Note: I serve as the National Chair of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), representing 1.5 million American Reform Jews. See http://www.arza.org – blogs
To AZRA’s friends and supporters:
Many organizations have expressed their feelings and thoughts since the UN Security Council resolution 2334 was passed last Friday, with the extension of the United States.
Many – most especially Prime Minister Netanyahu – are furious with the US for not vetoing the resolution and thus enabling it to pass. On the other hand, numerous friends of Israel support of the resolution’s rejection of settlements and identified with its message.
We are emphatic that the UN, with its well-established anti-Israel bias, should not be the venue for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and that gives the resolution of veneer of hollowness and hypocrisy. It is a grave concern that the resolution will become means for unjustly prosecuting Israel in the international arena.
ARZA is issuing this statement to clarify some of the issues, express our opinion and concern, and provide helpful language to use in ensuing discussions. As Rabbi Eric Yoffie has written, there is a general agreement that the US was an error, yet there is little consensus about the broader meaning of these events and what to expect in the weeks ahead. Our statement’s purpose is to provide clarity as to how we want to proceed.
Jews in Israel and around the world are justified in questioning the motives of the United Nations due to its historic antipathy to the State of Israel. To date, 223 UN resolutions have been submitted against Israel, far more than against any other nation in the world including those with abysmal human rights records. Only six resolutions have been passed against the murderous Assad regime in Syria that is responsible for the death of 500,000 men, women, and children. On the same morning that UNSC Resolution 2334 came to a vote, the UNSC could not agree to stem the flow of arms to the murderous South Sudanese regime. And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has acknowledged that the UN has passed a disproportionately high number of resolutions against Israel.
UN Security Council Resolution 2334 has released a firestorm of criticism by the Israeli government and leaders in the American Jewish community against the United Nations and the Obama Administration for its abstention in the vote. This is the first time in recent years that the United States has not vetoed a UNSC resolution against Israeli policies, primarily because nothing in the resolution conflicts with long-standing American policy held by successive administrations.
The resolution condemns Jewish settlements in the West Bank as illegal as defined by UN Resolution 242. Following the vote, American UN Ambassador Samantha Powers noted that part of the rationale for the US abstention was Israel’s continuing commitment to what the international community regards as illegal settlement expansion:
“Israel has advanced plans for more than 2,600 new settlement units. Yet rather than dismantling these and other settler outposts, which are illegal even under Israeli law, now there is new legislation advancing in the Israeli Knesset that would legalize most of the outposts – a factor that propelled the decision by this resolution’s sponsors to bring it before the Council.”
However, the resolution does not distinguish between settlements inside the West Bank, in the large settlement blocks, in the Jerusalem neighborhoods, and in the Old City, all of which were taken in Israel’s war of self-defense in 1967.
A distinction in these different areas must be the subject for negotiation between the parties and not in the context of UN and other international resolutions.
As time has passed without a resolution of the conflict, ARZA has become increasingly concerned that the two sides’ polarization, hostility and lack of trust will diminish the possibility of a two-state solution.
Whereas Palestinians charge that the settlement enterprise is the principal obstacle in the way of establishing a Palestinian State alongside Israel in the West Bank, Israelis suspect that the Palestinians will never be willing to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state nor live peacefully alongside Israel.
Palestinian suspicions and lack of trust towards Israel are buttressed by statements made by a number of Ministers in the Netanyahu government who have called for continual settlement expansion, annexation of the West Bank, legalization of heretofore illegal settlement outposts, and opposition to a two-state solution.
Israelis suspect Palestinian intentions because the Palestinians have refused all past efforts to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel and now refuse to sit down without conditions with Israel to negotiate an end-of-conflict agreement.
ARZA worries further that the Obama administration’s abstention in this vote will encourage intensified partisan posturing over American support for Israel, rather than the continued bipartisan support for Israel among Democrats and Republicans alike.
And ARZA is deeply concerned that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s and his allies’ negative and hostile reactions against the UN Resolution, the Obama Administration, and other countries that supported it is diverting attention from the root issue. In light of the incoming US Administration’s promise to initiate epic moves in the Middle East, ill-considered policies and actions can light the region on fire.
ARZA continues to insist that a negotiated two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians is the only option that can assure Israel’s democratic and Jewish nature, and the only way that Palestinians will achieve a state of their own.