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The hand that holds the status quo together

The Palestinians put forward a Security Council resolution calling for the end of the occupation by 2017. The Obama administration, which has supported essentially every Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, has promised to use its veto power.

The Kingdom of Jordan on Wednesday submitted a resolution draft to the United Nation Security Council, which calls for the establishing of a Palestinian state as well as a deadline for the occupation: 2017, two years from now. The proposal, which could be voted on at any time, was drafted by the Palestinian Authority in the aim of breaking the diplomatic impasse in efforts to establish a Palestinian state.

According to reports, should the Obama administration vetoe the resolution, the Palestinians will join dozens of international agencies, including perhaps the International Criminal Court – a move that may allow the court to hear future charges against Israeli officials.

The United States opposes the Palestinian motion. The Israeli media reported yesterday that Secretary of State Kerry informed Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority that the U.S. will veto the resolution should it come to a vote. It seems that the Americans also object to a more modest resolution proposed by the French government. The French proposal is said to put forward several parameters for a final-status agreement, setting a two-year deadline for negotiations.

The idea of a deadline on the occupation is required to solve an inherent problem with the diplomatic process: it depends entirely on the Israeli will to make concessions. There is simply no incentive for any Israeli leadership (not just Netanyahu’s) to move forward, certainly not at a time when Israel enjoys relative calm and prosperity, as it has over the past decade. The negotiations are not balanced: one side is holding all the cards while the other depends on its good will; one side is in a state of emergency, and the other can ignore the issue altogether; one side gains international credit by merely agreeing to talk, while the other side of the deal — a Palestinian state — is only promised in the very distance future, if at all.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)

Millions of Palestinians have been living under military rule in the West Bank and siege in Gaza for almost 50 years. The lack of any form of Palestinian sovereignty directly affects millions more who are stuck in refugee camps and cannot be helped by their own people, even during a crisis like the Syrian civil war. It has been half a century since the 1967 war, and the Israeli government still has not made up its mind whether to leave the territories it captured and allow Palestinians their independence, or grant them full civil rights. Or perhaps it seems like the government has made up its mind to keep the land but not give the rights, thus treating the Palestinians as prisoners. The expiration date on this state of affairs is long overdue. In this context, allowing another two years for completing an agreed-upon process to end the occupation actually seems like a generous offer.

The problem is that the U.S. agrees with Israel on an entirely different framing of the problem: not how or when Israel should end the occupation, but whether it should do so at all, and under which hypothetical circumstances. For the two countries, the talks are a process through which Israelis need to be convinced that the Palestinians have rights, too.

In recent years I have attended and sometimes even spoken on various panels and forums on American policy vis-a-vis the conflict, including its failure to facilitate a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. In such forums one always get a sense of helplessness coming from the American side. What more can America do, people ask, to end the occupation? How can peace be so elusive? What went wrong with “the process?”

But in order to keep raising those questions, one must ignore reality. In truth it is the United States that holds everything together right now. When people think about American support for Israel they imagine the military aid and Iron Dome. But in fact, American administrations – every one of them – have created the diplomatic and political environment in which Jerusalem can carry out its policies. And when the chips are down, it is the American administration that shields Israel from the inevitable consequences of its policies, allowing Israeli leaders to make decisions that are not only immoral, but also carry disastrous consequences for all parties involved.

This is true for almost every step of the way. The United States boycotted the Fourth Geneva Convention Conference taking place this week, mainly because Israel does not accept the interpretation of its settlement activities as a violation of Article 49 in the treaty; the United States is vetoing Security Council resolutions on the occupation – even resolutions that are deliberately drafted using the State Department’s texts on settlements. And when Israel ran out of artillery shells during its latest war in Gaza, the U.S. opened its emergency bunkers in Israel to resupply the IDF. In short, one cannot think of any part of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians – the so-called status quo – that does not depend on the active support and participation of the United States.

This cooperation is a bit inconvenient for the administration at times, especially when it is trying to get the support of other Arab countries for its Middle East wars – and this is precsiely where the personal rift between the governments serves both sides. Obama and Kerry are able to distance themselves from the active role they are taking in aiding Israeli policies, and Netanyahu can score some points with its base for “standing up” to the U.S. But when things matter – like they do now in the Security Council or last summer in Gaza (and the war was all about maintaining the status quo) – the U.S. and Bibi are almost exactly on the same page.

