(UN Votes Against Settlements) Obama, Israel, and the Middle East

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I wrote this to my dear cousin Zvi on FB, but will share and expand here. I’ve never argued against the claim that Obama’s Middle East policy was the dismal failure that it has been. Based on American “leading from behind,” i.e. inaction, it has left the Middle East in even worse shape than Bush II left it. This is especially true of Syria, and probably Iraq, with Russia and the Iranians filling the vacuum. And Israel? One could argue that Obama’s failure to more proactively push both sides to peace (including Abbas) and to push Israel away from settlements was one more such failure, based on American inaction. Yes, this was for Israel, as the stronger party to decide, and also for the Palestinians, and one can understand U.S frustration with both parties, especially the stronger one. But that does not change the fact that the U.S. did nothing under Obama except support Israel with aid and weapons and, also, support at the UN. The recent UNSC resolution against settlements was not over the top, but, alas, too little too late. Yes, it is a terrible failure that Obama will be leaving Israel and Palestine on the verge of a volatile and violent bi-national state. But the real failure is by Netanyahu for not moving to push the ball forward, because it’s his people who, under the thrall of religious nationalism, are going to suffer the consequences of a 50 year military occupation, without international agreement, over another people.

From the right to the left, this year saw a lot of talk about the end of the two state solution. The left looks forward to a democratic bi-national state; the right wants Israel to annex territories. But the two state solution has some bite left to it. You can read the full text of the UNSC resolution here. It’s not anti-Israel. It’s not even anti-occupation (it does not demand a unilateral withdrawal from West Bank territories). It’s focused laser-sharp on settlements (their illegal status), condemns terrorism and incitement, and leaves the question about final border to a negotiated agreement. Israel has always depended upon international agreements. Along the Green Line, it draws a firm distinction between Israel and the settlements. A two-state solution continues to be the consensus of the “international community.”

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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