by Alon Liel
Every idea and political struggle has a life of its own. It can have a long and fruitful life; it can bear fruit, but it can also die, quickly or gradually. As with human beings, ideas and struggles need energy to sustain their existence. And when the energy disappears, the idea fades away.
Renewed energy in the form of much-needed oxygen was recently received by the two-state solution idea for Israel and Palestine. The idea, which has accompanied us for a number of decades, received a significant boost in the 1990s with the Oslo process, but it has been rapidly declining before our eyes, particularly during the past two years. Despite being an essential part of previous coalition agreements, it was eliminated from the coalition agreement of the current Israeli government.
And then, on Dec. 23, 2016, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, which was accepted by 14 votes in favor out of the 15 members of the Security Council, with one abstention, the United States.
Emergency Aid for the Two-State Solution
At a time when support for a two-state solution was rapidly disappearing, the international community provided emergency aid in the form of Resolution 2334. The resolution demands that Israel cease illegal settlement activity, focus on the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders (a concept which appears eight times in the resolution) and on the future of the “occupied territories” (terminology which appears five times in the resolution). The UNSC resolution makes a clear distinction between the area of the sovereign State of Israel and the area of the territories occupied in 1967, and most importantly it asks (in Item 5) all states in the international community “to distinguish in their relevant dealings, between the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” This distinction between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) touches upon the holy of holies of the current Israeli government; senior ministers call the occupied West Bank “the heart of the land,” and the settlers are the political elite in Israel today.
Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, was furious, of course, about the resolution. His anger was focused mainly on two small countries, New Zealand and Senegal, with which Israel has diplomatic relations, who dared to be among the four countries that presented the draft of the resolution for a vote (together with Malaysia and Venezuela). Ambassadors from countries that supported the resolution were summoned by the Israeli government, official visits by government representatives to member states in the UN Security Council were canceled and sharp public reprimands were issued against almost all of the supporters of the resolution.
The Israeli ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal were called back to Jerusalem after the decision, and from the examination I carried out while writing this article, it turns out that they have not yet returned to the countries where they were serving. The relations between Israel and those two countries have suffered a real blow.
Touching on the Sensitive Nerve
Beyond touching the sensitive settlements nerve, the reason for the Israeli anger is very clear. Most of the Knesset members of the ruling coalition — and an absolute majority of the Likud members in the Knesset (the leading party in the coalition) — do not support the two-state solution. Resolution 2334 clearly is though contrary, if not hostile to the current policies of the Israeli government. Except for the 1975 UNSC resolution which compared Zionism with racism and apartheid, it is hard to remember such Israeli diplomatic anger in the international arena, particularly in connection with the UN.
Precisely because of the tremendous anger that it raised, UNSC Resolution 2334 also became an important life-saver for the Israeli opposition that supports the two-state solution. This opposition, sometimes known as “the peace camp” or “the two-state camp,” which has the passive support of the majority of the Israeli public, is practically not felt in the political/parliamentary discourse in Israel. Only a small part of the two-state solution opposition in Israel, and maybe also in Palestine, still proudly raises the flags of peace and two-states and struggles for them on a regular basis. On the other hand, the number of supporters of a one-state option seems to be growing and their voices can be heard loud and clear.
Can the New American President Bypass 2334?
Less than a month after this important injection of oxygen began to blow fresh air into the lungs of the Israeli-Palestinian peace camp, a harsh blow fell on it. Time will tell if it was a fatal blow.
A new American president entered the White House, President Donald Trump, who never before dealt with international diplomacy or the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. The president and his inner circle lacked knowledge on the subject. Emotions and clichés were not lacking throughout the election campaign and immediately afterward (Obama — bad; UN — very bad; Resolution 2334 — distortion; Bibi (Netanyahu) — good; “Islamic terror” — the enemy). And Jews? “I have Jewish children” (Ivanka and Jared), so Jews are good. A series of slogans whose goal was clearly to declare a total break from the policies of the previous American president, Barack Obama, and his administration.
