After eight years, Barack Obama’s Middle East legacy lies in tatters. After the wreckage of his Syrian policy, a car crash of an Iranian nuclear deal and the tribal carnage engulfing Libya comes Security Council Resolution 2334.
Owing in part to a US abstention, West Bank settlements are branded ‘a flagrant violation of international law’. That includes the Jewish quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives, even the Wailing Wall. To say these Jewish holy sites are effectively Palestinian is as absurd, offensive and historically illiterate as branding Mecca un-Islamic.
The resolution wrongly conflates settlements to be annexed to Israel after a peace agreement (as stipulated in the Bush-Sharon understanding) with those likely to be abandoned. It is dangerously unbalanced and biased, concentrating exclusively on Israeli settlements which are regarded as a primary obstacle to peace. While it condemns terrorism and incitement, these are not labelled as specifically Palestinian crimes.
In effect, it gives a free pass to the daily diet of demonisation, delegitimisation and sheer hatred that emanates from the Palestinian Authority. It is this that constitutes the primary barrier to peace.
The UN has also given rocket fuel to the BDS movement by asking countries to ‘distinguish in their relevant dealings between the territory of the state of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967’. The demand to boycott Israeli companies that have any business over the Green Line will surely intensify.
Fortunately, the resolution is not legally binding as it was not passed under Chapter VII, but it will certainly encourage a plethora of claims in the International Criminal Court.
Resolution 2334 is also dangerous because it will further disincentivise the Palestinians from negotiating. The Security Council has aligned itself with Abbas’ goal of internationalising the conflict and condemning Israel in global forums, a strategy designed to avoid bilateral talks where painful compromises are needed.
A PA spokesman has already rejected some parameters laid out in John Kerry’s recent speech on the Middle East, including denying an Arab right of return to Israel and recognising Israel as a Jewish homeland, concessions necessary for any successful agreement.
In short, this dreadful resolution makes it far less likely there can be any progress on the ground. That is why figures such as Yair Lapid, Ehud Barak, Tsipi Livni and Isaac Herzog, all passionate advocates of the two-state solution, have condemned it so forcefully.
In the aftermath of this diplomatic shambles, many have sought to blame Netanyahu directly. He clearly miscalculated the depth of opposition to his settlement policies. In particular, the Regulation Bill, which recently passed its first reading in the Knesset, has provoked a fierce storm of international condemnation. Expanding settlements in areas that may become a future Palestinian state is counterproductive and not the wisest political choice.
But foreign policy should never be based on pique or frustration. In this case, it should be about taking sensible steps to advance peace and co-existence. Instead, the US, the UK and other advanced democracies have become co-conspirators in the diplomatic war against Israel. As a result, this resolution should be rescinded as a precondition for renewed talks.