The United States Just Made Middle East Peace Harder

(Washington Post) Elliott Abrams and Michael Singh - In a departure from Washington's typical role as Israel's defender at the UN, the U.S. refused to use its veto and allowed the adoption of a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. First, the resolution fails to distinguish between construction in the so-called blocs - that is, settlements west of Israel's security barrier in which about 80% of settlers live - and construction east of the barrier. Building in the major blocs is relatively uncontroversial in Israel and rarely the subject of Palestinian protests. President George W. Bush sought to move peace talks forward in 2004 by asserting that there could be no return to the 1967 lines in light of the blocs' existence, and that any negotiated border would have to reflect this reality. Obama refused to confirm Bush's position. Second, the resolution rewards those who argue for using international forums to impose terms on Israel, rather than resorting to negotiations. The resolution does indeed dictate terms to Israel, adopting the position that the 1967 lines, rather than today's realities, should form the basis of talks - despite the fact that many Israeli communities east of those lines are decades old and that Jews have had a near-continuous presence in the West Bank for thousands of years. This resolution will reinforce Israelis' mistrust of the UN, thus eroding the Security Council's capacity to contribute to the peace it professes to advance. A U.S. veto of the resolution would not have been an endorsement of settlements. Rather, it would have been an affirmation that this is an issue that can only effectively be addressed through negotiations. Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. Michael Singh, managing director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was senior director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council from 2007 to 2008.

2016-12-25 00:00:00

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