Arik Ascherman

Ambassador Danon: Peace Will Come About When Palestinians Accept the Occupation

Although I know that human beings have infinite ability to practice verbal alchemy turning the meaning of words inside out, I was always puzzled by Israel pronouncements that resolutions such as last week’s Security Council Resolution 2334 reduce the chances for peace.  After all of the vitriol regarding last week’s resolution that could only be believed by people that hadn’t read the resolution, this was the most perplexing to me. One could vehemently disagree with the resolution, and reject the resolution, but what exactly does in mean to say that the resolution reduces the chances for peace?

The “logic” became much clearer after reading the summary of Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon’s comments after the resolution (Click here for the full resolution and summary of the remarks and reactions by all of the ambassadors):

“DANNY DANON (Israel) described today as a bad day for his country and the peak of hypocrisy. The Council had wasted time to condemn Israel for building homes in the Jewish people’s historic homeland. Those who had voted yes had voted no to negotiations, to progress and to a chance for better lives for both Israelis and Palestinians, he said, adding that they had voted no to the possibility of peace. The resolution would continue to provide excuses for the Palestinians to avoid recognizing Israel’s right to exist, he said. There had been a disproportionate number of resolutions condemning Israel and today’s text would be added to that shameful list.

He went on to call upon the Council to turn a new page and end the bias against Israel. Today it had voted to condemn the State of Israel and to condemn the Jewish people for building homes in the Land of Israel. Asking every voting member who had given them the right to issue such a decree, denying “our eternal rights in Jerusalem”, he expressed full confidence in the justice of Israel’s cause and the righteousness of its path. “We will continue to be a democratic State based on the rule of law and full civil and human rights for all our citizens,” he emphasized. “And we will continue to be a Jewish State proudly reclaiming the land of our forefathers.”

In other words, peace will come about when the Palestinians accept the Occupation. Perpetuating Palestinian hopes that the Occupation might someday end simply postpone peace.

Israeli human rights organizations call for an end to the Occupation, but do not take a position on what that will look like. Also, as an individual, I am not an advocate of a particular solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. I believe that almost any solution that would be agreed upon by the representatives of both peoples would be acceptable to me. (Although my desire for agreement does not mean allowing one or both sides dragging out negotiations forever, as Yitzhak Shamir admitted he had planned, while continuing to create facts on the ground, and without any real intention to come to agreement.)  So, I am not inherently opposed to a one state solution. Today, Israel’s Reshet Bet radio announced the results of a study conducted for them that found 39% of all Israelis are in favor of annexing all of the Occupied Territories, 31% were in favor of annexing settlement blocks and returning the rest, and 30% were in favor of returning to the 1967 borders.  Some of that 39%, like President Reuven Rivlin, are presumably in favor of one person, one vote.  Others within that 39% no doubt want to continue the same disenfranchisement that exists today in Area C.

The key here, is “agreed upon by the representatives of both peoples.”  I am not so sure that Palestinians agree with Ambassador Danon’s vision, or Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Even were I to passionately believe one solution or another is the only solution that will bring about a better life for both peoples, we can’t use our overwhelming power to impose that solution on the other side.  We so often ignore the incredible power imbalance.  When we decry one sided actions by the Palestinians, are we prepared to cease building settlements, creating master plans for Palestinian villages, demolishing Palestinian homes because they aren’t in a master plan we didn’t create, allowing settlers to take over lands Israel recognizes as Palestinian or State land, or any of our additional actions creating unilateral facts on the ground, injustice and hatred?

Presumably, this is why the U.N Security Council Resolution 2334 does not rule out changes to the pre-1967 status quo, but insists that the international community will only agree to changes that are agreed upon by the two sides.

To hear our prime minister, and much of the opposition as well, one wouldn’t know that the decision several times repeats the demand that the Palestinian Authority prevent terror, and condemns violence against civilians perpetrated by any party. We would think that this was another UNESCO resolution denying the connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, or that it aims at taking the Kotel from us. Again, what it says is that all changes to the 1967 borders need to be agreed upon. The resolution primarily focuses on building and populating settlements and outposts, with some attention to demolitions. The pronouncements of our Prime Minister focused on red herring issues, and ignored settlements, outposts and home demolitions. We know that he has promised the settlers to greatly increase demolitions of Palestinian and Israeli Arab homes as compensation for needing to demolish the Amona outpost.

If I have any criticism of this balanced and moderate resolution, it is the fact that it continues with the concept that the two state solution is the only possible solution. In that sense, I agree with Ambassador Danon.  If only he would agree that Israel’s vision cannot be imposed unilaterally, neither in one fell swoop nor by slowly creating facts on the ground.

The reason why our Prime Minister, Ambassador Danon and so many others are calling the U.S. abstention a stab in the back is because the status quo has always been that the U.S. allowed Israel to continue to pursue its unilateral agenda almost unimpeded. U.S. concerns were conveyed quietly and without many consequences. Pronouncements in the General Assembly and other international bodies were toothless.  Because this was the security council, there could theoretically be consequences, However, I agree with the consensus on the Palestinian street that, after all the controversy, Security Council Resolution 2334 won’t actually change much either.

Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the founder and director of the Israeli human rights organization "Torat Tzedek-Torah of Justice." Previously, he led "Rabbis For Human Rights" for 21 years. Rabbi Ascherman is a sought after lecturer, has received numerous prizes for his human rights work and has been featured in several documentary films, including the 2010 "Israel vs Israel." He and "Torat Tzedek" received the Rabbi David J. Forman Memorial Fund's Human Rights Prize fore 5779. Rabbi Ascherman is recognized as a role model for faith based human rights activism.