Partners for Progressive Israel welcomes and supports United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, condemning settlement activity by Israel in its occupied territories and calling upon Israel to desist from any further expansion of Israeli colonization of the West Bank. We commend President Obama for his courageous decision not to exercise what had come to be a reflexive veto in defense of Israel in the United Nations no matter how egregious Israel’s violation of international laws and norms.
While we might have preferred an American vote in favor of the resolution rather than an abstention, we recognize that diplomacy dictated that course. Ever since the occupation began in 1967, no responsible person, agency, jurisdiction, or state defended the legality of the settlement project. Israel was expected to desist from any further settlement at the time of the Oslo Peace Agreement in 1993; the status of the existing settlements was left to be determined in the final agreement. Since Oslo, however, Israel has more than doubled the number of settlers, now estimated to be over 500,000, and greatly expanded their territory. It now further proposes to “legalize” those settlements established in the past, retroactively justifying the seizure of private Palestinian land. The United States has regularly criticized and deplored further settlement activity as “unhelpful” to the peace process; and if the United Nations has now chosen to reaffirm its own reproof of the settlement project it is because the possibility of the Two-State Solution, to which all, including Israel, remain nominally committed, is widely recognized to be almost irrevocably compromised while the construction of a contiguous Palestinian State is being made impossible.
Finally, the latest U.N. resolution is little more than an affirmation of what has consistently been American policy since 1967. Far from furthering the project to “de-legitimize” the Israeli state, as its critics argue, Resolution 2334 specifically affirms the legitimacy of Israel within the June 1967 frontiers, and further pledges to affirm the validity of any changes in those frontiers freely negotiated between the parties themselves. It also specifically condemns any “incitement” or violent or terroristic attempt to undermine the existence of the State of Israel or the peace process. The Resolution clearly anticipates that territorial changes, presumably “swaps”, will be necessary to allow Israel to retain control of the largest settlement blocs as part of any final settlement of the conflict.
It is especially important to enshrine the illegality of the settlement project in international law at a time when Israel appears further poised to expand it, with the anticipated support of the incoming Trump administration in the United States. We agree with Israeli MK Tammy Zandberg that “the settlement and the occupation policies are the greatest existential threat to the state of Israel and there is nothing more patriotic or more Zionist than to oppose them.” PPI can only hope that the Resolution can preserve the possibility of a Two-State solution which is the one means of also preserving Israel’s essential character as both a Jewish and a democratic state.