On December 23, 2016, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements east of the Green Line as “illegal” and called for the removal of all of them, including those in Jerusalem. It passed because the US decided to abstain, rather than veto such resolutions as it typically does.
There is a pathway to right this wrong, as a new US administration and head of the United Nations will soon take over.
On December 12, 2016, former Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Guterres was sworn in as the new United Nations Secretary General, and on December 19, Republican Donald Trump secured the electoral college to become the next president of the United States. Both men can restart positive relations with the State of Israel. The recommendations listed below are just a few positive actions that can promote peace in the Middle East.
Positive Actions for the United States
President Barack Obama had a very rocky relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was not simply a matter of personal chemistry; Obama took various steps to create significant “daylight” between the US and Israel. Trump can fix those Obama missteps.
1. Recommit to the 2004 Bush Letter.
On April 14, 2004, US President George W Bush wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, giving Israel assurances of US support in conjunction with Sharon’s planned withdrawal of Israeli presence from Gaza. The language in the letter had bipartisan support, and the 2008 Democratic Platform used key clauses from the letter as its official policy regarding Israel.
However, Obama opted to ignore the letter and all of the US commitments. He gutted key components of US assurances, and had the 2012 Democratic platform remove all of the Israeli-oriented positions completely.
Those commitments from President Bush included:
- “United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan.”
- “Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, and all official Palestinian institutions must end incitement against Israel. The Palestinian leadership must act decisively against terror, including sustained, targeted, and effective operations to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.”
- “Palestinians must undertake a comprehensive and fundamental political reform that includes a strong parliamentary democracy and an empowered prime minister.”
- “The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.”
- “Israel will retain its right to defend itself against terrorism, including to take actions against terrorist organizations.”
- “The United States will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and others in the international community, to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means.”
- “It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.”
- “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.”
- “the barrier being erected by Israel should be a security rather than political barrier, should be temporary rather than permanent, and therefore not prejudice any final status issues including final borders”
- “the United States supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent”
- “the United States believes that all states in the region have special responsibilities: to support the building of the institutions of a Palestinian state; to fight terrorism, and cut off all forms of assistance to individuals and groups engaged in terrorism; and to begin now to move toward more normal relations with the State of Israel.”
The Trump administration should recommit to these principles that were abandoned under Obama.
2. Clearly Define that the Obstacle to Peace is anti-normalization, not settlements.
The goal of two-states living in peace starts with the desire to live in peace, not the desire for two states. A Palestinian Authority leadership that incites violence cannot be rewarded with a state. Parties that engage in BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) of Israel or Israeli territories are anti-Semitic and work against a two state solution.
Obama inverted this formulation, and pushed for two states before pushing for peace. He fought Israeli settlements, including asking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlements in 2009, shortly after assuming office. No movement was made by the Palestinian Authority to advance peace. No matter, Obama took a parting shot at Israel by allowing the UN Security Council resolution labeling the settlements as illegal, as if that would advance peace.
Trump should focus on stopping the Arab incitement to violence and glorification of murderers. Penalties should be assessed including withholding US financial assistance and meeting with American leaders should the Palestinian Authority not reform.
3. Terror must be stopped and fought completely.
As the world has started to confront terror in recent years, much the way Israel has since being reestablished, it has fought the terrorism with absolute clarity and global support. Not so for Israel.
Obama asked Israel to confront terrorism with “reasonableness and restraint,” something that the US hasn’t done in its ongoing war against terrorism since September 11, 2001.
Donald Trump should give Israel the same complete support in combatting evil, as every other country in the world is offered when it confronts terrorism.
4. Recognize Anti-Semitism
For a reason only known to him, President Obama was loathe to call out anti-Semitism.
When Islamic terrorists killed people in Paris, France, including in a kosher supermarket, Obama called that attack “random,” and his administration twisted itself to refrain from stating the obvious – that the killers went to kill Jews.
When Obama gave his final State of the Union address, he once again decided to call out “Islamophobia” in the United States, as he did often in his presidency. He did this even though an average Jew is two times more likely to be targeted by hate crimes than an average Muslim. But there was no mention of anti-Semitism.
The Jewish State is not oblivious to the treatment of Jews in America and France, home to the largest concentration of Jews outside of Israel. By recognizing anti-Semitism with a fraction of the concern that Obama showed for Islamophobia, would be a very positive step for US-Israel relations.
