Obama’s Palestine Punchout

Original Article

It is possible that President Obama actually believes that his 11th hour Mideast madness at the UN — stealthily coordinated with the Palestinians, according to Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu; initiated by the U.S., according to the Egyptians — will foster peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is so delusional that if his belief is in fact honest it is arguably even less flattering than if he knows better and is lying. In the cynical realism that is much the fare of international diplomacy being dumb is more of an insult than being stupid — hence the famous quip, oft attributed to France’s Napoleonic era foreign minister Talleyrand, “worse than a crime, it was a blunder.”

Start with the worst part of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, the first three substantive points after the usual whereas clauses (my italics):

  1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;
  2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;
  3. Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;

What the above italicized words mean, in plain-speak, is this: Jews are no longer free to worship at the holiest site in their religion, the Western Wall of Temple Mount; further they are barred from even visiting the Old City founded by King David over 3,000 years ago. Israel retook the Old City in the Six-Day War (June 5-11, 1967), which had been occupied by Jordan’s Arab Legion during the 1948 war. Jordan disregarded Israel’s stern warnings to stay out of the conflict; Israel’s retaking the Old City ended 19 years during which Jews were unable to visit the Western Wall. The UN did not lift a finger to press Jordan to end its occupation of the Old City (nor did anyone else). Even today the UN ignores myriad terrorist crimes against Jews. Nor was anything done to penalize Jordan for trashing over fifty synagogues, razing many and using some sites as stables.

The city Jews established more than 16 centuries before Muhammad founded his faith — undivided through countless occupations over 18 centuries since the Romans had expelled the Jews — is under the UNSC’s latest formulation to be divided forever. Jerusalem, divided for only 19 years over three millennia, is henceforth to be a Palestinian playground. In effect, the city is to be judenrein (“Jew-free,” the goal of the Nazis for Europe, and, had the Nazis won World War II, the entire planet). In the Orwellian world inside the UN, the city founded by Jews in antiquity must be Jew-free in modern times.

This latest UN anti-Israel obscenity, writes ex-U.S. UN Amb. John Bolton, “implicitly repeals” the first UNSC resolution listed in the preamble to UNSC Res. 2334: UNSC Res. 242 (1967). The former set forth the principles to govern settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The operative language in 242, calling for a “just and lasting peace” is (my italics):

  1. (i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
  2.  (ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

This, it must be noted, is not merely “land for peace.” It is land for not only an end to armed conflict, but in place of the ceasefire lines that prevailed since the end of the 1948-1949 War of Independence, a formal diplomatic recognition of the Jewish state and an Arab state. This was necessary because that war was concluded without a formal peace treaty, as the Arab states refused to recognize Israel.

Note further the italicized passages above. The descriptor “from” preceding “territories” instead of “all” or “the” was no accident. The State Department negotiators and U.S. UN Amb. Arthur Goldberg — have publicly confirmed that the omission of “all” and “the” was deliberate. (On one occasion I directly asked one of the former diplomats, Eugene Rostow this very question; his answer was that all negotiators were clear on this point — later public repudiations by the Arabs and other parties notwithstanding.) The British ambassador, Lord Caradon, who introduced 242 to the full Security Council, confirmed to the House of Commons in 1969 the validity of the American view, adding, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.”

Further confirmation of this, if needed, comes from 242’s phrase “within secure and recognized boundaries.” The adjective “secure” is superfluous and hence unnecessary, if Israel were expected to surrender all land gained in 1967. Under standard rules of legal document construction (legalese for interpretation), given conflicting versions of a document, any in which all words can be given distinct meaning is legally preferred over any with superfluous words.

This is not the first time President Obama fiddled with the express language of UNSC Res. 242. In 2011 his administration floated a plan — its announcement made while Israeli PM Netanyahu was flying across the Atlantic en route to a meeting with the president — in which the 1967 lines — the so-called “Green Line,” which excludes the gains made by Israel in 1967. Like his two post-Oslo Accords (1993) predecessors, Obama embraced the concept of “land swaps,” proposed by Bill Clinton in Dec. 2000 as part of his last-ditch effort to produce a final peace deal before leaving office. These “Clinton parameters” provided that for territory outside the Green Line that Israel retains in a final accord, Israel would swap land from inside the Green Line. It is widely known that the old boundaries are militarily insecure, and hence cannot meet 242’s “secure” standard.

