Strong condemnation needed after UN vote

Galit Lev-Harir is a frequent contributor to the Light. Galit lived in Israel for nine years. She and her husband, Elie Harir, are members of Congregation B’nai Amoona.

By Galit Lev-Harir

Last week, the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis (JCRC) sent out an email communication regarding the U.S. abstention on U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334  passed on Dec. 23. I would have expected our JCRC to strongly denounce the resolution — as was done by JCRC organizations in New York, Washington, Minneapolis and Cincinnati. Unfortunately, our JCRC chose not to denounce it or the U.S. abstention that allowed it to pass. 

Some Americans think that Resolution 2334 justifiably condemns Israel’s continued settlement policy. However, this is not the case. Resolution 2334 refers to Israeli settlements located in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.” The language declares that Jerusalem and the Western Wall are “occupied Palestinian territory;” ends the longstanding framework of “land for peace;” removes the call for the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel’s right to exist; and advocates Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

To truly understand Resolution 2334, it is first important to recognize that the territory known as “the West Bank” was held by Jordan from 1948-1967. Prior to that, it was under British rule, and prior to that, it was part of the Ottoman Empire. The land has never been sovereign Palestinian territory.

In the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 242, which stipulated that Israel would cede some of the territories it acquired during the war in exchange for Arab recognition of Israel’s right to exist in secure and defensible borders. This framework is commonly called “land for peace,” and it effectively formed the basis of the 1979 peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

By labeling the disputed territories as de-facto “Palestinian territories,” Resolution 2334 grants recognition of Palestinian sovereignty without requiring the Palestinians to renounce violence or to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state in secure and defensible borders. 

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Moreover, Resolution 2334 criminalizes Jewish control of Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall. Most Jews do not consider these areas “occupied.” Additionally, the resolution criminalizes building in major Jewish population centers, such as Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev and Gush Etzion, which are in close proximity to pre-1967 Israel and are generally recognized as remaining part of a Jewish state in any final status agreement.

From July 2000 until January 2001, former President Bill Clinton held a series of summits with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. During these summits, the parties came closer to a final status agreement than ever before or since. U.S. Negotiator Dennis Ross has confirmed that in January 2001, Barak offered Arafat all of Gaza, a net of 97 percent of the West Bank, 2 percent of pre-1967 Israel, and a capital in East Jerusalem, as well as a “Right of Return” for refugees to the Palestinian state and a $30 billion compensation fund. However, Arafat turned it all down. The reason for his rejection had nothing to do with “Israeli settlements,” as Israel had agreed to dismantle 63 settlements. Rather, Arafat refused to recognize the right of Jews to exist in a Jewish state and insisted that Palestinians be allowed to return to their homes in pre-1948 Israel. This is one of many points demonstrating that Palestinian intransigence — not Israeli settlements — is the true obstacle to peace. 

Perhaps the most damaging part of Resolution 2334 is that it calls on countries “to distinguish in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” Since Israeli companies do not distinguish between Israel and the West Bank, such language gives a strategic boost to the international BDS Movement, which seeks to delegitimize Israel and attempts to promote a campaign against Israel.

I spent many years advocating for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. In 1987-88, I was active in prominent Israeli protest movements that advocated withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. I genuinely believed that the Oslo Agreement would provide a path to peace. Sadly, since Arafat’s rejection of Barak’s 2001 offer, and the Palestinian Authority’s subsequent embrace of incitement against Jews and ongoing encouragement and glorification of terror, my hope for peace has all but disappeared.  

Had Hillary Clinton won the US election, I do not think President Obama would have allowed Resolution 2334 to pass. I believe he chose this path because he is attempting to influence policy beyond the end of his term. I fear that his actions will further diminish Democratic support for Israel, and will cause support for Israel to become a partisan issue in U.S. politics. I am sincerely dismayed by this thought, as the loser in such a scenario will be Israel.  I hope that Democrats will prove me wrong, and that they will demonstrate their support for Israel by denouncing this horrendous resolution. Moreover, I sincerely hope that our local JCRC will actively communicate the dangers of this resolution and will encourage our community to stand in support of Israel.