Resolution 2334 and a Two-State Solution:
Part B Current Contentions and Historical Background
What happens when an extreme dove like myself agrees with Israel’s current Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation, Ayoob Kara, who reiterated the Netanyahu cabinet position that the key problem with respect to peace is not the settlements. Kara is also part of the faction that contends that, “There is no way to put a state between Jordan and Israel.” He and other extreme right-wingers oppose the creation of any Palestinian state whatsoever. It is very dangerous to share one point of agreement with such proponents because you risk being identified with their entire position.
What if you share two positions? Arutz Sheva published the following in an OpEd by Ted Belman on 1 January entitled, “Since when did Palestinians become entitled to a state?” “Another example of invoking a law that doesn’t exist is the clause which cites “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”. Howard Adelman makes short shrift of this proposition. There is no such law.” The citation was based on my first blog in this series which was re-published and circulated on Israpundit. Though this is not quite the way I would have worded a summary of my position, it is not a distortion either.
I agree with the Israeli right that the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force is peculiar when it seems to be applied to only one case. I also agree with the Israeli political right that the key issue preventing peace is not the settlements, as much as I opposed settlements for years. I used to think the biggest issue was and would remain the refugee return issue, but there is now an understanding on that problem. I contend that the central issue preventing a peace agreement is Jerusalem, particularly the Old City and its immediate surroundings. Though I agree with Kara that the settlements are not the main obstacle to peace, I disagree with both him and the general thrust of and increasing tendency of the current Israeli cabinet to declare that, “First and foremost, the Palestinian issue is not relevant. There is no government and no leadership that will accept this state. Most of the citizens in the PA do not want for (sic!) Israel to leave. They want to be under the regime of Israel. Only the extremists want this state. They are trying to pretend that they want a peace process but they are liars.” Again, part of the problem when you agree on one or two points with the opposition, there is a propensity to believe you have other agreements with them as well.
The Palestinian issue is extremely relevant, and to dismiss it is the height of irresponsibility. Though there is currently no government or Palestinian leadership that will accept the Palestinian state on offer from Israel, it is blatantly untrue that they will not accept a state. The core problem is that they will not accept a state on offer from the majority of Jewish Israelis regardless of the differences among them. Further, most Palestinians do not want to be under Israeli rule. To assert that only the extremists want a Palestinian state is to engage in either delusion, propaganda or both. Why Jewish Israelis overwhelmingly do not want to give up the Old City is not a matter of security. It is a matter of identity and ideology, the same reason that the Palestinians want control of the Temple Mount or al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf. This, and no longer security, is the main obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, though security for both sides is extremely important.
However, Resolution 2334 does not reiterate, but alters, the fundamental framework for negotiating a two-state solution. It certainly does nothing except undermine the reality of Israel as a democratic state and the possibility of Palestine becoming one. Rather than stabilizing the region, the Resolution will further destabilize it. There are certainly negative trends on the ground. The expansion of settlements is definitely one of them. But the resolution attempts to reverse the negative trends on one side while only paying lip service to negative trends on the other side. In so doing, the saboteurs on both sides are strengthened, not weakened. In any case, those trends do not entrench a one-State solution as much as some might wish they do, especially the right in Israel.
There has indeed been a very aggressive effort by the Netanyahu government to both thicken and normalize the settlements. In questing for the former, thickening the settlements, he has undermined their normalization in the predominant view in the international community. But he has also entrenched the settlements more firmly as a de facto and irreversible reality, creating a significant hurdle for peace, but not the insurmountable one portrayed in the Resolution.
Under any scenario, settlements will indeed grow, but no longer in significant numbers. As a result, the possibility of a two-state solution need not recede, except for those who want to use the settlements as a propaganda instrument to advance one side, including idealist international diplomats who refuse to take realities on the ground as important components in conducting diplomacy.
The failure to recognize the above and allowing oneself to get caught up in that illusion is part of the explanation for the terrible mishandling of the Israeli-Palestinian issue by the international community. Rather than creating conditions for successful final status negotiations, the Resolution ensures that no such negotiations will take place in my lifetime. The Resolution does even more to undermine a lifetime of work on behalf of a secure and democratic Israel living side-by-side a proud and respected Palestinian state than all the efforts of either Netanyahu or Bennett on one side or Abbas and his cohorts on the other. The Resolution was a travesty and a reward for the politics of illusion and delusion rather than a politics which analyzes power and tries to constrain and direct that power by lofty values.
Will the Resolution do anything for the 100,000 Palestinians living among 400,000 Jewish Israeli, Palestinians who live under martial law and are denied equal rights with the Jewish residents of the area? Since Israel is the occupying force in the area, will the Resolution enhance and strengthen Israel’s responsibility to protect Palestinians in Area C and prevent some extremist Israeli settlers from attacking Palestinians and targeting their lands and properties? The reality is that Israeli authorities are lenient towards violent settlers, rarely charging them and even more rarely meting out proportionate punishment. At the same time, the Abbas government, while discouraging terrorism, also lauds the perpetrators and gives them honours.