Unlike UN resolutions, which Israel has learned to ignore, Security Council measures are binding, and can have very serious implications on states (just take a look at Russia or Iran). That’s why the Palestinians are trying to get the international community involved in a way that would require Israel to think about how to end the occupation, rather than whether to do it in the first place. But without American approval, nothing can move forward at the UNSC. When you look for the thing that is holding the status quo together, the American ambassador’s voting record at the UN is a good place to start.

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    1. dcom

      Why should they get a state to exercise self determination if it “self determines” to try to attack Israel? Would you agree to the stipulation that if they attacked Israel after they got their state, Israel should be allowed to expel all the residents to Jordan?

      If such a state resolves to continue waging war against Israel, why should we allow such an irredentist state to come into being? At least now the IDF can prevent attacks. That is the long and short of it. Without an actual commitment and revocation of all future claims on Israeli territory, Israel gets nothing from the deal. Sanctions are preferable to rockets.

      Reply to Comment
      • Steven

        While we all can understand why Israel wants security guarantees before it stops the occupation, nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify settlement building.

        So how about that, a UN resolution, binding, with sanctions if violated, requiring Israel to stop all settlement building.

        It doesn’t require Israel to stop the occupation since it is so afraid for its security, which is understandable, however it must not continue building settlements.

        Would you agree to that ? Or should Israel have every right to do whatever it wants, while Palestinians should always have to prove their fitness to deserve their rights ? Because that sounds like disgusting double standards.

        Reply to Comment
        • Blake

          All? No not I. Criminals don’t get to hold onto what they stole demanding they keep their heist. Not in any moral universe.

          Reply to Comment
        • Whiplash

          No right to build? Israel has a claim of sovereignity over Judea and Samaria. This claim was enshrined in the 1949 Armistice Agreement with Jordan. In the Armistice Agreement it specifically stated that borders were not being created and neither side was relinquishing any claims it had. Jordan relinquished its claims in 1988 leaving Israel as the only state with a sovereign claim on the territory of Judea and Samaris.

          You might also note that the members of the League of Nations in 1922 set over all of Mandate Palestine for Jewish settlement and development. This right was never abrogated but instead the rights of peoples under mandates was protected under the UN charter of 1945.

          Jewish people were ethnicallly cleansed by Jordan from Judea and Samaria for 19 years. Jews had lived in Judea and Samaria since the Bronze age. 19 years of explusion did not take away their historical rights to live there and the League of Nations and the UN recognized their rights.

          Thus the Jewish state and their people have a right to continue to build in Judea and Samaria until the Jewish state gives up those rights on behalf of the Jewish people.

          Reply to Comment
          • Barry

            No, Jordan relinquished the West Bank to the Palestinians, not to Israel. Israel has no rights there that Palestine need honor.

            Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            Jordan never had a legal sovereign claim against the land of Judea and Samaria to transfer to the Palestinians. The claim of Jordan was always bogus. Jordan was an artificial creation. The land set aside for Jordan did not include any part of Judea and Samaria. Therefore it had and could never have a legal claim to Judea and Samaria to pass on to the Palestinians.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Richard

      Its also impossible to think about Britain having successfully resisted a Nazi invasion w/o the United States. So, this isn’t the first time the United States has been the only power preventing a repulsive, chauvinistic group of people from destroying one of its close allies. Beyond morality, the alliance serves American interests more than ever, so even if Americans are indifferent about Israel as a country, they should support our diplomatic position here. A lot of Americans don’t properly understanding the Middle East or realpolitik at all for that matter, so they believe warm and squishy ideas about the Palestinians. These are generally the same people who are naive enough to think that having a U.S. Passport – being a member of a very, very exclusive club of rich people – isn’t a privilege that they enjoy at others’ expense. They’re hypocrites, and too stupid to understand why. No reason to listen to them about Israel, Iran, Cuba, Iraq, or anything regarding foreign policy.

      Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        Interesting that you bring up US aid to Britain during WW2.

        You do know that the Americans demanded something in return, right?

        Namely, that the British give up their colonial acquisitions.

        American assistance to Britain certainly wasn’t given on the basis of Something For Nothing, far from it.

        I don’t have any problem with the USA giving assistance to ensure Israel’s survival.

        But that assistance should come at the same price as 1941 i.e. Israel gives up its colonial acquisition.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Whiplash

      Israel and the United States share many cultural, economic and security ties which bind the two states together. These ties cross political, gender and generational boundaries. The overwhelming support of many Americans will not permit the current American administration to throw Israel under the UN bus of bigotry and intolerance to the only Jewish state in the world.

