The United Nations Should Ditch its Anti-Israel Bias: Peter Rough, The Hill, June 20, 2017 — This week marks six months since the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which classifies Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 line, including in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, as illegal.
UN Chief Stuck in the Middle: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, June 14, 2017 — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is a man very much in the middle.
The World Must Finally Awaken to the UN Refugee Agency's Failures in the Palestinian Territories: Asaf Romirowsky Alexander Joffe, New York Daily News, June 12, 2017 — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke from the Government of Israel's longstanding policy and stated that UNRWA, the internationally funded UN body dedicated to providing health, education, welfare and legal services to Palestinian “refugees,” should be shut down.
A Letter to the World from Jerusalem: Eliezer Ben Yisrael, Summer, 1969— I am not a creature from another planet, as you seem to believe.
UN: Israel to Blame for Palestinian Men Beating Their Wives: Hillel Neuer, Times of Israel, June 13, 2017
New Palestinian Attempt at UNESCO to Claim Hebron and the Patriarch’s Tomb as a Palestinian Site: Amb. Alan Baker, JCPA, June 19, 2017
Legal Expert Slams Hypocrisy of UN’s “Unprecedented” Israel Blacklist: The Tower, June 20, 2017
The United Nations is Losing Staggering Sums to Corruption, Mismanagement and Bad Decision-Making: Geoffrey Clarfield, National Post, June 15, 2017
The Hill, June 20, 2017
This week marks six months since the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which classifies Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 line, including in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, as illegal. Visiting Jerusalem last month, the distance between the pronouncements of Turtle Bay and the realities of the Old City appeared as stark as ever. For starters, everyone knows that Israel will absorb the major settlement blocs near the ’67 line as part of any peace agreement. And no Israel government will ever surrender its access to Jerusalem.
Alas, the United Nations has long been a hub of anti-Israeli activity, in part because it views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a colonial legacy pitting the powerful against the powerless. By pursing a one-sided agenda, the U.N. hopes to strengthen the weaker party in the service of justice. However, by issuing rulings on sensitive issues without first preparing the ground for peace, this approach only polarizes the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. Just as bad, it damages the U.N.’s credibility with Israelis. Instead, the U.N. should switch tracks by focusing on the most important prerequisite for peace: cultivating trust.
Israel is a flourishing democracy that sees peace as crucial to maintaining its long-term Jewish identity. In meetings with Israelis of all stripes last month, their anguish at the plight of the Palestinians was palpable to me. Ever since the Second Intifada discredited the Israeli peace camp, however, Israelis have recoiled at major concessions that might imperil their security. If anything, the lesson Israelis have drawn from such initiatives as the withdrawal from Gaza is that the preconditions for a Palestinian state are a long way off. Put simply, the experiences of the past two decades have robbed Israelis of the trust needed to take a risk for peace. The result is that Israeli voters have repeatedly rewarded cautious leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on pace to challenge David Ben-Gurion as the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history.
The U.N. should focus on achieving a breakthrough by fostering the conditions needed for genuine peace. Unfortunately, at present the message for peace is not competitive with the call to violence among Palestinians. This has led the Palestinian leadership to spin a cocoon of anti-Israeli rhetoric from which it has been unable to escape. In 2000, for example, Yasir Arafat reportedly declined Ehud Barak’s generous offer of a Palestinian state by saying that he did not intend to drink tea with assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. If Palestinian leaders are serious about peace, they will need to prepare their people to accept a peace deal. At the very least, the U.N. should press the Palestinians to revamp their educational curriculum. Israelis can only be expected to take risks for peace if they are confident in their own security, which, in turn, depends on Palestinians developing healthier perceptions of Israel.
Ironically, U.N. Resolution 2334 comes fifty years after the Six Days War, the generating events of which included the withdrawal of U.N. forces from the Sinai in the face of an Egyptian military buildup. Then, as now, Israel concluded that the U.N. is no substitute for self-reliance. Even so, Israelis remain keenly aware of their status as a small power whose dispute with the Palestinians is bound up in larger regional politics.
For five decades, the U.S.-Israeli strategic relationship has been a bedrock of both Israel’s security strategy and U.S. power projection into the region. Israelis, therefore, interpreted the U.S. abstention on U.N. Resolution 2334 as a particularly stinging parting shot from the Obama administration as it left power. To Israel’s relief, the Trump administration has reversed course, tightly embracing Israel while forging an agreement to limit settlement construction to existing built-up areas. Moreover, the Trump administration is leveraging flourishing contacts between Israel and its Sunni Arab neighbors, which is sure to have a salutary effect on the peace process. This so-called “outside-in” effect envisions improved ties between Israelis and Arabs slingshotting Israel into improved relations with the Palestinians. If executed cautiously and deliberately while pushing for Palestinian reform, such an approach holds promise for contributing to regional stability.
