Friday, December 30, 2016
U.S. Abstains From Security Council Vote On Israel
The map above (from antiwar.com) is of the West Bank -- land that belongs to the Palestinian people. But, through the continued building of illegal settlements and building of a wall, Israel now controls most of the land (brown areas on the map). It is obvious that Israel has no intention of allowing a "two-state solution" which would require them to give this land back to the Palestinians. Instead, they are boldly and illegally attempting to steal this land and increase the size of their country.
The world knows this (with the exception of right-wing Israeli apologists in the United States) and has attempted many times to condemn this in the United Nations. The United States has always vetoed those resolutions (thereby becoming an accessory in Israel's land theft).
That changed a few days ago. A Security Council resolution condemning the illegal building of settlements passed on a 14 to 0 vote. It passed because the United States, for the first time, did not veto it. Instead, they simply abstained. Finally, the United States felt a moral obligation to stop defending the building of the illegal settlements.
After the U.N. vote, Secretary of State John Kerry gave an important speech that laid out U.S. policy. You can read a full transcript of that speech in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, but I have posted some interesting excerpts from it below:
Throughout his administration, President Obama has been deeply committed to Israel and its security, and that commitment has guided his pursuit of peace in the Middle East. This is an issue which I’ve worked on intensely during my time as Secretary of State for one simple reason: because the two state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors. It is the only way to ensure a future of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. . . .
Regrettably, some seem to believe that the US friendship means the US must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles -- even after urging again and again that the policy must change. Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect. Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who does not support a two-state solution, said after the vote last week: “It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share” and veto this resolution. I am compelled to respond that the United States, did in fact vote "in accordance with our values," just as previous U.S. administrations have done at the Security Council. They fail to recognize that this friend, the United States, that has done more to support Israel than any other country, this friend that has blocked countless efforts to delegitimize Israel, cannot be true to our own values -- or even the stated democratic values of Israel -- and we cannot properly defend and protect Israel -- if we allow a viable two state solution to be destroyed before our eyes. And that’s the bottom line: the vote in the UN was about preserving the two state solution. . . .
On this point, I want to be very clear. No American Administration has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama’s. The Israeli Prime Minister himself has noted our unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation. Our military exercises are more advanced than ever. Our assistance for Iron Dome has saved countless Israeli lives. We have consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself, by itself, including during actions in Gaza that sparked great controversy. Time and again we have demonstrated that we have Israel’s back. We have strongly opposed boycotts, divestment campaigns and sanctions targeting Israel in international fora, whenever and wherever its legitimacy was attacked, and we have fought for its inclusion across the UN system. In the midst of our own financial crisis and budget deficits, we repeatedly increased funding to support Israel. In fact, more than half of our entire global Foreign Military Financing goes to Israel. And this fall, we concluded an historic 38 billion dollar Memorandum of Understanding that exceeds any military assistance package the U.S. has provided to any country, at any time, and that will invest in cutting edge missile defense, and sustain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge for years to come. . . .
Despite our best efforts over the years, the two state solution is now in serious jeopardy. The truth is that trends on the ground –violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation – are destroying hopes for peace on both sides and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want. Today, there are a similar number of Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. They have a choice. They can choose to live together in one state, or they can separate into two states. But here is a fundamental reality: if the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic – it cannot be both –and it won’t ever really be at peace. . . .
Allies of both sides are content to reinforce this “with us or against us mentality” where too often anyone who questions Palestinian actions is an apologist for the occupation and anyone who disagrees with Israeli policy is cast as anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic. That’s one of the most striking realties about the current situation: This critical decision about the future – one state or two states -- is effectively being made on the ground every day, despite the expressed opinion of the majority of the people. The status quo is leading towards one state and perpetual occupation, but most of the public either ignores it or has given up hope that anything can be done to change it. . . .
Let’s be clear: settlement expansion has nothing to do with Israel’s security; many settlements actually increase the security burden on the IDF. And leaders of the settler movement are motivated by ideological imperatives that entirely ignore legitimate Palestinian aspirations. Among the most troubling illustrations of this point has been the proliferation of settler outposts that are illegal under Israel’s own laws. They are often located on private Palestinian land and strategically placed to make two states impossible. There are over 100 of these outposts, and since 2011, nearly one third have been – or are being – legalized, despite pledges by past Israeli governments to dismantle many of them. Now, leaders of the settler movement have advanced unprecedented new legislation that would legalize most of the outposts. . . .
Now you may hear that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace because the settlers who don’t want to leave can just stay in Palestine, like the Arab Israelis who live in Israel. But that misses a critical point: the Arab Israelis are citizens of Israel, subject to Israel’s laws. Does anyone really believe the settlers will agree to submit to Palestinian law in Palestine? Likewise, some supporters of the settlements argue that the settlers could just stay in their settlements, and remain as Israeli citizens in their separate enclaves in the middle of Palestine, protected by the IDF. There are over 80 settlements east of the separation barrier, many located in places that would make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible. Does anyone seriously think that if they just stay where they are you could still have a viable Palestinian state? . . .
How would Israel respond to a growing civil rights movement from Palestinians demanding a right to vote, or widespread protests and unrest across the West Bank? How does Israel reconcile a permanent occupation with its democratic ideals? How does the U.S. continue to defend that and still live up to our own democratic ideals? Nobody has ever provided good answers to those questions because there aren’t any. . . .
Common interests in countering Iran’s destabilizing activities and fighting extremists as well as diversifying their economies have created real possibilities. I have spent a great deal of time with key Arab leaders exploring this, and there is no doubt that they are prepared to have a fundamentally different relationship with Israel. That was stated n the Arab Peace Initiative, and all my recent conversations have confirmed their readiness, in the context of Israeli-Palestinian peace, not just to normalize relations -- but to work openly on securing that peace with significant regional security cooperation. Many have shown a willingness to support serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and to take steps on the path to normalization of relations – including public meetings -- providing there is meaningful progress towards a two state solution. That is a real opportunity that should not be missed. . . .
In the end, we could not in good conscience protect the most extreme elements of the settler movement as it tries to destroy the two state solution. We could not in good conscience turn a blind eye to Palestinian actions that fan hatred and violence. It is not in U.S. interests to help anyone on either side create a unitary state. We may not be able to stop them, but we cannot be expected to defend them. And it is certainly not the role of any country to vote against its own policies. . . .
We must not lose hope in the possibility of peace. We must not give in to those who say what is now must always be, that there is no chance for a better future. Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to make the difficult choices for peace – and if they are, we can all help. And for the sake of future generations of Israelis and Palestinians, for all the people of the region, and for the United States, let’s hope they are prepared to make those choices now.