Kerry and UNSC-2334

In this newsletter, we examine the many failings of UN resolution 2334 and the speech by Sec. of State John Kerry. That speech was intended to be a rationale for the US refusal to veto UN 2334. In fact, a careful reading of Kerry’s speech shows that UN 2334 is a mistake and should have been vetoed. Everything that makes sense and shows an awareness of the realities in Kerry’s speech is missing from UN 2334. I have a sneaking suspicion that if the decision had been up to Kerry, he would have vetoed UN 2334 because it does little to advance the cause of peace. I hope to someday read Kerry’s memoirs and find that he disagreed strongly with President Obama’s policies on Israel and Syria.

First – a little background. Under the terms of the Oslo agreement, the West Bank was divided into three zones; Areas A B and C. Wikipedia states, ‘The Oslo II Accord divided the West Bank into three administrative divisions: the Areas A, B and C. The distinct areas were given a different status, according to their governance pending a final status accord: Area A is exclusively administered by the Palestinian Authority, Area B is administered by both the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and Area C, which contains the Israeli settlements is administered by Israel. Areas A and B were chosen in such a way as to just contain Palestinians, by drawing lines around Palestinian population centers at the time the Agreement was signed; all areas surrounding the Areas A and B were defined as Area C.’

Area A comprises approximately 18% of the West Bank and Area B about 22%, together home to some 2.8 million Palestinians. As of 2015, Area C is home to 150,000 Palestinians in 532 residential areas. It also is home to 389,250 Israelis in 135 settlements, as well as 100 outposts unrecognized by the Israeli government. Area C forms a contiguous territory, administered via the Judea and Samaria Area administration. In contrast, under the Oslo Accords the Areas A and B were subdivided into 165 separate units of land that have no territorial contiguity.

Israeli right wingers want to annex Area C. It contains ~60% of the area of the West Bank and comparatively few Palestinians. Wikipedia puts the number of Palestinians in Area C at 150,000. Other estimates range from 50,000 to 200,000.

Let’s make an important distinction. Everyone agrees that the expansion of Israeli settlements to control Area C dims the prospect of establishing a viable Palestinian state. That is the position of the Obama administration, the EU, the UN and the Israeli governing coalition (Naftali Bennett most openly). Annexation of Area C by Israel leaves the Palestinians with a non-contiguous, non-viable entity constituting just 40% of the West Bank.

The point of contention is whether settlement expansion is the main cause of the breakdown of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. There are many causes for the failure of peace talks, of which this is just one. For example, the Arab response to Israeli withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon has been rocket barrages not peace. That has dampened Israeli enthusiasm for additional withdrawals.

Although Sec. Kerry acknowledges that there is no possibility for peace now, he finds the expansion of settlements troubling because it precludes a viable, contiguous Palestinian state in the future. He states, ‘But this vote – I can’t emphasize enough – is not about the possibility of arriving at an agreement that’s going to resolve that overnight or in one year or two years. This is about a longer process. This is about how we make peace with the Palestinians in the future but preserve the capacity to do so.’

He condemns Palestinian incitement and violence in a most explicit way, without any ifs ands or buts,stating – ‘Let me say it again, there is absolutely no justification for terrorism and there never will be. And the most recent wave of Palestinian violence has included hundreds of terrorist attacks in the past year including stabbings, shootings, vehicular attacks and bombings. Many by individuals who have been radicalized by social media. Yet the murders of innocents are still glorified on Fatah websites, including showing attackers next to Palestinian leaders following attacks.

And despite statements by President Abbas and his party’s leaders, making clear their opposition of violence, too often they send a different message by failing to condemn specific terrorist attacks and naming public square, streets and schools after terrorists.

And we all understand that the Palestinian Authority has a lot more to do to strengthen its institutions and improve governance. Most troubling of all, Hamas continues to pursue an extremist agenda. They refuse to accept Israel’s very right to exist. They have a one-state vision of their own. All of the land is Palestine.
Hamas and other radical factions are responsible for the most explicit forms of incitement to violence. And many of the images they use are truly appalling and they are willing to kill innocents in Israel and put the people of Gaza at risk in order to advance that agenda. Compounding this, the humanitarian situation in Gaza exacerbated by the closings of the crossings is dire.

