Friday, December 23, 2016

J Street and Ameinu on the passage of the UNSC settlement resolution

Two liberal American Jewish organizations, J Street and Ameinu, have just issued statements supporting the UNSC anti-settlement resolution and commending the US for abstaining on the resolution. I agree with the Ameinu statement, especially the paragraph on Jerusalem.

J Street:
J Street welcomes the decision today by the Obama administration to abstain from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution which reaffirms the need for a two-state solution and calls for a halt to actions by both sides that serve to undermine the prospects for peace. 
The resolution is consistent with longstanding bipartisan American policy, which includes strong support for the two-state solution, and clear opposition to irresponsible and damaging actions including Palestinian incitement and terror and Israeli settlement expansion and home demolitions. 
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only end based on mutual agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, and President Obama has repeatedly stated his opposition to the United Nations -- or any other entity -- imposing a binding resolution on the parties. He also has stated and demonstrated a commitment to vetoing UNSC resolutions that are one-sided or anti-Israel. 
Recent Congressional resolutions have reaffirmed this position. They have made clear that there is no US obligation to veto UNSC resolutions, like the one passed today, which acknowledge harmful actions, rhetoric or policies of both parties to the conflict. In fact, Democratic and Republican Presidents alike have frequently supported such UN Security Council resolutions on the conflict. 
Indeed, a Congressional resolution earlier this year joined by 64 Members of the House of Representatives, and supported by J Street and the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement, encouraged the US government to “firmly articulat[e] 49 years of consistent, bipartisan United States opposition to settlement expansion.” 
This resolution conveys the overwhelming support of the international community, including Israel’s closest friends and allies, for the two-state solution, and their deep concern over the deteriorating status quo between Israelis and Palestinians and the lack of meaningful progress toward peace. It is also a clear signal that the international community's patience with an occupation of almost 50 years has limits. 
Over the past few years, a major increase in settlement expansion and other activities that undermine the two-state solution have made clear the urgent need for strong US and international leadership to help preserve it, to remind the parties of the responsibilities and to help move them back on the path to a comprehensive negotiated agreement. 
The consistent failure of the Palestinian leadership to adequately condemn acts of terror against Israeli civilians, and the apparent commitment of the current Israeli government to expanding, entrenching and retroactively legalizing settlement expansion and land seizure in the West Bank, warrant a strong rebuke from the international community and a clear affirmation of the commitments that are needed from both sides. This resolution helps to fill that need. 
The overwhelming majority of American Jewish supporters of Israel continue to believe that the two-state solution is the only way to secure Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, and support strong American leadership to help achieve that goal, even when that means criticizing and rebuking counter-productive actions of the Israeli government. Election Day 2016 polling found that 62 percent of Jewish voters believe the United States should either support or abstain from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank. 
Moving forward, J Street hopes that both Israelis and Palestinians will respect the sense of this resolution and take appropriate steps in response. President Abbas and the Palestinians must show far greater vigilance and seriousness in opposing and condemning acts of terror, and acts of incitement -- including actions at the UN that ignore Israeli rights and historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the holy sites of the Jewish people. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israelis must reverse the overwhelming tide of settlement expansion in the West Bank, cease home demolitions and expulsions of Palestinian residents, and marginalize prominent leaders calling for a “one-state solution,” annexation, or permanent occupation. 
We urge all actors, including the incoming US administration, to recognize that this resolution is now the benchmark set by the international community and must be respected as such. Steps to abrogate or ignore it would not only damage Israel’s future and the prospects for a two-state solution, but undermine American interests and standing in the world.
(New York, December 23, 2016) – Responding to news that the United States abstained on a UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlement activity, thereby allowing its passage, Kenneth Bob and Gideon Aronoff, President and CEO respectively of Ameinu, North America’s largest grassroots progressive Zionist organization, issued the following statement:

"Ameinu believes that the decision to abstain is a reasonable response to the resolution as presented and is valuable to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. While the wording of the draft UNSC resolution is not perfect, particularly with regard to Jerusalem, and while the core issues between Israel and the Palestinians must ultimately be decided by direct negotiations by the parties themselves rather than by international action, abstention should not be viewed or described as an abandonment of Israel.

Ameinu notes that, compared to other proposals debated at the UN, this resolution is balanced and focused on Israeli settlement activity rather than on broad and extremely biased condemnations of Israel, as normally seen at the UN. Ameinu also appreciates that the resolution recognizes that the conflict continues because of actions of both parties as it:
“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…”
Ameinu strongly agrees with the resolution’s statements on terrorism and believes that actions by the Palestinians to implement this provision, including in the area of incitement, will be crucial for a negotiated settlement to be reached.

In the past the Obama Administration has vetoed UNSC resolutions as unfair and biased against Israel, as part of its unprecedented security and political support for the special relationship between Israel and the United States. However, the specific resolution and actions on the ground in Israel -- including continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, action on legislation to retroactively legalize settlements built on private Palestinian land and statements from key government ministers that the era of the Palestinian state is over – justify the decision to abstain in the interest of preserving a two-state solution.

While overall Ameinu believes the resolution is fair, in one area we continue to be very uncomfortable with the language used. The complexity of Jerusalem over the Green Line is not well delineated in the UNSC resolution. For example, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall are simply not the same as Palestinian neighborhoods like Silwan in East Jerusalem where Palestinian residents are being intentionally displaced. States seeking to implement this resolution must make this distinction if they are to serve the goals of the resolution and to promote a two-state solution.

Ameinu hopes that both the Government of Israel and the Palestinians will work with the international community, the Obama Administration and the incoming Trump Administration to take all steps possible to work towards a two-state solution and division of the land to allow for the creation of a State of Palestine living at peace next to the Jewish State of Israel."

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