Last week, the US was alone in voting down the Kuwait-drafted UN Security Council resolution on protecting Palestinians from Israeli live fire. Ten countries, including Russia and France, voted in favor of the resolution.
Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser, met Kuwait’s ambassador to Washington and expressed his frustration with the Gulf nation’s position on Palestine at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), according to Kuwait-based daily Al Rai.
Citing an unnamed US diplomatic source, the newspaper said on Wednesday that Kushner conveyed the Trump administration’s “annoyance” over a recently drafted Kuwaiti resolution that called for the protection of Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Kuwait drafted the resolution after dozens of Palestinian demonstrators were killed by Israeli forces last month in Gaza.
“The United States will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements. . . . Indeed, the immediate adoption of a settlement freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in [peace] talks. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”
— President Ronald Reagan, 1982
Thank you, Mr. President.
Let me begin with a quote: “The United States will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements during the transitional period. Indeed, the immediate adoption of a settlement freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in these talks. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”
This was said in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan. He was speaking about a new proposal that he was launching to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While ultimately, of course, President Reagan’s proposal was not realized, his words are still illuminating in at least two respects.
First, because they underscore the United States’ deep and long-standing commitment to achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. That has been the policy of every administration, Republican and Democrat, since before President Reagan and all the way through to the present day.
Second, because President Reagan’s words highlight the United States’ long-standing position that Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 undermines Israel’s security, harms the viability of a negotiated two-state outcome, and erodes prospects for peace and stability in the region. Today, the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity. The United States has been sending the message that the settlements must stop — privately and publicly — for nearly five decades, through the administrations of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama. Indeed, since 1967, the only president who had not had at least one Israeli-Palestinian-related Security Council resolution pass during his tenure is Barack Obama. So our vote today is fully in line with the bipartisan history of how American Presidents have approached both the issue — and the role of this body.
The Security Council should pass a resolution laying out the parameters for resolving the conflict. It should reaffirm the illegality of all Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 borders, while leaving open the possibility that the parties could negotiate modifications. Security guarantees for both Israel and Palestine are imperative, and the resolution must acknowledge the right of both the states of Israel and Palestine to live in peace and security. Further measures should include the demilitarization of the Palestinian state, and a possible peacekeeping force under the auspices of the United Nations.
We do not yet know the policy of the next administration toward Israel and Palestine, but we do know the policy of this administration. It has been President Obama’s aim to support a negotiated end to the conflict based on two states, living side by side in peace.
That prospect is now in grave doubt. I am convinced that the United States can still shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before a change in presidents, but time is very short. The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on Jan. 20 is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership. . . .
The primary foreign policy goal of my life has been to help bring peace to Israel and its neighbors. That September in 1978, I was proud to say to a joint session of Congress, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” As Mr. Begin and Mr. Sadat sat in the balcony above us, the members of Congress stood and applauded the two heroic peacemakers.
I fear for the spirit of Camp David. We must not squander this chance.
When everyone believed Clinton was going to be the next president, Obama was rumored to be considering several last-minute options to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. All that went out the window on November 8.
The old peace process is officially toast. The people who led it won’t be part of the next administration. The policies they pursued are the furthest possible from a Trump administration’s agenda — be it isolationist or neo-con/interventionist. A final push on parameters would be a waste of political capital, and might actually cause more harm than good.
The Obama administration is probably trying to figure out how to protect its two signature achievements — Obamacare and the Iranian nuclear deal — for the next two years, when the White House and both chambers of Congress will be under Republican control. But it will also need to revisit other issues, such as a widely discussed final move on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Specifically, the idea of laying out parameters for a final status agreement — either in the form of a major policy speech or via a UN Security Council resolution — might seem out of touch with the new political reality in Washington.
It is extremely difficult to predict what Donald Trump’s actual policies will be — common wisdom is that a weak and poorly informed president depends on the people around and below him — but it’s a pretty safe guess that Trump won’t continue efforts to broker a final agreement on a two-state solution. The GOP removed the very idea of Palestinian statehood from its platform ahead of the elections. Those around Trump have taken positions in favor of West Bank settlements and against previous efforts to push the Israeli government towards a deal with the Palestinians. Others in the president-elect’s circle — probably including Trump himself — have strong isolationist tendencies.
All that should cause the outgoing Obama administration to change its calculations. Much of its thinking on a final push on the peace process was clearly predicated on the assumption that Hillary Clinton would be the next president. The idea was not that a major policy speech or a UN Security Council resolution on parameters would generate an immediately response on the ground. It might, however, have laid solid groundwork for future negotiations, all while creating options for the next administration that relieved it of the need to spend actual political capital on the issue.
“Every president who reversed his campaign promise did so because he decided not to take the risk. . . . Jerusalem has historically been an issue that provoked great passions — often as a result of false claims — that did trigger violence.”
America’s top diplomat in Jerusalem lives in an elegant three-story stone house first built by a German Lutheran missionary in 1868, a short walk from the historic Old City. But he is not an ambassador and the mission is a consulate, not an embassy.
For decades, those distinctions have rankled many Israeli Jews. The United States, along with the rest of the world, has kept its primary diplomatic footprint not in Israel’s self-declared capital, Jerusalem, but in the commercial and cultural hub of Tel Aviv to avoid seeming to take sides in the fraught and never-ending argument over who really has the right to control this ancient city.
Until now. Maybe.
President-elect Donald J. Trump vowed during his campaign that he would relocate the mission “fairly quickly” after taking office. That in itself is nothing new: For years, candidates running for president have promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and for years, candidates who actually became president have opted against doing so.
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Editor’s note: The U.N. Security Council has consistently maintained that East Jerusalem, captured in the 1967 War, is occupied territory subject to the Geneva Convention. The Security Council has declared Israel’s attempt to make Jerusalem the “eternal and indivisible” capital of Israel to be in violation of international law. There are 82 foreign embassies in Israel, none of them is located in Jerusalem.