27 December 2016

Banking on the Palestinians?

The Obama Administration, still intent on wrecking as much destruction as possible both domestically and internationally, abstained on the UN vote condemning Israel for their presence in East Jerusalem and for settlements in the so-called "Occupied Territories" of the West Bank.

I write "so-called' because as far as I know, no one called them that until after the Six Day War in 1967.  Although set aside as part of a proposed Palestinian Arab state following WWII, the territory was seized by Jordan in the 1948 war. Jordan granted citizenship to the Palestinians who lived in the West Bank as well as the tens of thousands who fled or were expelled from Israel during that war. The area also elected representatives to the Jordanian parliament.

Only after Israel captured the West Bank in  1967 did the West Bank became known as the "Occupied Territories." And even after Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994 in which they normalized relations and Jordan gave up any claims to the West Bank, the name has stuck. Normally, treaties between sovereign powers go unchallenged by governments not party to those treaties. Not so, in this case. Both individual governments around the globe and various international organizations refuse the recognize the treaty.

The UN resolution and the Obama administration's abstention are largely symbolic for now. And with the advent of the Trump administration, it probably will remain so indefinitely. The resolution will neither stop the on-going construction of settlements nor spark the dismantling of existing ones. But its symbolic import should not be underestimated. It suggests that Israel carries responsibility for the lack of progress for peace negotiations during the Obama years--that settlement construction keeps the Palestinians from the bargaining table.

Settlements, however, are not the issue. In any comprehensive peace accord, settlements can be dismantled. The physical structures can be evacuated and turned over to the new Palestinian sovereignty. Or the current Jewish residents can continue to live there under Palestinian rule, just like tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs and Christians who currently live under Israeli rule within Israel's borders. Until a peace treaty is signed, they remain a negotiating point.

The Palestinians, however, already have demonstrated their implacability during the efforts of previous administrations to secure peace. Rather than encouraging peace talks, the UN resolution and the Obama administration's implicit support of it only emboldens this implacability.


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