In the aftermath of the U.S.’s decision to abstain from a vote criticizing Israeli settlements at the UN, Barack Obama and company have shown their true colors and in a calculated move, going on to stab Israel, not in the back but in the front. The departing president refused to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 — a measure superficially about Israeli settlement policy, but clearly intended to tip the scales in favor of the Palestinians. As the actual text states, “any changes to the June 4, 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem” have “no legal validity and a flagrant violation under international law.” This resolution is not, therefore, limited to settlements but applies equally to the very heart and soul of Israel.
Many on both the right and left came out swinging against the U.S. abstention, underscoring that the move will only bolster the boycott movement against Israel and serve to move the parties away from peace. House Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer, issued a statement Tuesday saying that it would contradict longstanding US policy for Kerry to outline the parameters of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
In effect, Kerry’s non-parameter parameters again underscore the disconnect between Washington, Jerusalem and the Middle East at large. Further, Kerry and company have become accomplices to the BDS movement by depicting settlements and Israel’s Jewish character as the obstacles to peace. The largest issue is Obama and Kerry’s failure to broker any deal at all; this last attempt was to strong arm Israel into one. In the process they have furthered the ‘soft boycott’ that has been coming out of Washington since the “tough love” message that Barack Obama has been peddling since his talk in Jerusalem in 2013.
Even individuals like George Mitchell, a former Maine Senator and Obama’s former special envoy to the Middle East, said on MSNBC that Mr. Obama should have vetoed the resolution because “this moves Israel further away” from an eventual accord. He said he feared it would have the same effect on the Palestinians.
Mitchell went on to stress that because there is an incoming administration, which will ultimately decide its own Middle East foreign policy, Obama should have postponed the vote if possible and, if not, vetoed it.
Mitchell has been credited for leading the diplomatic force that produced a peace agreement resolving the crisis in Northern Ireland, and he tried to apply the lessons he learned from to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Mitchell recalls, “I had 700 days of ‘no’ in Northern Ireland, and one ‘yes,’” and then continued to say that “you have to be willing to go back, prodding, cajoling, listening …. You have to make clear you respect the people involved, and whatever the circumstance involved, to allow the parties to express their views.”
One of the cornerstones of Mitchell’s report was intentionally avoided in Resolution 2334: avoiding blame and furthering the internationalization of the conflict in bodies like the UN while condemning Israel. What became one of the major themes in both the Good Friday Agreement and Mitchell’s report is the idea of CBM, or “confidence building measures.”
However, the tactic’s strength lies in its effectiveness in any given conflict, its central thrust focused on reinstating trust between Israelis and Palestinians. CBM is a simple equation: if the two conflicting parties can reduce the violence, then they can return to the negotiating table and attempt to restore trust. Mitchell understood the need for trust, something that resolution 2334 and the Obama team obliterate completely.
Mitchell got many things wrong in his attempt to turn Jerusalem into Belfast, but at least he understood the need for trust building and allowing negotiations to take place. Forcing agreements is a recipe for disaster for any peace process.
Ultimately, the Irish quest for peace led to significant economic reform, but a Palestinian State in the current environment would translate into another failed Arab State. The focus should be on curbing Islamists and finding a way to integrate religion with democracy. None of this is taking place in Palestinian society today; the opposite is true: Hamas and its Islamist cronies are on the rise. Resolution 2334 empowers the worst rejectionists from Hamas and others and, because it destroys trust, sets back the cause of peace.