Business as Usual at the UN?

The UN recently passed Resolution 2334, condemning settlements. You might think, “What’s so bad about that?”, or “What else is new?”

However, it is possible to oppose settlements while also opposing the recent UN Resolution. One can oppose settlements while still believing that settlements, like all other issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are best worked out in direct talks between the two sides, and that UN Resolutions interfere with that process, by tempting each side to take its grievances to the UN instead of attempting to engage the other side in dialogue.

Furthermore, the Resolutions’ language on Jerusalem can be seen as attempting to meddle with a thorny issue that most reasoned actors believe is best left to final-stage negotiations between Israel and Palestine. The language on Jerusalem does not distinguish between land annexed by Israel and land that hasn’t been annexed, despite the legal and logistical importance of such a distinction.

One might also question the Resolution’s timing: Given the mass slaughter happening in Syria, and the fact that both the UN and the different countries that comprise it have a limited amount of political and capital resources, one can seriously questions the judgement of removing resources from Syria, and instead choosing to place the focus on Israel. If one goes by hierarchy of human suffering in the Middle East, it’s hard to top Syria at the moment, which makes the decision to focus on Israel a curious choice.

The Resolution’s language on terrorism may seem to make it even-handed, but in fact, by placing the blame for settlements solely on Israel while refusing to explicitly place the blame for terrorism even partially on the Palestinian Authority, the Resolution simply betrays its bias.

However, even if one is opposed to UN Resolution 2334, one can still be disappointed with the Israeli government’s reaction:

Inviting US Ambassador Dan Shapiro for an emergency scolding is a childish ploy to make the Israeli public feel like Bibi is “standing up” to America, even though the US did not vote in favor of the Resolution, and continues to supply Israel with millions of dollars in military aid. The meeting damaged Israel’s image with the American public, which takes umbrage at their diplomats being publicly castigated by the leader of a country that is more than happy to dip into America’s pocket-book. Given that in a few weeks, there will be a new administration and a new ambassador, it’s questionable how much real value that meeting had.

Instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, Netanyahu chose to turn it into a diplomatic crisis, essentially instructing the government to boycott the countries that voted in favor of it. This puts Israel in a weaker position across the globe: It makes Israel look like a bully, playing into the David vs Goliath narrative. It also makes it more difficult for Israel to fight boycotts against itself, when it is so quick to boycott others. If voting the “wrong” way on one UN Resolution is boycott-worthy, how can Israel argue that, despite its flaws, it deserves to be given a chance? The typical argument is “Other countries have worse flaws” – which is true, but not generally effective. It might be a more persuasive argument for why other countries also deserve to be boycotted.

Of course, making Israelis feel like they are besieged and cut off from the world, and Bibi is the only one who will stand up and defend them, is Bibi’s typical political strategy. This UN Resolution, like so many misplaced “peace” efforts, played right into that strategy, further empowering the Israeli right to continue with its political agenda, which includes building more settlements. This makes the entire Resolution completely counterproductive.

Bibi’s strategy continues to equate criticizing settlements with denying Israel’s right to exist, which demonizes the left, and turns them into “the enemy”. This strategy makes it harder to stir up pro-Israel support around the world, due to the large number of political leaders and countries who might be willing to support Israel, but are  not willing to condone its settlement policy. Instead of trying to recruit this group of potential allies, Bibi has decided to label them the enemy, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy: When countries are told that you consider them an opponent, they’re hardly likely to become your friend.

So the UN is biased against Israel and Bibi Netanyahu is ineffective? You might shrug your shoulders and say, “What else is new?”

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.