The past two decades since Oslo have shown the futility of negotiating a quick resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the face of terrorism, Israelis have built walls and domes to defend themselves while waiting for Palestinian society to reform itself. The U.N. should dedicate itself to assisting Palestinians with that task, rather than issuing anti-Israeli screeds that work against the Trump administration’s search for peace.
Jerusalem Post, June 14, 2017
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is a man very much in the middle. On the one hand, there is a new wind blowing out of Washington demanding the United Nations alter its systemic discrimination against Israel and anti-Israel bias that permeates so much of the organization.
US ambassador Nikki Haley is leading the high-profile charge on this matter, and there have been threats in Washington to withhold funds if the situation is not changed. Israel has decided to withhold $8 million of the $47m. it gives each year to the organization as membership dues and for funding peacekeeping forces and – even though this is an insignificant part of the UN’s budget, the move was noted in the UN’s Turtle Bay neighborhood – not necessarily because Israel’s move will cause significant damage, but out of concern that it may be a harbinger of what the US might do if the situation does not change.
But on the other side the Palestinians, the Arab countries and some Europeans are arrayed, pushing equally hard in the opposite direction, pressuring Guterres not to change the UN’s attitude toward Israel; not to alter the situation; to go along; and not revamp what has been operative practice inside the organization for years.
These countervailing pressures have put Guterres on a seesaw – one day condemning a UN-sponsored center for women in the West Bank named after a notorious Palestinian female terrorist, and on another day issuing a statement obliquely criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for calling for the dismantling of UNRWA, following the discovery of a Hamas tunnel underneath two of the organization’s schools in Gaza. Guterres, his spokesman said late Monday, “is concerned about recent public criticism of UNRWA and the integrity of its operations.” The secretary- general, the spokesman said, “wishes to express his support for UNRWA and his admiration for the role it plays in delivering essential services and protecting the rights of millions of Palestine refugees across the Middle East.”
Netanyahu said on Sunday that UNRWA perpetuates, rather than solves, the Palestinian refugee problem, and called on Haley to work toward the organization’s dismantling. Reaction in Jerusalem to Guterres’s comments about UNRWA were muted, with neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the Foreign Ministry initiating a response. The reason is simple: Israel is appreciative of Guterres’s efforts to fight against the anti-Israel bias at the UN and understands the strong counter-pressures he is under. Jerusalem believes that the new secretary-general – in office since January 1 – is more receptive than his predecessors to listening to Israeli complaints and protests about biased reports and prejudicial treatment.
Both Ban Ki-moon, Guterres’s immediate predecessor, and Kofi Annan – who was the secretary-general two terms ago – spoke of strains of anti-Israel bias and discriminatory treatment toward the Jewish state at the end of their tenures. Guterres is different in that he has discussed it at the very beginning of his. What Israel is uncertain about, however, is whether the former Portuguese prime minister really believes it or is simply concerned about the Americans. Whatever the case, he has changed wordings in some reports and refused to sign others that bash Israel.
Almost every week, one UN body or the other issues a report that – whether it deals with women’s rights, children’s’ rights, or heritage sites – includes wording and language slamming Israel. These reports are fed from the Palestinian narrative and, in turn, feed that narrative, then often forming the basis of other UN decisions. And around and around it goes. Jerusalem realizes this is a difficult dynamic to change all at once and has been impressed by Guterres’s willingness to take some steps in that direction.
For instance, it used to be that UN Human Rights Commission reports dealing with Israel would be sent to the secretary-general for his signature. The UNHRC no longer sends those reports, however, knowing that he won’t sign them. In addition, Guteres has, over the last six months, made some cosmetic changes to language in some reports – not necessarily everything Israel asked for – but also seen as a sign of taking Israel’s concerns seriously. And he certainly is willing to let his opinion against an anti-Israel bias in the organization be known.
The question, however, is whether he has the persistence and determination to continue this fight over the long haul, something that will put him at odds and in conflict with many of his organization’s member-states. The answer to that question may be bound up with whether the Trump administration itself is willing to fight this battle over time, putting it at odds with many UN countries. As of now, Jerusalem – while optimistic – does not have a categorical answer to either of those questions.