5. Clarity: Settlements are not illegal; no Hamas in a Palestinian Unity Government
In taking the four actions noted above, the United States government will once again underscore its long-held bipartisan approaches to Israel. Repeating the assurance that Israel must have “defensible borders” that will not “return to the Armistice lines of 1949,” recognizes that many Israeli settlements over the Green Line will be incorporated into Israel. This is a sharp reversal from the anti-Semitic comments of the Obama administration that felt that any Jew living over the Green Line – even in existing apartments in Jerusalem – are anti-peace, and now, with a wink to the UNSC resolution, illegal.
Further, understanding that Israel must “take actions against terrorist organizations” like Hamas, offers more support to banning the organization from any Palestinian unity government.
The Trump administration should underscore these two points clearly, as it can have a positive impact in how other allies and the United Nations treat Israel.
Positive Actions for the United Nations
The United Nations is a cesspool of autocrats and dictators.
The UN is the poster child of a “bucket of deplorables” of homophobes, anti-Semites, misogynists, xenophobes and racists. As such, the UN Secretary General is often viewed as the deplorable mascot.
It is difficult – ney, impossible – to get many of these countries to be civil, and the UNSG cannot enforce peaceful interactions in the world. However, he can make changes to how the institution itself runs, and his own comments as they relate to Israel.
1. Fold UNRWA into the UNHCR
The United Nations created an organization for Palestinian Arab refugees on December 8, 1949. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was created as a temporary agency to help Arabs that lost their homes after five neighboring Arab countries invaded Israel after it declared statehood in May 1948. Today, UNRWA has morphed into something unrecognizable, giving “refugee” status to millions of descendants of refugees and perpetuating a conflict.
As the incoming UNSG knows, having served as the High Commissioner of Refugees from 2005 to 2015, there is another UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, which works with ACTUAL refugees that are fleeing war zones. It provides real relief for families in transition. It works with millions of refugees from around the world with a fraction of the budget of UNRWA.
More significantly, the UNHCR focuses on providing services for civilians without taking sides in a conflict. Not so UNRWA, which consistently attacks Israel and tells grandchildren of refugees that – with UNRWA’s help – they will return to homes and villages that no longer exist in Israel.
UNRWA perpetuates the suffering of the stateless Arabs from Palestine, and the ongoing conflict with Israel. Over the course of five years, UNRWA should be closed and services should be transitioned to the same relief agency that the rest of the world uses, UNHCR. The descendants of refugees from the 1948-9 Israeli-Arab war should have their ability to obtain services gradually withdrawn.
2. Isolate Iran
Any United Nations member state that threatens to destroy another member state should be completely isolated. Such a state should no longer be allowed to chair any committee. It should no longer be allowed to vote on any resolution. Its flag should be removed from the hall and from the exterior of the all United Nations buildings.
The inspections of the nuclear facilities should not just be rigorous in ensuring that Iran is in compliance. It should be reinforced without any rights or approvals by Iran.
Such treatment should remain in place until such state clearly rescinds such threats.
3. Remove the Standing Measure Against Israel
The UN Human Rights Council has a standing agenda item to criticize only one country in the world – Israel. It must stop the practice immediately.
4. Clean House in the UN Media Centre
The UN has a press group that summarizes the many sessions that happen at the sprawling UN and its many agencies. It selects what items to cover, which people to highlight and the quotes to cover in the stories.
In an organization which is littered with Israel-bashers, the UN Media Centre takes the hate to yet another level. It edits quotes from people that appear sympathetic to Israel and magnifies injuries by Palestinian Arabs. That is not a recipe for fairness or to advance peace. It is a form of incitement itself.
5. Clarity: No Hamas in the Palestinian Government; Stand with Israel
In addition to fixing the anti-Israel bias that is structurally part of the UN, Antonio Guterres should make his own opinions about the Israeli-Arab relationship known.
Outgoing UNSG Ban Ki Moon often stated that he stood with Gaza, and encouraged Hamas to become part of a Palestinian Authority unity government. It was disgusting and disgraceful to every Israeli and civilized person to watch the head of the UN promote a vile anti-Semitic terrorist group that openly calls for killing Jews and destroying Israel. The sentiment was aggravated by Ban Ki Moon’s never stating that he stood with Israel in its fight against terrorism.
Mr. Guterres should be clear that he supports Israel and every country’s fight against terror. He must be clear that there is no room for Hamas in any conversation whatsoever, until it replaces its charter and states that it seeks peace with Israel.
The United States had historically been the best and biggest ally of Israel, while the United Nations abused the Jewish State as if the organization was the reincarnation of the Spanish Inquisition. Obama left his legacy as a horrific foreign policy president, as he threw his lot in with the real bucket of deplorables.
With the five steps outlined above for both the US and UN, the relationship with Israel can be reset, and the cause of peace in the region advanced.
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