One would think critics of Israel would welcome the recent United Nations vote to condemn Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, as well as the follow-up speech by Secretary of State John Kerry declaring the settlements the impediment to the so-called two state solution. But former Palestinian negotiator Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University stated in a recent New York Times op-ed that both the United Nations action and Kerry’s speech are “too little and too late.”
Too little? In other words, declaring a Palestinian state on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem would not be enough. From the time of Israel’s rebirth in 1948 until the Six-Day War in 1967, the West Bank and East Jerusalem were under Arab control and there was no intent then to convert these areas into a Palestinian state.
This is not to say there should be no Palestinian state, or that the stateless situation of the Palestinians is not germane to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But aside from the West Bank, the prospect of re-dividing Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem is a non-starter to any peace talks.
Nor would a halt to Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem necessarily revive the peace process. Israel called a halt to settlements on the West Bank in 2010 and Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, balked at the gesture. Were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to balk at a declaration from Abbas denouncing terrorism aimed at the Jewish state the United Nations would be up in arms.
More an impediment to peace than the Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem is the obsessive opposition to them voiced by Israel’s critics. Chief among these critics is President Barack Obama.
President-elect Donald Trump will have to demonstrate more imagination in his approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict than he has displayed.
Regarding the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it is counterproductive to condemn or condone Jewish settlements. Treating this minor nuisance as either the impediment to Palestinian nationhood or as an assurance to Israeli security delays serious steps to a lasting peace.
John O’Neill is a writer based in Allen Park.