Asaf Romirowsky Alexander Joffe
New York Daily News, June 12, 2017
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke from the Government of Israel's longstanding policy and stated that UNRWA, the internationally funded UN body dedicated to providing health, education, welfare and legal services to Palestinian “refugees,” should be shut down. This dramatic shift is long overdue in a region where refugee populations have grown enormously but where Palestinians continue to receive overdue attention.
Netanyahu's statement, made to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley during her visit to Israel last week, came shortly after the discovery of yet another terror tunnel underneath a UNRWA-run school in Gaza. He followed up with a statement to his cabinet that "the existence of UNRWA — and unfortunately its work from time to time — perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem rather than solve it. Therefore, the time has come to dismantle UNRWA and merge its components with the [UN] High Commissioner for Refugees." Though Israeli politicians have argued for changing policy toward UNRWA, Netanyahu appears to have finally done so.
For decades, Israeli officials have claimed that without UNRWA providing for the needs of the Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Israel would be held responsible. This is a burden Israel preferred not to bear, despite UNRWA's well-documented cooptation by terrorist elements from Hamas and other groups. The position produced a perversity in which Israel itself reinforced the very organization whose role includes perpetuating a core tenet in the Palestinian national narrative, the absolute centrality of refugees to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the demand that Israel accept repatriation of their descendants through a "right of return." It does so through its educational curricula for Palestinians and in representations in international forums.
Understanding the way that UNRWA helps perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem reveals an entrenched and dysfunctional bureaucracy, accustomed to almost 70 years of international welfare-including over $370 million from the US in 2016. It also sheds light on the subversive dynamic between UNRWA and the Palestinian leadership; the existence of UNRWA allows the Palestinian Authority to continue shirking core responsibilities towards its citizens.
At its root, UNRWA effectively argues that — regardless of the reality — all Palestinians are refugees and victims of an Israeli "occupation." The organization has financial and political interests in maintaining this fiction: As long as the Palestinians are refugees, UNRWA is in business. Success is measured by the contributions it receives and prerogatives it assumes. As a case in point, UNRWA released a statement marking the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War stating, "The occupation remains a key obstacle to the realization of a just and lasting solution for the seven-decade-long plight of Palestine refugees, and it continues to be one of the most salient aspects of a historical injustice that has cast a shadow over their lives since 1948."
Israel's historic position and ongoing U.S. funding have created a situation that has promoted Palestinian rejectionism, and which does not advance the cause of peace, or U.S. interests in the Middle East. UNRWA learned long ago to wave the bloody shirt, proclaim its formal neutrality and act as unofficial Palestinian spokesman. But with hundreds of thousands of real refugees flooding over the Middle East and Europe, UNRWA's claims, along with those of Palestinian refugees kept in camps by Arab states, ring more and more hollow. If the State of Israel has finally begun to see UNRWA as part of the problem rather than a permanent band-aid, there may be a real chance to remove one problem that has long ensured that conflict will never end.
Eliezer Ben Yisrael
I am not a creature from another planet, as you seem to believe. I am a Jerusalemite like yourselves, a man of flesh and blood. I am a citizen of my city, an integral part of my people. I have a few things to get off my chest. Because I am not a diplomat, I do not have to mince words. I do not have to please you, or even persuade you. I owe you nothing. You did not build this city; you did not live in it; you did not defend it when they came to destroy it. And we will be damned if we will let you take it away.
There was a Jerusalem before there was a New York. When Berlin, Moscow, London, and Paris were miasmal forest and swamp, there was a thriving Jewish community here. It gave something to the world which you nations have rejected ever since you established yourselves – a humane moral code.
Here the prophets walked, their words flashing like forked lightning. Here a people who wanted nothing more than to be left alone, fought off waves of heathen would be conquerors, bled and died on the battlements, hurled themselves into the flames of their burning Temple rather than surrender, and when finally overwhelmed by sheer numbers and led away into captivity, swore that before they forgot Jerusalem, they would see their tongues cleave to their palates, their right arms wither.
For two painfilled millennia, while we were your unwelcome guests, we prayed daily to return to this city. Three times a day we petitioned the Almighty: “Gather us from the four corners of the world, bring us upright to our land; return in mercy to Jerusalem, Thy city, and dwell in it as Thou promised.” On every Yom Kippur and Passover, we fervently voice the hope that next year would find us in Jerusalem. Your inquisitions, pogroms, expulsions, the ghettos into which you jammed us, your forced baptisms, your quota systems, your genteel anti-Semitism, and the final unspeakable horror, the holocaust (and worse, your terrifying disinterest in it) – all these have not broken us. They may have sapped what little moral strength you still possessed, but they forged us into steel.