      The Palestinians have been responsible for their own predicament. They could have had peace and a state many times since 1947 but have foresworn same in favor of attacking Israel.

      If the Palestinians think that the international community can force a solution on Israel, they are wrong. Like Eygpt they will find out that the plagues brought upon Palestinians will be much worse than anything the Europeans may try to do to Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bruce Gould

      US student workers’ union becomes first US labor union to back BDS!


      Student workers at the University of California have voted by a landslide to support the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

      The votes, which were cast on 4 December by members of UAW Local 2865, resultedin 65 percent, or 1,411 members voting in support of a BDS resolution against 35 percent, or 749 members, voting against.

      UAW Local 2865 has thus become the first labor union in the US to join the BDS movement.

      The union represents 13,000 student workers in the University of California system

      Reply to Comment
    5. I don’t think that somthing is going to change till 2017.
      Anyway was nice reading this post.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Mikesailor

      Israel and the US actually have almost nothing in common. The only reason the US supports Israel to the tune of $3+ billion a year is solely because of the Jewish money floating around the campaign finance system. Israel has killed more US citizens, including military personnel, than any other so-called ally; they have committed espionage and suborned US citizens to spy for them, and then they have the unmitigated gall to use the US tax system to finance “charitable foundations” which pay for activities directly opposed to US policy. If Obama had any balls he would abstain at the UN Security Council and tell the Israelis to “take a long walk down a short pier”. The time when US policymakers will, in fact, do just that and jettison the racist Zionist regime of international lawbreakers is fast approaching.

      Reply to Comment
    7. betz

      A tiny country the size of Bakersfield Cal that’s 6,000 miles away controls the most powerful nation in the world. Obama, Kerry, Rice, Samantha Power – all AIPAC whores doing it for the money.

      Pathetic isn’t it? It is sad indeed that the first African-American president of the United States defends in Israel exactly the kind of institutionalized bigotry, apartheid oppression, and racism in Israel the civil rights movement defeated in this country, a victory that made his election possible.

      Good news? There will be when the US recognizes a two-state solution, a separation between Israel and this one, the United States.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Ginger Eis

      I respect the fact that this is YOUR opinion, Noam Sheizaf, but it is a distorted one IMO. Contrary to your claim, Noam Sheizaf, the Governments of the State Of Israel and the United States want a final Solution the conflict. No one wants that more than the Israeli Government and the People of Israel. The obstacle to that goal are the Arab demands:

      a. 100% of Gaza (Israel agrees);
      b. 100% of Judea & Samaria, with a land swap of no more than 1.9% (not going to happen. Ever!)
      c. Entire “East” J’lem (as Capital) (not going to happen. Ever!);
      d. Sovereignty over the Holiest Place in Judaism (not going to happen. Ever!);
      e. Recognition of “right” of return and actual return of enough “refugees” that will offset the democratic balance in the not distant future (not going to happen. Ever!).

      It is thus evident that Solution to the conflict is not possible. Right now, the “status quo” is not the problem, but necessary and lifesaving. The problem is the pompous Arab delusion as is manifest in the Arab demands enumerated above. That delusion has led the Arabs from one disaster to another for several decades now and no amount of deadline will change that. The “deadline”, if ever set, will come and pass after which mayhem, turmoil and bloodshed will follow. Surely, Noam Sheizaf, you, I am sure you will do everything in your power to avoid that. The “status quo” is bad, but there is NO better alternative. You thus, Noam, must support the “status quo”.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Danny

      After the recent CIA torture report that came out, it seems that there is quite a bit that the U.S. shares with Israel. Both countries are racist, war-mongering, imperialist, corruption-ridden, bible-worshiping Islamophobes, with a megalomaniac casino mogul pulling the strings in both. I would say that as far as politics are concerned, the U.S. and Israel are cut from the same cloth.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Bar

      So the US is standing behind democratic Israel against its enemies and preventing situations from unfolding that could destroy the country. How awful! Stop them!

      How can any Israeli supporter of peace stand behind the Palestinians’ UNSC resolution?

      1. It undermines Oslo. Even if you disagree with Oslo and its implementation over these two decades, the problem you face if you abrogate or violate an international treaty is that Israel will never be able to trust any such document. After all, when it’s convenient, the Palestinians will violate and the world will support the violation.

      2. Only a one-stater can support this resolution. It does not respect Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and it does not offer any compromise on the non-existent, so-called “right of return.”