Fundamentally, Obama’s approach is polar opposite to the peacemaking sequence that led to the 1978 Camp David Accords: first comes a leader who wants to make peace, then comes a peace accord. It took Anwar Sadat to make the peace that his predecessor, Gamal Abdel Nasser, scorned, by visiting Jerusalem, starting Nov. 19, 1977. That visit was hastily arranged by Sadat to forestall President Carter’s October 1, 1977 joint proposal with the Soviet Union, for a conference in Geneva to which key terrorist states and non-state terrorist parties were to be invited.

The Obama administration’s latest move culminates eight years of utter futility in the Arab-Israeli dispute, a record unmatched by any previous administration. A richly detailed survey of settlement issues reveals how radically one-sided Obama’s policy has been. The only president to expressly vote in favor of a UNSC resolution on settlements was Jimmy Carter in 1980; Carter subsequently disavowed the vote, saying that his instruction to abstain was misunderstood. The Carter administration also abstained on two UNSC similar settlement resolutions in 1979.

Beginning in 1972, when President Nixon cast the first U.S. veto of a UNSC anti-Israel resolution, and 2012, the U.S. vetoed 42 such resolutions: Nixon, 1; Ford, 4; Carter, 1; Reagan, 18; George H. W. Bush, 4; Clinton, 3; George W. Bush, 9; Obama, 1. Of these 42 UNSC vetoes, six concerned settlements: Reagan, 2 (1983 and 1986); Clinton, 3 (1995 and twice in 1997); Obama, 1 (2011).

As for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in the 18 pre-Obama years (1991–2008) he negotiated with seven Israeli administrations (3 left, 4 right), during which he never made a total settlement freeze a non-negotiable demand. It was only after the Obama administration proposed a 10-month settlement freeze in 2009 that things changed. Abbas did not even come to the table for the first nine of the 10 months; after that a total freeze became a non-negotiable Palestinian demand; Abbas could hardly ask for less than the U.S. was seeking. And when in 2011 the Obama administration vetoed a UNSC resolution declaring settlements illegal, Abbas stated: “We drafted it using the same words that Secretary Clinton is using and so we don’t see why the U.S. would veto it.”

Like most UNSC resolutions, Res. 2334 was adopted pursuant to Chapter VI of the UN Charter, which governs “pacific settlement of disputes”; Chapter VII governs “actions with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression.” Enforcement under Ch. VII can include military force; Ch. VI sanctions include various forms of legal and economic harassment: lawsuits, restrictions on foreign travel, export and import sanctions.

A signal vice of 2334 is that it supersedes the sole legal method — direct negotiation between the parties — prescribed per the Oslo Accords (see Article XV). This provision can only be waived by mutual consent of the parties. And that is why in Feb. 2011 the Obama administration vetoed a proposed UNSC resolution declaring the Israeli settlements illegal, which had been sought by the Palestinians, in flagrant circumvention — hence, violation — of Oslo.

Indeed, the very fact that the U.S. vetoed a similar proposal made it imperative that the Palestinians consult with us before trying the same thing again. Only with prior assurance would the Palestine Authority (PA) have dared try again. And while the terror-sponsoring PA is evil, they are not so foolish as to try to bypass a gatekeeper that had already vetoed their earlier proposal. This time, they found a willing ally who eagerly would by abstaining let 2334 pass.

In his final Mideast speech — as usual, tilted against Israel — Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the U.S. will not ask the UNSC to try to impose final peace terms. He added that the U.S. will not extend formal diplomatic recognition to a Palestinian state during the remaining weeks of President Obama’s term.

UN maven Claudia Rosett recounts what the late Jeane Kirkpatrick, U.S. ambassador to the UN during Ronald Regan’s first term (1981-1985), wrote about the Palestinians:

In 1989, Kirkpatrick published in Commentary magazine an essay of scorching clarity, on “How the PLO Was Legitimized.” Kirkpatrick described Yasir Arafat and the PLO as “attempting to come to power through international diplomacy — reinforced by murder.”