This condemnation is missing from UN Res 2334.

There are also no ifs ands or buts in Kerry’s condemnation of Israeli settlement policies. ‘Now at the same time, we have to be clear about what is happening in the West Bank. The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution. But his current coalition is the most right-wing in Israel history with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements. The result is that policies of this government, which the prime minister himself just described, as more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history, are leading in the opposite direction. They are leading towards one state.’

In contrast to Kerry, there is little condemnation of Palestinians and a one sided condemnation of Israel in 2334.

Secretary Kerry then lays out six principles for resolving the conflict. A careful reading spotlights the obstacles to any peace agreement.

In Principle 3, dealing with the Palestinian ‘refugee problem’, Kerry writes, ‘they must be provided with compensation; their suffering must be acknowledged and there must be the need to have options and assistance in finding permanent homes. The international community can provide significant support and assistance. I know we are prepared to do that, including and raising money to help ensure the compensation and other needs of the refugees are met. And many have expressed willingness to contribute to that effort, particularly if it brings peace. But there is a general recognition that the solution must be consistent with two states for two peoples, and cannot affect the fundamental character of Israel.

In plain English, Kerry is saying that there will be no Palestinian ‘right of return’. I am convinced that it would be impossible for the Palestinian leadership to agree to a peace agreement that does not recognize a Palestinian ‘right of return’.

Principal 4 states, that it is most important to ‘provide an agreed solution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of the two states and protect and ensure freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo. Now Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue for both sides. And the solution will have to meet the needs, not only of the parties but of all three monotheistic faiths. That is why the holy sites that are sacred to billions of people around the world must be protected and remain accessible, and the established status maintained.

Most acknowledge that Jerusalem should not be divided again like it was in 1967, and we believe that. At the same time there is broad recognition that there will be no peace agreement without reconciling the basic aspirations of both sides to have capitals there.’

Kerry clearly differentiates between Jerusalem and the West Bank and discusses Jerusalem in realistic terms – never to be divided again. It is understood by (almost) everyone other than the UN Security Council (UNSC) that the capital of a Palestinian State would be in Ramallah which is about four miles from Jerusalem. UN Res. 2334 makes no distinction between Jerusalem and th West Bank.

The overarching problem with UNSC-2334 is its one-sidedness. When there is a complaint against Israel, Israel is specifically mentioned. In contrast, Palestinian offenses are seldom explicitly ascribed to the Palestinians. I find it particularly offensive that mention of ‘Palestinian territory occupied since 1967’ is never prefaced with an explanation that the territory was occupied as a result of a defensive war.

Getting down to specifics, Article 1 states, ‘{UNSC} Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;’ Lumping East Jerusalem, which includes the old city, together with the West Bank makes 2334 a non-starter from the Israeli point of view.

As mentioned above, Kerry understands the unique situation of Jerusalem.

Article 5 reads, ‘ {UNSC} Calls upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;’

This is a green light for the BDS movement!

Concerning BDS Kerry stated, ‘Time and again we have demonstrated that we have Israel’s back. We have strongly opposed boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting Israel in international for a, whenever and wherever its legitimacy was attacked, and we have fought for its inclusion across the U.N. system.’

That’s another reason for suspecting that Kerry opposed 2334.

Article 7 reads,“{UNSC} Calls upon both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law, and their previous agreements and obligations, to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, with the aim, inter alia, of de-escalating the situation on the ground, rebuilding trust and confidence, demonstrating through policies and actions a genuine commitment to the two-State solution, and creating the conditions necessary for promoting peace;

This clause is really mealy mouthed! The incitement has been rather one sided. Compare Article 7 with Kerry’s statement on Palestinian incitement cited above.

About the Author
Richard Chasman, 1934-2018, was a member of the Modern Orthodox community in Chicago. Professionally, he was a theoretical nuclear physicist. Richard, who described his perspective as "centrist," wrote a newsletter for more than 20 years called "Chovevai Tsion of Chicago," on subjects of interest to the Modern Orthodox community.