Calling Out Israeli Rejectionism at the UN

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the UN Security Council Resolution introduced late Wednesday by Jordan as a unilateral move that would result in “a Hamas takeover of Judea and Samaria.”  Foreign Minister Leiberman blasted the resolution as an act of aggression against Israel.  Strategic Affairs and Intelligence Minister Steinitz branded it an “act of war.”

What can one conclude except that this resolution is manifestly anti-Israel?  It must, for example, reject Israel’s right to exist and endorse a full Palestinian “right of return.”  It must deny any Israeli or Jewish claims to Jerusalem and require Israel to leave its security in the hands of its erstwhile enemies.  And no doubt it includes text justifying violence and terror against Israel.  More broadly, this resolution must seek to impose on Israel a “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along lines defined unilaterally by the Palestinians.  How could Israel respond to such a text with anything less than outrage?   

Netanyahu, Leiberman, Steinitz, and others critics of the effort must be hoping that people won’t bother to actually read the text of the resolution, because, in fact, it is nothing of the sort. 

What does it actually say?  This Jordanian-Palestinian resolution is framed in language supporting “two democratic states, Israel and Palestine” living “side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders.”  And it states that “a just, lasting and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means, based on an enduring commitment to mutual recognition, freedom from violence, incitement and terror, and the two-state solution…

The parameters of such a settlement, as articulated in the text, boil down to: two states, with borders based on the 1967 lines, with land swaps;  a lifting of the occupation predicated on the implementation of negotiated security arrangements; an agreed solution to the Palestinian refugee question;  two capitals in Jerusalem; a stipulation that a final status agreement will entail an end of claims and mutual recognition; and a call for both sides to “to engage seriously in the work of building trust and to act together in the pursuit of peace by negotiating in good faith and refraining from all acts of incitement and provocative acts or statements.” 

Why wouldn’t Netanyahu – and anyone who truly cares about Israel – welcome these remarkably pro-Israel, pro-peace terms?  Why wouldn’t they rejoice at the Palestinians asking the UN Security council to codify the dual Palestinian concessions of limiting territorial aspirations to the 22% of historic Palestine that Israel occupied in 1967, and agreeing to land swaps that will permit Israel to retain control over some settlements?  Why wouldn’t they cheer a formal Palestinian commitment to recognize an Israeli capital in Jerusalem (something that no nation in the world does today)?   Why wouldn’t they celebrate the Palestinians formalizing their consent to the refugee question being resolved only through a solution agreed to by Israel?  Why wouldn’t they wholeheartedly embrace the Palestinians linking the lifting of the occupation to implementation of security arrangements that satisfy Israeli concerns?  And while the text doesn’t address Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” why wouldn’t they welcome the resolution’s call for “an agreed settlement of other outstanding issues” – language that in no way precludes any specific formula of recognition, including “Jewish state” or “homeland of the Jews,” as the outcome of negotiations. 

Some may take issue, fairly, with the timeframe stipulated in the resolution – one year to reach a negotiated agreement, three years to implement security arrangements and end the occupation.  Certainly, such a timeline is ambitious; however, after more than 47 years of “temporary” occupation, and with developments on the ground increasingly imperiling the viability of the two-state solution, a sense of urgency is well-placed.  Whether it is this timeline or some other, the bottom line is that inclusion of a timetable that establishes a near-term horizon for an agreement and an end of occupation makes eminent sense.

If Netanyahu and others who are attacking this resolution were remotely serious about a two-state solution, they would welcome this initiative, as well as the French-led initiative, as a potential springboard to an agreement.  Instead, Netanyahu and his ideological allies proclaim self-righteous indignation that anyone would challenge them as they openly prioritize land over peace, settlements over security, and Greater Israel over greater relations for Israel in the region and around the world. 

In 2002, and repeatedly since then, the Arab world endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative (API) – a framework to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict along lines very similar to those articulated in this Palestinian resolution, as a basis for broader Israeli-Arab peace.  Israeli leaders, regrettably, rejected and disparaged the API, often in terms that closely parallel those used today to attack current initiatives at the UN.  Is it possible these Israeli leaders fail to grasp how much has changed over the past decade? 

If in 2002 most of the world didn’t care about Israel’s disinterest in an Arab hand outstretched in peace, today the world has lost patience with Israeli ideological extremism and rejectionism.  The current round of initiatives at the UN is just the latest evidence of the shift.  A knee-jerk Israeli reaction of outrage, grounded in ideological rejectionism and intransigence, will only strengthen this trend.