In richly documented detail, Kirkpatrick explained how the UN had become the prime vehicle for this odyssey. She wrote about the duplicities this entailed, and the dangers:

[“]The long march through the UN has produced many benefits for the PLO. It has created a people where there was none; a claim where there was none. Now the PLO is seeking to create a state where there already is one. That will take more than resolutions and more than an ‘international peace conference.’ But having succeeded so well over the years in its campaign to delegitimize Israel, the PLO might yet also succeed in bringing the campaign to a triumphant conclusion, with consequences for the Jewish state that would be nothing short of catastrophic.[”]

What Should The Trump Administration Do?

Three major ideas seem most promising, in that they go beyond sanctioning individual companies and governments who join in any boycott mounted against Israel after passage of UNSC Res. 2334. First, move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Second, the U.S. can withhold (all figures are for 2015, rounded off) its entire contribution — $3 billion (22 percent) — towards the UN’s total combined budget of $16.3 billion.

We pay $600M towards the UN’s regular budget; and we pay $2.4 billion towards the UN’s peacekeeping budget. The U.S. share of the regular budget is equal to that of the bottom 176 countries combined; the U.S. share of the peacekeeping budget is equal to the bottom 185 countries combined. The U.S. pays almost as much towards the UN’s combined budget as do the four other permanent Security Council members (U.K., France, Russia and China together pay $2.5B). The 56 countries comprising the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — which include 10 of the planet’s top 20 oil-producers — pay a combined total of $360 million; this is but two percent of the UN’s combined total budget of $16.3B.

Third, the U.S. can evict the UN from its headquarters and condemn the building. The legal status of the land parcel on which the Turtle Bay HQ sits has been described as follows (my italics):

Although it is situated in New York City, the land occupied by the United Nations Headquarters and the spaces of buildings that it rents are under the sole administration of the United Nations and not the U.S. government. They are technically extraterritorial through a treaty agreement with the U.S. government. However, in exchange for local police, fire protection and other services, the United Nations agrees to acknowledge most local, state, and federal laws.

So our new president, who knows a thing or two about real estate, can kick them out. And thanks to a landmark 1979 Supreme Court case, Goldwater v. Carter, the president can unilaterally abrogate a treaty ratified by the Senate, without obtaining Senate approval. This is what George W. Bush did in 2002 when he terminated the 1972 ABM Treaty, per a six-month notice clause in the treaty text.

To make his case upon taking office the new president should embark on a public education tour, publicizing the UN’s despicable record of anti-American and anti-Western activity, including condemning Israel more times than all totalitarian member states combinedfor 2014-2015, twenty condemnations of Israel, three for the entire rest of the planet. Fox News reported this week that in 2016 the count was 20-4: twenty against Israel; the four non-Israel countries, cited once each: Iran, North Korea, Russia and Syria. The progressive press has tacitly colluded in keeping the American heartland blissfully uninformed about the full measure of corruption, waste, and vicious anti-American slander that is routine at Turtle Bay. Mr. Trump has a unique megaphone he can use to bypass protective media filters and force broad public debate.

The coven of witches at Turtle Bay might decide it is better to keep cozy New York on their address list, with its luxuries and nightlife, than have to decamp to less inviting places. And if the UN balks, a fully informed electorate could well provide enough impetus for Trump to “… be down at the dockside waving [the UN] a fond farewell.…” Hence, repeal of UNSC Res. 2334 just might be politically possible.

For its part, upon Team Trump taking power Israel should suspend Oslo talks until 2334 is repealed. If as the Netanyahu government has indicated it is open to resume talks despite passage of 2334, Israel will once again be blamed worldwide for any failure — especially so long as 2334 remains on the Security Council books.

John Wohlstetter

Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute
John C. Wohlstetter is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute (beg. 2001) and the Gold Institute for International Strategy (beg. 2021). His primary areas of expertise are national security and foreign policy, and the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He is author of Sleepwalking With The Bomb (2nd ed. 2014), and The Long War Ahead and The Short War Upon Us (2008). He was founder and editor of the issues blog Letter From The Capitol (2005-2015). His articles have been published by The American Spectator, National Review Online, Wall Street Journal, Human Events, Daily Caller, PJ Media, Washington Times and others. He is an amateur concert pianist, residing in Charleston, South Carolina.