      Reply to Comment
    11. Average American

      1) USA borrows every penny it spends. We even borrow the money to pay the interest on the money we borrowed. We are insolvent. 2) Rothschild inter-generational banking dynasty created and supports Israel. They create fiat money out of thin air then our real assets are obliged to pay it back plus interest on the thin air. 3) If we don’t tow the line about Israel, our credit will be cut off and our debts will be called to be paid immediately.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sluggo

        Really? What about tax revenues that them US collects?

        I think you belong on a hate site instead of one that advocates for dialogue and understanding.

        Reply to Comment
        • Weiss

          Dialogue and understanding are things the Far-Right Fascist Brown-Shirts know NOTHING about.

          That is why they’re so comfortable being the persecutors while they themselves were once the persecuted…

          Reply to Comment
    12. Sluggo

      The resolution presented to Security Council was so extreme that Jordan didn’t want anything to do with it. Intense lobbying by the Palestinian Authority and the rest of the Arab nations prevailed upon Jordan and they put it forward. However, it the resolution will almost certainly languish indefinitely without a vote since its fate is preordained.

      The terms it put forward were of Israeli surrender; no more, no less. The Jewish state would be given one year to withdraw from all of the territory it won in a defensive war of survival in 1967 in whose stead a Palestinian state would be created. That state would not be demilitarized nor would there be any guarantees of security for Israel which would not be granted mutual recognition as the nation state of the Jewish people, a clear sign that the Palestinians are not ready to give up their century-long war against Zionism even inside the pre-1967 lines.

      is a diktat, not a peace proposal, since there would be nothing for Israel to negotiate about during the 12-month period of preparation. Of course, even if the Palestinians had accepted the slightly more reasonable terms proposed by the French, that would have also been true. But that measure would have at least given the appearance of a mutual cessation of hostilities and an acceptance of the principle of coexistence. But even those concessions, let alone a renunciation of the “right of return,” was not possible for a PA that is rightly fearful of being supplanted by Hamas. So long as Palestinian nationalism remains wedded to rejection of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn, no one should expect the PA to end the conflict or even make peace.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Cliff Page

      This article is well written, factual and draws good conclusions in analysis.

      Yet, the culpability of the United States in the long standing illegal policies and actions of Israel which are indeed violations of international law, treaties, and accords signed by both Israel and the United States is obscene and shows clearly that the United States does nothing in its own interest in supporting Israel except feather its nest (selling arms and armaments and Congressional votes) at the expense of the millions of Palestinians who have as much right to call themselves a state as Israel did in 1947.

      The American Congress and our Executive shame the American people in their continuous support for the theocratic Fascism that is the State of Israel. It shows that American leadership is spineless and is magnetically responsive to Zionist money than the needs of those it represents or to justice. President Obama should show the same kind of courage in foreign affairs he has just shown towards Cuba and support the Palestinian declaration of statehood in two years. This will give Israel an ultimatum to settle its affairs and show Israel that it doesn’t own America and most grow up and quit acting like a spoiled teenage bully.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Noam,

      What about the withholding of the housing bond guarantees??

      Did not that act force Shamir to call for elections which resulted in the election of Rabin? This is the historical lesson Obama should be encouraged to emulate.

      Reply to Comment
      • Whiplash

        The election of Rabin brought Arafat and his terrorist cronies to Judea and Samaria and Gaza. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the numerous Fatah terrorist groups and other smaller terrorist factions were given free rein to kill innocent Jewish people in their homes, on the way to school and work, in their workplace, at worship, at cafes and public places were slaughtered.

        Land for peace became land for death. Israelis are unlikely to make the same electoral mistake as they did when they elected Rabin no matter how hard President Obama and the men and women around him might wish it.

        Reply to Comment
    15. Richard Witty

      Palestinians deserve a state. They comprise a majority east of the green line and west of the Jordan and in Gaza, and desire to self-govern.

      The concern about terror originating from the West Bank in particular is exagerated.

      Once a state, Palestine is accountable, in ways that it is not currently.

      If a renegade shoots a rocket, repeated, and the state does nothing, then it may be presumed that the state is participating in that cross border assault , even in the form of permission.

      That is a different level of accountability from the current, in which a non-state actor has layers of deniability of responsibility, not the least of which is the concept of resistance.

      (Somehow Hezbellah though still calls itself a resistance movement.)

      Further, a state standing on its own requires order to function, and a background taxable economy. As Palestine has only two borders (Jordan and Israel), and no direct sea access, it will have to maintain managable basis of good relations with Israel and Jordan to function at all.

      The notion of a state of Palestine comprising the “end of Israel” is a blatant lie.

      Reply to Comment
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