Critics of President Obama’s decision not to block (and, perhaps, to advance) the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel say that it was solely an attempt to harm Israel — an effort motivated by vindictiveness and/or raw ideological dislike of Israel. Those who disagree with this assessment should be able to point to a positive objective Obama reasonably could think his decision might advance.
In theory, I can think of two possibilities. First, he might have thought that passage of the resolution would advance the “peace process.” Second, he might have thought that passage would at least lead to the curtailment of new building in East Jerusalem and the “West Bank,” which might eventually increase the likelihood of a peace agreement. There isn’t even the theoretical possibility that the U.N. resolution will cause Israel to tear down existing settlements absent a peace agreement, and I don’t believe that even Obama has called on Israel to do this.
It’s clear, however, that the passage of the U.N. resolution won’t advance either objective. If anything, it may retard them. Obama could have no rational basis for thinking otherwise. Thus, we must conclude that he was, in fact, motivated by vindictiveness, raw ideological dislike of Israel, or both.
There is no reasonable basis for believing that the U.N. resolution will halt settlement building activity. The New York Times reports that, the resolution notwithstanding, Israel is going to build new housing in East Jerusalem. The city intends to approve 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian-populated eastern section of town on Wednesday in what a top official called a first installment on 5,600 new homes.
The U.N. resolution isn’t even calculated to deter such building. It’s a blanket condemnation of all settlements. Israel is equally condemned whether it builds new housing for its citizens or not. No rational nation would stop building under that circumstance. Obama is too smart to believe otherwise.
If anything, now that it’s damned if it builds and damned if it doesn’t, Israel has all the more reason to build.
There is also no reasonable basis for believing that the U.N. resolution will advance the “peace process.” The resolution will cause Palestinians to believe they can get what they want with regard to the disputed territories through the “international community” rather than by making concessions in direct negotiations with Israel. This is unrealistic.
It will also cause Palestinians to take an unrealistic view of what they can get under any circumstances. If “international law” now holds that Israel’s presence in East Jerusalem and the disputed “West Bank” is unlawful, why settle for anything less than the elimination of that presence?
Woe betide any Palestinian leader who advocates that his people agree to take less than what the U.N. says they are entitled to.
I’m not just speculating here. Consider what the Palestinians plan to do with the U.N. resolution. According to the New York Times:
Palestinian leaders made clear that they would use the resolution in international bodies to press their case against Israel. With the imprimatur of a United Nations finding of illegality, they said they would campaign to require that other countries not just label products made in the settlements, but ban them.
“Now we can talk about the boycott of all settlements, the companies that work with them, et cetera, and actually take legal action against them if they continue to work with them,” Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the Palestinian news media.
He outlined other steps the Palestinians could now take, using the resolution to press the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders, file lawsuits on behalf of specific Palestinians displaced by settlements and urge the international authorities to determine whether Israel is violating the Geneva Conventions.
“We are looking to devise a comprehensive vision, and hopefully 2017 will be the year when the Israeli occupation ends,” Mr. Malki said.
The last sentence is pure fantasy — a fantasy that precludes true negotiation, as Obama surely understands.
Nor, once the fantasy dissolves, will the resolution advance negotiations. If products made in the settlements are banned in many countries, this will hurt the settlers. But not as much as tearing down the settlements and forcing settlers to relocate would.
Eventually, the Israeli economy may feel some squeeze, but surely not enough to induce a retreat to anything like the old, untenable borders that the Palestinians, backed by the U.N. and its anti-Israel resolution, will insist upon.
As Charles Hill says:
The reality undergirding the two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians is that there must be, in direct negotiations, an agreed trade-off between a major curtailment of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank east of Jerusalem and a major curtailment of the Palestinian Right of Return to the land of Israel west of Jerusalem.
Obama has done just about all he can to make that negotiated agreement impossible.
Obama, the petulant ideologue, knows this but doesn’t care.