British-Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor at Oxford University, once commented on the ongoing colonization of Palestinian territory: “Netanyahu is like a man who, while negotiating the division of a pizza, continues to eat it.”
Today, little remains of the pizza; odd slices, couple of crusts, crumbs.
One side keeps eating, its appetite insatiable. The other, malnourished, waits.
The pizza gets cold.
On the sidelines, lamenting colonization but generally unwilling to act against Israel stand many in the international community, themselves comfortably fed yet quiescent, complicit through inaction with Israeli confiscations, demolitions and land appropriations which daily diminish the possibility of a just settlement between two peoples.
By 2015, according to the Israeli Interior Ministry, there were more than 750,000 colonists in occupied territories. Today, vast colonies and outposts, a Separation Wall, private road networks and “military areas” have so separated Palestinian communities into “Bantustans” that an independent, fully-contiguous Palestinian state living alongside Israel is virtually unimaginable.
In response, United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted December 23rd, 2016, was yet another attempt by the international community to hold Israel accountable, to condemn Israel′s ongoing colonization activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as a “flagrant violation” of international law that has “no legal validity.”
UNSCR 2334 didn’t break new ground. For example, the Reagan administration in 1987 abstained and allowed the passage of UNSCR 605, 14-0, and in 2003 the Bush Administration voted in favor of UNSCR 1515, which called for a settlement freeze.
UNSCR 2334 didn’t challenge Israel’s legitimacy. It was non-binding and had no enforcement mechanisms. It just clearly reaffirmed the global community’s concerns about Israel’s ongoing colonization activities.
The United States abstained, allowing the resolution to pass 14-0. UNCR 2334’s language was consistent with both international and long-standing American policy with regard to Israel’s obligations as an occupying power and its obligations under the internationally-recognized protocols of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Not the first time America abstained. Hopefully, it won’t be the last.
No country – including America – recognizes Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. That’s why the United States and others have never moved their embassies to Jerusalem. No country – including America – recognizes Israel’s occupation of any Palestinian territory.
The true tragedy of December 23rd’s vote was not that America abstained. The true tragedy is the failure of the international community, led by America – 49 years after the Six-Day War – to realize that for nearly half a century they’ve been enabling – with tax-credits, arms sales and unquestioning support in international fora – Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.
Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has never fully inclined toward peace. An opponent of the Oslo accords, Netanyahu, in 2009, speaking at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, appeared to be publicly embrace a two-state solution. However, when he demanded the recognition of Israel as the “Jewish State of Israel” he inserted a poison pill that he knew no Palestinian or Arab would ingest – one that would privilege Jews above non-Jews and result in the disenfranchisement of over 20 percent of Israelis.
Netanyahu’s proposal was the equivalent to America proclaiming itself a Christian nation, privileging Christians above non-Christians.
Jordan and Egypt have recognized the “State of Israel.” In 1993, Yasser Arafat sent a letter to Prime Minister Rabin saying, “The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security… “
Repeat after me: The State of Israel.
There’s no doubt that Israel has faced serious challenges since independence, challenges reinforced by the history of the Jewish people living both in the Middle East and abroad, the result of which is a passionate commitment to security and safety within the state and within that context the United States, since 1948, has been steadfast in supporting Israel, even when Israel has abused the relationship.
Yet recently, the government of Israel has shown nothing but contempt for President Obama and his administration, despite the fact that Obama’s support for Israel has been more robust than that of any previous administration – including the recent grant of a $38 billion US aid package.
Shamelessly, Netanyahu has consistently worked to undermine Obama’s legitimacy – including by addressing Congress during the 2012 presidential campaign.
Shamelessly, Netanyahu might get his desired result.
Israel’s support in Congress is unshakable and with Donald Trump as president and David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel the next administration will, it’s feared, with Netanyahu’s encouragement, drive a stake through the heart of the two-state solution.
That’s not without risk.
The failure of a two-state solution leaves just just two alternatives, each correctly framed by Retired US Army General John Mattis, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense.
Mattis warns that the current relationship between Palestinians and Israelis is “unsustainable;” and finds that without a two-state solution “either [Israel] ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote – apartheid.”
That, too, was the message delivered by Secretary of State John Kerry in his speech delivered after UNSCR 2334 passed:
Absent a two-state solution Israel can either be a democratic state or a Jewish state – it can’t be both.
Kerry’s speech, divided into three parts, ended with a list of principles he said should serve as the basis for future Palestinian-Israeli peace. While the American abstention and Kerry’s speech will not change Israeli policy the Obama administration has placed on the record clearly defined arguments – reflecting 49 years of US anti-colonization policy – rebutting Israeli justifications for ongoing occupation.
South African Bishop Desmond Tutu once noted, “Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have to be liberated, but at this stage the greater onus is on the Israelis since they are the ones who are in power, economically, politically and militarily. We have to think about ways that will allow them to reflect deeply on what it is that they are doing and bring them back from the brink.”
It’s well-known that long-term malnutrition can have permanent, often generational effects, some irreversible. If both Palestinians and Israelis cannot equally be sustained and nourished, cannot together be brought back from the brink, then the consequences could be catastrophic – and generational – for all.