I have been deeply concerned and disturbed for many years about the situation in the Middle East in general, and Israel in particular. The recent actions of the Obama administration have ratcheted up my concern to a new higher level of anxiety.
No other president—Democrat or Republican—has thrown Israel under the bus as Obama has with this recent UN resolution, as well as John Kerry’s critical speech on his way out the door.
To understand today’s problems you have to go back at least 50 years to 1967 and the six-day war. That’s what I did and here’s what I found.
In 1967, all of Israel’s neighbors were dedicated to:
- Not wanting Israel to exist (only Egypt and Jordan later pulled out of that axis, because we bought them off).
- Unwilling to take in any of the Palestinian exiles, the neighbors preferred they lived in terrible squalor and be a lightning rod for conflict.
- Rattling their sabers, staging troops and weapons, and visibly getting ready to attack.
- Israel took a preemptive step and in six days took over Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The neighbors’ armies were wiped out. At the time, the West Bank was a fallow desert, unkept and underdeveloped.
To put this in perspective, let’s now look at the facts on the ground:
Muslims Jews Christians & Others
1967: 289K 2,393M 130K
2000: 1,140M 5,313M 261K
2016: 1,800M 6,150M 400K
Increase since 1967: 6x 2.6x 3x
Writing in the Jewish Journal, David Suissa commented:
“Resolution 242, which followed the 1967 war, in which both parties have been quoting for decades as a basis for negotiations, was explicitly worded to allow Israel to keep parts of the disputed territory it captured during the war, by referring to ‘defensible borders.’
“Even the 1993 Oslo Accord lists ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘settlements’ as ‘issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations.’ The point is, whether the UN thought settlements were illegal or not, peace processors were always savvy enough to allow Israel some leverage and wiggle room to negotiate.
“Resolution 2334, by bluntly characterizing Israel as a land thief and making no distinction between illegal outposts and the Western Wall pretty much obliterates that wiggle room.
“With his failure to veto Resolution 2334, Obama has come full circle. His draconian demand from nearly eight years ago is now enshrined in the inner sanctum of the United Nations. He may have convinced himself he was only showing ‘tough love,’ but the reality is that Obama has empowered Israel’s enemies, stripped Israel of its negotiating leverage and rewarded the Palestinians for their intransigence.
“It is the height of chutzpah when Secretary of State John Kerry now lectures Israel on the importance of negotiating a two-state solution. It’s like saying: ‘We’ve taken away your negotiating chips—now go make a deal!’”
There have been innumerable attempts at negotiating a peace settlement, including Oslo and Camp David Accords. In all of them, Israel has proposed or agreed to swapping land for peace. The Palestinians either never responded or walked away.
In 2002, Abba Eban, the erudite former Foreign Minister of Israel, summed up the negotiations best: “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
Since 2008, negotiations have been further handicapped by the conflict in the Palestinian ranks between Fatah, the traditional dominant party, and the combative Hamas, who refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
In his farewell knifing, Secretary of State John Kerry referred to the “dire” humanitarian situation in Gaza. On this point, he was accurate, noting that “Gaza is home to one of the world’s densest concentrations of people enduring extreme hardships with few opportunities.”
Kerry added that: “Most of Gaza’s population of 1.8 million are in need of daily assistance…Most have electricity less than half the time and only 5 percent of the water is safe to drink.”
He rightly blamed Hamas, which, instead of building economic infrastructure and taking care of its people, “continue to re-arm and divert reconstruction materials to build tunnels, threatening more attacks on Israeli civilians that no government can tolerate.”
What Kerry failed to mention is that for the past decade, Israel has consistently and judiciously provided for Gaza’s needs, through an import-export nexus at their border, known as Kerem Shalon.
Since 2006, when Israel imposed an air, land and sea blockade on Gaza—a response to Hamas launching rockets into southern Israel—Kerem Shalom, nestled on the border between Israel, Gaza and Egypt, became a lifeline for the 1.8 million living in the strip. Much of the time, Israel is solely responsible for the flow of goods going in and out of Gaza. This is not either country’s wish, of course; but Israel took measures to protect itself, and ever since, has had to face the unique predicament of providing for her enemy.
Certainly there have been differing views, which I considered, from the Middle East Policy think tank in Washington, D.C., from letters to the L.A. Times and commentaries in the Jewish Journal who have suggested:
- The West Bank settlements help the peace process (not sure how).
- The UN resolution isn’t all that bad (anything could be worse).
- Trump’s promise to toss out Obama’s Israel policies (we hope so).
- Israel has no legitimate right to any of the West Bank or East Jerusalem (not true, according to UN Resolution 242).
- The two-state solution is dead. Other alternatives have to be found.
After a fair amount of thoughtful consideration, I have personally come to this conclusion:
- Israel’s continued aggressive expansion of West Bank settlements is not helping world opinion or attempts to bring the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table. Israel’s patience, however, has run thin. They simply don’t have a real negotiating partner.
- President Obama’s decision to allow Security Council Resolution 2334 to pass was very harmful to Israel. By endorsing the anti-Israel narrative that every square inch of territory captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967—including the Jewish Quarter in East Jerusalem and the Western Wall—is “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” and that Jewish presence in those areas is a “flagrant violation of international law,” Obama didn’t just through renegade West Bank settlers to the wolves—he threw all of Israel.
The UN resolution is the weapon Obama has provided to Israel’s enemies. It would be silly to expect they won’t use it. So, yes, allowing this resolution to pass is harmful to Israel and is a shameful final act for a president who has always claimed to have Israel’s back.
But it is shameful and tragic for another reason as well—because it has virtually killed the peace process.
By endorsing a resolution that effectively turns Israel into an outlaw state, Obama has eliminated all incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate, let along compromise. In other words, if Israel’s No. 1 ally already has decided that 550,000 Israeli Jews are illegally occupying “Palestinian territory,” what is there for the Palestinians to negotiate?
What is often overlooked is that previous UN resolutions and international and bilateral agreements did not put Israel in such a box and allowed plenty of room for the parties to negotiate.
This ill-advised abstention of the UN resolution is the forth legacy of a failed Obama Middle East policy. The other three are:
- Failure to destroy ISIS early and outright, creating thousands of deaths and millions of refugees.
- The Iran Nuclear Deal that has successfully empowered and financed the Mullah-ocracy.
- The debacle of the Syrian red line.
In 1974, Golda Meier, the then retiring Prime Minister of Israel, said, “Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.”
What do you think?