflict, and even the best-intentioned outsiders cannot resolve it for
them." Such a resolution at the Security Council "risks
hardening the positions of both sides. It could encourage the parties
to stay out of negotiations and, if and when they did resume, to return
to the Security Council whenever they reach an impasse."
The specific terms of the draft French resolution make it more
onerous. It demands "a full phased withdrawal of Israeli security
forces," without reference to Israel's right to secure borders
previously guaranteed by Resolution 242 in 1967. In this resolution, the
cardinal rule is that "Security arrangements must respect the
sovereignty…of Palestine" to be "within the framework established by
Most Israelis believe that full withdrawal of the IDF from the West
Bank under today's conditions would lead quickly to a takeover by Hamas,
which is being armed by Iran to overpower the Palestinian Authority
(PA). General Yaakov Amidror, who was national security adviser to Prime
Minister Netanyahu until November 2013, said that, without the presence
of the IDF, the PA "cannot survive for even 10 minutes."
Mr. Abbas himself confronted Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal directly in
August 2014 about Hamas plots in the West Bank. "You smuggle weapons,
explosives, and cash to the West Bank, not for the fight with Israel,
but for a coup against the PA…My security agencies have proof." Mr.
Abbas said that the IDF "arrested 93 Hamas members who were preparing
for a coup against the PA in the West Bank." In June 2007, Mr. Abbas
accused Hamas of trying to assassinate him and publicly condemned Hamas
as "murderous terrorists" and "coup plotters."
A Hamas state in the West Bank, or a collapse of central authority
and the eruption of civil war there, would be a disaster for Israel. A
West Bank swarming with rockets, missiles, and suicide bombers would
bring the war to Israel's adjacent heartland. With Jerusalem as "the
shared capital of the two States," as demanded by the resolution, there
would not be any barrier to terrorist infiltration into Israel.
Hamas covets the West Bank because it knows that the West Bank's
proximity to the Israeli heartland would make it a much more effective
platform for attacks on Israel, than firing from Gaza. In September
2014, Hamas founder Mahmoud Al-Zahar said that if his movement were to
"transfer what it has or just a small part of it to the West Bank, we
would be able to settle the battle of the final promise with a speed
that no one can imagine." In another speech he said, "If only the West
Bank had one quarter of what Gaza has of resistance tools, the Israeli
entity would end in one day…Can you imagine what would happen if the
enemy is targeted from the West Bank…?"
In the real conditions of the Middle East, it is impossible to devise
security arrangements to protect the people of Israel without at least
some imposition on the sovereignty of the Palestinian state in the West
Bank, contravening this resolution. Even the Clinton Parameters at Camp
David in 2000, for example, provided that Israel should maintain early
warning facilities in the West Bank and have access to airspace over the
West Bank for operational needs.
The French draft resolution says in effect that Israelis have no right to be in the lands of their forefathers.
Beyond the security issue, the French draft UN resolution also says
in effect that the people of Israel have no right to be in the lands of
their forefathers. It determines that Israeli communities outside the
1949 Armistice Line (never a recognized legal boundary), including those
in the eastern part of Jerusalem and near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in
Hebron and in the large Jerusalem suburb of Maale Adumim, "have no
In one stroke, the UN would threaten the titles to their homes of 41%
of the Jews living in Jerusalem, those in Jewish neighborhoods like
Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Ze'ev, East Talpiot, Har Homa
and Gilo. Mr. Obama's own Middle East envoy George Mitchell said, "The
Israelis are not going to stop…construction in East Jerusalem. For the
Israelis, what they're building in is in part of Israel…We could spend
the next 14 years arguing over disputed legal issues, or we can try to
get a negotiation to resolve them in a manner that meets the aspirations
of both societies."
If Mr. Obama takes us down this road by endorsing a Security Council
resolution so profoundly injurious to Israel, we are all in for an even
rougher ride than the past few months. In the forty years since
President Richard Nixon's first veto in Israel's defense on September
10, 1972, every American president has used the veto to block
anti-Israel resolutions at the UN Security Council. a total of 8
Presidents casting 42 vetoes in Israel's defense. (Even Jimmy Carter
vetoed one, though he voted for another.) If Mr. Obama breaks with this
tradition, he will be taking conflict with Israel to new heights.
A dozen leading House Democrats, all Jewish, have told deputy
national security adviser Ben Rhodes that Obama should stop acting as if
only Israel is holding up the peace process while not expressing a word
of disappointment about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. One said,
"You want us to go out and say the administration's got Israel's back
[in the Iran negotiations]. How are you going to get us to say that when
our constituents believe that the administration is stabbing Israel in
But up to now Mr. Obama seems to relish conflict with Israel while
cozying up to Iran. A conflict at the UN might be next in line.
Steven J. Rosen is the director of The Washington Project at the Middle East Forum.
Labels: Conflict, France, Hamas, Israel, Palestinian Authority, Security, United Nations, United States