Now President Trump is preparing, at least according to his declarations, to “broker a deal” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the most important statement he made in connection with the conflict has already caused real damage. In the joint press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu, he said: “I am looking at two states or one state, and I like the one that both parties like.” With this possibly unplanned off-the-cuff remark, the president shook up the one foundation for agreement that has accompanied the peace process for the last 20 years (1994-2014) — the understanding that a solution has to be based on two states. The sides actually didn’t agree on anything else; only the two-state idea was agreed upon.
Trump created, with his simplistic and hasty comment, a strong tailwind for a binational one-state option, including the annexation of the West Bank or parts of it. If, until Trump's comment, there had been a tendency to avoid talking about annexation (since it is clearly an illegal act) and about “one binational state” (despite the fact that within Israel, this position is periodically whispered about), President Trump took the genie out of the bottle. Without realizing it, he gave the one-state idea potency and international standing.
Resolution 2334 – Reviving and Breathing New Life into the Two- State Solution
This is where we are today. Within Israel and Palestine, the two-state idea is disappearing from the horizon; the world via Resolution 2334 is trying to revive and breathe new life into the peace camp on both sides; and President Trump is trying to undermine the UN itself and destroy the lifesaver. The American ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, is spearheading Trump’s policy in the glass building in New York, attempting to reduce the UN’s standing and influence, particularly concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Resolution 2334, therefore, is much more than just a resolution about the fate of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. The resolution has become a symbol of the global struggle between facts and “alternative facts,” between sanity and magic tricks, between international diplomatic continuity and the dangerous breaking of rules.
Both the standing of the UN as a whole and the fate of Resolution 2334 will be determined by the struggle between Trump and Haley on one side and the rest of the world on the other. This struggle affects all of us very deeply. If this is truly important to us, we cannot let the “alternative facts” and magic tricks approach prevail.
The internal American opposition to Trump, particularly within the American Jewish community, has an important role to play in this struggle. If the world were to feel that Trump does not have overall internal American backing for the destruction of the UN and Resolution 2334, there is a good possibility that the vitally important UN, and Resolution 2334 as one of its most important creations, as a result, will win out.
Text of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 - Adopted by the Security Council at its 7853rd Meeting, on Dec. 23, 2016
The Security Council,
“Reaffirming its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 452 (1979), 465 (1980), 476 (1980), 478 (1980), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), and 1850 (2008),
“Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,
“Reaffirming the obligation of Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and recalling the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice,
“Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions,
“Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines,
“Recalling the obligation under the Quartet Roadmap, endorsed by its resolution 1515 (2003), for a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and the dismantlement of all settlement outposts erected since March 2001,
“Recalling also the obligation under the Quartet roadmap for the Palestinian Authority Security Forces to maintain effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantling terrorist capabilities, including the confiscation of illegal weapons,
“Condemning all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction,
“Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,
“Stressing that the status quo is not sustainable and that significant steps, consistent with the transition contemplated by prior agreements, are urgently needed in order to (i) stabilize the situation and to reverse negative trends on the ground, which are steadily eroding the two-State solution and entrenching a one-State reality, and (ii) to create the conditions for successful final status negotiations and for advancing the two-State solution through those negotiations and on the ground,
“1. 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;
“2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;
“3. Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;
“4. Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution;
“5. 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;
“6. Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism;
“7. 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;
“8. Calls upon all parties to continue, in the interest of the promotion of peace and security, to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues in the Middle East peace process and within the time frame specified by the Quartet in its statement of 21 September 2010;
“9. Urges in this regard the intensification and acceleration of international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967; and underscores in this regard the importance of the ongoing efforts to advance the Arab Peace Initiative, the initiative of France for the convening of an international peace conference, the recent efforts of the Quartet, as well as the efforts of Egypt and the Russian Federation;
“10. Confirms its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement;
“11. Reaffirms its determination to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions;
“12. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the present resolution;
“13. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”