For Carib News 12/27/16
These are the last days of the leap year of 2016 and at a vote in the United Nations Security Council, the Permanent Members and Non-Permanent Members made an effort to save the two state solution vis-a-vis the Palestinian question. The United States did not veto the resolution and indeed abstained.
The Resolution 2334 (2016) reaffirmed the United Nations Security council’s commitment to the Jewish state of Israel and the self-determination rights of Palestinians. Much has changed in the world since the Truman administration in 1947 recognized the state of Israel. The world community was aghast at the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the slaughter of 6 million Jews. The vulnerability of Jews in Europe and elsewhere necessitated a nation-state for the Jewish people. Based on the historical and religious heritage of Jews, Palestine seemed to be the appropriate land for the Jewish homeland.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution of 2016 was a vain attempt to revitalize the two state solution that had been envisioned from 1947. The Resolution condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. The acceleration of settlements had picked up in recent years. There are over 490,000 Jewish settlers who have settled in the West Bank and another 200,000 in East Jerusalem. The Resolution argued that international law forbids the annexation of territory as a result of the 1967 Israeli-Palestinian War. The Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have been under Israeli military occupation from the 1967 War and the expansion of settlements has made the two state solution nigh impossible.
Some Jewish settlers see the West Bank as territory given to the State of Israel by Jehovah which they recognize as Judea and Samaria. The International Court of Justice has ruled that the Israeli Wall of 280 miles is an abrogation of international law. In addition, the settlements are also a violation of international law. Those rulings and Resolutions emanating from the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council have been ignored by the Israeli government.
In recent years, there has been a momentous shift in Israeli politics. The Labour Party has become a spent force and recent Israeli governments are comprised of right wing factions and religious zealotry has become an integral part of contemporary Israeli politics.
Samantha Powers, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations began her speech in the Security Council with a quote from former President Ronald Reagan. She argued that from the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson to Richard Nixon, to Gerald Ford to Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush to Bill Clinton to George H.W. Bush and to Barack Obama, United States policy has supported the two state solution. American policy throughout all those administrations has been opposed to expansionary settlements. As Israeli politics drifted to the right, the accommodation to settlements became acceptable. Today in Israel, the settler movement has become an unstoppable force. There is no constituency in the Israeli bodypolitic that can reverse the juggernaut of the settlements.
Samantha Powers mentioned that the Obama administration had counseled Israel privately and publicly not to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Ambassador even cited new plans to expand settlements and that there were in motion in the Israeli Knesset to pass legislation and overrule the Israeli Supreme Court that had previously ruled that the settlements were illegal.
In United States-Israeli relations, the tail has begun to wag the dog. A classical example of that is Netanyahu’s blatant intervention in the debate concerning the Iran nuclear deal which was ratified by all five members of the Security Council plus Germany. It dramatizes the extent to which U.S. national security interest has been subordinated to Israeli right wing worldview.
Samantha Powers rationalized that the United States would abstain and not support the Resolution as the United Nations had a long history of treating Israel unfairly. Other Resolutions coming out of the Human Rights Commission and the General Assembly pinpointed Israel but overlooked human rights violations in Syria, in North Korea and elsewhere in the world.
That support for Israel that was widespread in 1947 has essentially evaporated. In most votes at the United Nations pertaining to Israel, the overwhelming member delegates are critical of Israel. In the Security Council, the United States serves as the buffer for the state of Israel.
The question that looms large on the world stage is the movement away from liberal democracy. What we are witnessing is a rekindling of religious identity. All of that is occurring in a world that has shrunk in terms of communication, travel, trade, the movement of capital and the movement of labor. One observes the rise of religious fanaticism that is widespread in the Middle East. Iran and Saudi Arabia are essentially theocratic states. The firestorm in the Middle East hovers around Judaism vs Islam or within Islam, Sunni vs Shia, Alawites vs Sunni. The Islamic State represents this extreme religious fanaticism. ISIS slaughters fellow Muslims as quickly as they slaughter Christian infidels.
But the world is inter-connected. The rise of religious identity is now affecting the politics of Western and Eastern Europe. Pope Francis is a voice of sanity but the barbarians are at the gate. New Christian groups have sprung up all over Europe bent on guarding western civilization against the encroachment of alien immigrants with presumably unassimilatable religious fervor.
America is now in the vanguard of that backward political movement. The ascendancy of Donald J. Trump to the white House marks the triumph of the right in American politics. His message of xenophobia and the fear of Muslims and the circling of economic wagons to reverse global trade make America the symbol of the new right wing drift that has taken hold of and undermining liberal democracy.
It is befitting in Trump’s worldview that he would appoint an Ambassador to Israel who fervently supports the settler movement and who is in favor of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to East Jerusalem. The tweeting Trump is already sending signals that he welcomes a new arms race. The rise of illiberal authoritarian characters is making the world more likely to boil over in 2017. The United Nations Security Council is desperately trying to salvage the two state solution but in the present climate, it is clear that what is triumphant in the Middle East and elsewhere is that might makes right.