Most recently, the fight over the Old City has focused on the immediate surroundings, in particular, Batan al-Hawa in Silwan. There are 50 parcels of land in Batan al-Hawa. The Ateret Cohanim Asociation now has control over nine of them. 81 families have received eviction notices. It is one thing for Israel to seek to reinforce the Jewish presence in a contested area like the Old City and its immediate surroundings. It is quite another to treat Palestinians unjustly. It is absolutely unacceptable to use Border Police and private security firms against local residents simply because they are living in properties to which they are deemed not to have legal title. It is incumbent upon Israel as the occupying power to ensure that all residents are treated with respect and dignity.
At the same time, will the Resolution do anything for the 80,000 Jews who live on the other side of the separation barrier among well over a million Palestinians, Jews who are subject to attacks by terrorists? Does it foster good will between and among those Jews as well as among the large majority of Muslims with whom Jewish Israelis live in the larger region and among whom they will likely continue to live even if and when Palestine becomes a state? Or will the resolution help perpetuate a belief that the Palestinian state should and must be Judenrein and cleansed of all Jews?
Is there any gain for passing the Resolution in advancing peace in the region? Or is the purpose of the Resolution to assuage the guilt of idealists who have proven so impotent in the past and have become even more determined than ever to reaffirm that impotence? Those so-called idealists, those pretenders to the throne of advancing Palestinian rights, never face up to the repeated question of why Israel is cited as the main villain in repeated resolution after repeated resolution while heinous crimes all over the world are relatively ignored? Will those movers and shakers face the possibility that efforts on behalf of the Palestinians have done more to harm the development of democracy within that proud and estimable community than the cumulative wrongs imposed on Palestine by the settler movement?
North Korea with its mad leader will become an effective nuclear power next year. There were twenty resolutions put before the UN denouncing Israel in 2016. One, Resolution 2270, imposed fresh sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) as the UN denounced in the most vigorous terms nuclear testing by North Korea. The UN has done nothing really and deeply effective to stop North Korea’s march, “in violation and flagrant disregard” of a succession of UN impotent measures, towards becoming an actual real nuclear power.
The Israeli right, joined on this issue by the centre and even the moderate left, are never given an answer for the query of why Israel is isolated for such focused attention and given such a persistent priority and such negative treatment in the UN. Have the idealists defending the just cause of a Palestinian state living side-by-side Israel ever asked themselves the question why such efforts have rarely worked? Demonstrating outrage is a poor substitute for a demonstrable lack of political acumen, especially when it is expressed in such a one-sided and distorted way. Is it not at least understandable why many Jewish Israelis and many other Jews around the world have come to believe that this form of criticism of Israeli politics is but a new form of anti-Semitism?
Why is the UN prone to demonstrate repeatedly that it is unable to wed lofty ideals with effective action? In the waning days of the Obama administration, why has the U.S. joined in this chorus of false moralizing? As the Oslo peace talks showed, the settlements are not the major barrier to peace between Israel and a nascent Palestine. The disposition of Jerusalem, particularly of the Old City, is, and its problematic status has little to do with the issue of settlements. Yet the resolution conflates the two issues and does so on such a weak historical foundation that it would be laughable if it were not so troublesome.
The Resolution went out of its way to explicitly condemn Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and failed to distinguish between the Jewish Quarter in the Old City from the West Bank or even the rest of Eastern Jerusalem. Instead, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews pray, are treated and referred to as occupied territory. The failure of distinction in the Resolution is a travesty.
Is that not the most provocative claim that one could throw at the Jewish orthodox community such that it undermines any possibility of sympathy for the other side emerging? This mindblindness undermines any sincere effort to decrease the momentum in Israel for refusing to accept the idea of a Palestinian state. The Jewish quarter of Jerusalem goes back much more than two millennia. Making it part of an Arab Palestine free of Jews is such a flagrant betrayal of history. Resolution 2334 is an important landmark in promoting Jewish ethnic cleansing.
The Resolution does designate every home in the Old City as well as every home on French Hill and in Gilo and the other neighbourhoods of West Jerusalem as violations of international law. The Resolution predetermines the basis for negotiations by designating those populations as living on “occupied Palestinian territory,” not just occupied territory. But today, fifty years later, the effort to continue to condemn those settlements already built and occupied as not only the major obstacle to peace, but also illegal and even further, that they were built on Palestinian territory, prejudges the results of negotiating a peace agreement and favours the Palestinian cause, however just that cause of creating a Palestinian state may be. This step is as foolhardy as the initiative to build many of the settlements originally.