Do you think that you can break us now after all we have been through? Do you really believe that after Dachau and Auschwitz we are frightened by your threats of blockades and sanctions? We have been to Hell and back a Hell of your making. What more could you possibly have in your arsenal that could scare us?
I have watched this city bombarded twice by nations calling themselves civilized. In 1948, while you looked on apathetically, I saw women and children blown to smithereens, after we agreed to your request to internationalize the city. It was a deadly combination that did the job. British officers, Arab gunners, and American made cannons. And then the savage sacking of the Old City; the willful slaughter, the wanton destruction of every synagogue and religious school; the desecration of Jewish cemeteries; the sale by a ghoulish government of tombstones for building materials, for poultry runs, army camps – even latrines. And you never said a word.
You never breathed the slightest protest when the Jordanians shut off the holiest of our places, the Western Wall, in violation of the pledges they had made after the war – a war they waged, incidentally, against the decision of the UN. Not a murmur came from you whenever the legionnaires in their spiked helmets casually opened fire upon our citizens from behind the walls.
Your hearts bled when Berlin came under siege. You rushed your airlift "to save the gallant Berliners". But you did not send one ounce of food when Jews starved in besieged Jerusalem. You thundered against the wall which the East Germans ran through the middle of the German capital – but not one peep out of you about that other wall, the one that tore through the heart of Jerusalem. And when that same thing happened 20 years later, and the Arabs unleashed a savage, unprovoked bombardment of the Holy City again, did any of you do anything? The only time you came to life was when the city was at last reunited. Then you wrung your hands and spoke loftily of "justice" and need for the "Christian" quality of turning the other cheek.
The truth is – and you know it deep inside your gut – you would prefer the city to be destroyed rather than have it governed by Jews. No matter how diplomatically you phrase it, the age old prejudices seep out of every word. If our return to the city has tied your theology in knots, perhaps you had better reexamine your catechisms. After what we have been through, we are not passively going to accommodate ourselves to the twisted idea that we are to suffer eternal homelessness until we accept your savior.
For the first time since the year 70 there is now complete religious freedom for all in Jerusalem. For the first time since the Romans put a torch to the Temple, everyone has equal rights. (You prefer to have some more equal than others.) We loathe the sword – but it was you who forced us to take it up. We crave peace – but we are not going back to the peace of 1948 as you would like us to. We are home. It has a lovely sound for a nation you have willed to wander over the face of the globe. We are not leaving. We are redeeming the pledge made by our forefathers: Jerusalem is being rebuilt. "Next year" and the year after, and after, and after, until the end of time – "in Jerusalem!"
No Daily Briefing Will Be Published Friday, June 23—Ed.
UN: Israel to Blame for Palestinian Men Beating Their Wives: Hillel Neuer, Times of Israel, June 13, 2017—The chair of today’s UN Human Rights Council debate, council vice-president Amr Ahmed Ramadan of Egypt, broke with parliamentary protocol and refused to me after I challenged a new report that blames Israel for when Palestinian men commit violence against women, and after I asked why Islamic preachers of wife-beating were ignored.
New Palestinian Attempt at UNESCO to Claim Hebron and the Patriarch’s Tomb as a Palestinian Site: Amb. Alan Baker, JCPA, June 19, 2017—The town of Hebron, situated in the biblical region of Judea, is the site of the oldest Jewish community in the world, and since Bible times has been considered the second holiest city in Judaism after Jerusalem. The Canaanite city was founded around 1720 BCE, and the ancient Canaanite and Israelite city was situated at Tel Romeida.
Legal Expert Slams Hypocrisy of UN’s “Unprecedented” Israel Blacklist: The Tower, June 20, 2017—Northwestern University Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich presented the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday with a report documenting business dealings in occupied territories around the world, underscoring the hypocrisy behind the council’s decision to compile a blacklist only of companies operating in the West Bank.
The United Nations is Losing Staggering Sums to Corruption, Mismanagement and Bad Decision-Making: Geoffrey Clarfield, National Post, June 15, 2017—Let me take you on a short UN safari around the world, beginning and ending in Washington, D.C., to see just how effectively the United Nations spends our tax dollars.