For the unmistakable fact is that they have been built. Hundreds of thousands of Jews live in them. The vast majority of those Jews will only be removed if Israel is destroyed as a predominantly Jewish state. Further, Palestinians in their negotiations understand that. They have negotiated land swaps for those settlements becoming part of Israeli territory. What the Palestinians have not agreed to, what, as far as I can see after following the negotiations over decades, they will not agree to is recognizing not only East Jerusalem but the Old City as part of Israel. It is a perfectly understandable position. But it is also a position which remains as the one obstacle to a final peace agreement, not all the settlements.
Right wing Israelis and Jews worldwide are fond of going back to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as promising that the mandatory area of Palestine would be a “homeland” for Jews, though not a Jewish state. They leave out the latter. The Balfour Declaration was endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922. But that document did not designate Israel and the West Bank as a “Jewish national home” in the sense of a state, but as a home where Jewish nationals could live. In fact, the League of Nations document almost one hundred years ago created a recognized single legal territory of Mandatory Palestine out of the sanjak of Nablus, the sanjak of Acre, a segment of southern Syria and the southern portion of the Beirut Vilayet as well as Jerusalem. Until 1917, and until the recognition given to the British 1917 document by the international community, there was no Palestine. Following the Treaty of Lausanne, Palestine came into existence on 29 September 1923 and with it Palestine Arabs and Palestine Jews.
At the same time, Jordan also came into existence as a recognized international state in which the promise of its use for settlement of Jews was explicitly removed. The principle of all of Mandatory Palestine as a homeland for Jews had a very short lifespan and that authorization was now restricted to Mandatory Palestine West of the Jordan River. The territory east of the Jordan was ruled out for resettling Jews. Originally also a mandatory territory, it became recognized as an independent state in 1946.
Authorizing Mandatory Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish people explicitly did not entail Jewish sovereignty over the territory as either an aspirational goal and certainly not as a reality. The relevant and much repeated Balfour Declaration affirmed in the 1919 Peace Agreement provided: “Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” Usually omitted by the heirs of Jabotinsky and the right in Israel is that the British and French together rejected drafts that recognized, “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the claim which this gives them to reconstitute it their national home.” The Jews were not given the right to create a sovereign Jewish state. Nor was the Jewish historical connection with the land ever recognized. All that was recognized is that Jews had grounds and a claim for reconstituting a national home.
With the creation of the United Nations, the Mandate of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea came under the auspices of the UN as a trusteeship of Great Britain, a trusteeship Britain “threatened” to abandon. The abandonment was endorsed by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, UNSCOP, in 1947 and affirmed in a UN General Assembly Resolution. That committee recommended dividing the Mandate into three entities, one as a national home for the Jewish people, one as an independent Arab state, and the city of Jerusalem was to become an international city administered by the United Nations. In fact, those three territories became three very different territories with the cease fire lines of the 1949 armistice agreement serving as a de facto border between what was declared as the independent state of Israel, Jordan which occupied and annexed what became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Gaza occupied by Egypt, not because all of them were able to “stand alone,” as the previous colonial language had provided, but because new rulers were in place which were the de facto governing powers.
The territory governed by Israel after the 1949 Armistice Agreement became a sovereign state and was no longer occupied territory. The West Bank and Jerusalem continued to be occupied territory, occupied by Jordan, while Gaza was occupied by Egypt. When Egypt and Jordan were defeated by Israel in 1967, those territories were then occupied by Israel. What must be recognized is that throughout the one hundred years since 1917 and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, there has always been a disjunct between legal instruments recognizing administrative authority,
geographical references and sovereignty claims. Only the territory occupied by Israel in 1949 has been recognized as a sovereign territory, one governed by the State of Israel. The governing and administration of the other territory in former Mandatory Palestine has changed de facto over the years, but without de jure sanction since 1948. De jure sanctions are influenced by usage, but treaties or accession agreements are needed to determine the final internationally recognized areas under sovereign control. Unilateral annexation, whether of the Golan or an enlarged Jerusalem, does not change that, though sufferance of the governance of a territory over years does tend to shift towards legal legitimation as decade after decade passes.
The League of Nations document did authorize Jewish settlements in all of the Mandatory territory. The partition agreement changed that, but the outcome of the 1948 war, rather than UN Resolutions, effectively brought into being three territories, an Israeli State occupying a much larger territory than the one recommended in the partition resolution. West Bank and Jerusalem had been annexed by Jordan. Gaza was administered by Egypt. The West Bank and Gaza had been made Judenrein in that war. At the same time, 720,000 residents of Palestine, including 35,000 Jews, fled or were forced to flee and become so-called refugees, though most were internally displaced persons who continued to live in what used to be called Mandatory Palestine. A minority lived outside the borders of these three new entities.
With the help of Alex Zisman