Tag: Resolution 242

“MY FEAR IS THAT WE MAY BE A BIT FURTHER AWAY”… [FROM PEACE]—ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ, MAY 20, 2011

 

 

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA, THE ‘WINDS OF CHANGE,’
AND MIDDLE EAST PEACE
Robert Satloff

Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 19, 2011

 

President Obama…sketch[ed] out a new paradigm for U.S. engagement with the Middle East in his State Department “winds of change” speech this afternoon, in which he raised the goal of reform and democracy to a top-tier U.S. interest. Nevertheless, after critiquing Arab regimes that have used the Arab-Israeli conflict to distract their peoples from the important business of reform, he undermined the potency and effect of his own message by unveiling a new—and controversial—set of principles guiding U.S. efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Specifically, the peace process principles he articulated constitute a major departure from long-standing U.S. policy. Not only did President Obama’s statement make no mention of the democracy-based benchmarks injected into this process by President Bush in his June 2002 Rose Garden speech (which might have been appropriate, given the overall theme of his speech), he even included significant departures from the “Clinton Parameters” presented to the parties by the then president in December 2000:

  • President Obama is the first sitting president to say that the final borders should be “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” (The Clinton Parameters—which, it is important to note, President Clinton officially withdrew before he left office—did not mention the 1967 borders, but did mention “swaps and other territorial arrangements.”) The Obama formulation concretizes a move away from four decades of U.S. policy based on UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967, which has always interpreted calls for an Israeli withdrawal to a “secure and recognized” border as not synonymous with the pre-1967 boundaries The idea of land swaps, which may very well be a solution that the parties themselves choose to pursue, sounds very different when endorsed by the president of the United States. In effect, it means that the U.S. view is that resolution of the territorial aspect of the conflict can only be achieved if Israel cedes territory it held even before the 1967 war.
  • Regarding IDF deployment, President Obama said that the Palestinian state should have borders with Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, and referred to the “full and phased” withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces. This statement implies categorical American opposition to any open-ended Israeli presence inside the future Palestinian state. This differs from the Clinton Parameters, which envisioned three Israeli “facilities” inside the West Bank, with no time limit on their presence.
  • Although the president noted that he was endorsing a borders-and-security-first approach, leaving the subjects of refugees and Jerusalem for future negotiations, this is an odd reading of the relevance of those two issues. For Palestinians, the refugee issue may be powerfully emotive, going to the core of Palestinian identity; for Israelis, however, it is as much an issue of security as ideology. For the president not to repeat previous U.S. government statements—e.g., that Palestinians will never see their right of return implemented through a return to Israel—is to raise expectations and inject doubt into a settled topic.

Perhaps more than anything else, the most surprising aspect of the president’s peace process statement was that it moved substantially toward the Palestinian position just days after the Palestinian Authority decided to seek unity and reconciliation with Hamas. Indeed, the president seemed nonplussed that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has opted for unity with Hamas, a group the United States views as a terrorist organization. This reconciliation with Hamas “raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel,” the president noted—but evidently not questions so profound and troubling to the United States that they would impede a shift in U.S. policy that advantages the Palestinians.

Also odd was the fact that the president offered no implementation mechanism to translate these ideas into real negotiations. He named no high-level successor to Sen. George Mitchell, the peace process envoy who just resigned, nor did he specifically call for the immediate renewal of negotiations.

Despite this absence of a new mechanism, the likely next step is for Palestinians to take up the president’s call, ask for renewal of negotiations on precisely the terms the president outlined—borders that are “based on the 1967 lines with mutual swaps,” with no reference to refugees or other issues on which the Palestinians would make major compromises—and wait for Israel to say no.

Now en route to Washington, Israeli prime minister Netanyahu has already issued a statement objecting to the president’s focus on the 1967 borders. The two leaders may find a way to blur their differences over the principles outlined today, given their partnership on strategic issues and mutual interest in political cooperation and amity. But the approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace enunciated today has within it the seeds of deepening tension and perhaps even rift between the two sides—the very distraction from the focus on democratic reform the president said he wanted to avoid.

(Robert Satloff is The Washington Institute’s executive director
and Howard P. Berkowitz chair in U.S. Middle East policy.
)

 

UNDERSTANDING OBAMA’S SHIFT ON ISRAEL AND THE ‘1967 LINES’
Glenn Kessler

Washington Post, May 20, 2011

 

“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”—President Obama, May 19, 2011

This sentence in President Obama’s much-anticipated speech on the Middle East caused much consternation Thursday among supporters of the Jewish state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will meet with Obama on Friday, adamantly rejected it.

For people not trained in the nuances of Middle East diplomacy, the sentence might appear unremarkable. However, many experts say it represents a significant shift in U.S. policy, and it is certainly a change for the Obama administration.

As is often the case with diplomacy, the context and the speaker are nearly as important as the words. Ever since the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, it has been clear that peace with the Palestinians would be achieved through some exchange of land for security. Indeed, Israelis and Palestinians have held several intensive negotiations that involved swapping lands along the Arab-Israeli dividing line that existed before the 1967 war—technically known as the Green Line, or the boundaries established by the 1949 Armistice agreements.

So, in many ways, it is not news that the eventual borders of a Palestinian state would be based on land swaps from the 1967 dividing line. But it makes a difference when the president of the United States says it, particularly in a carefully staged speech at the State Department. This then is not an off-the-cuff remark, but a carefully considered statement of U.S. policy.

Here is a tour through the diplomatic thicket, and how U.S. language on this issue has evolved over the years.

The Facts

The pre-1967 lines are important to both sides for setting the stage for eventual negotiations, but for vastly different reasons.

From an Israeli perspective, the de facto borders that existed before 1967 were not really borders, but an unsatisfactory, indefensible and temporary arrangement that even Arabs had not accepted. So Israeli officials do not want to be bound by those lines in any talks. From a Palestinian perspective, the pre-1967 division was a border between Israel and neighboring states and thus must be the starting point for negotiations involving land swaps. This way, they believe, the size of a future Palestinian state would end up to be—to the square foot—the exact size of the non-Israeli territories before the 1967 conflict. Palestinians would argue that even this is a major concession, since they believe all of the current state of Israel should belong to the Palestinians.

After the Six-Day War, the United Nations set the stage for decades of fitful peacemaking by issuing Resolution 242, which said that “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” should include the following principles:

1. Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.

2. Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.

Since the resolution did not say “the territories,” it has become a full-time employment act for generations of diplomats. Nevertheless, until Obama on Thursday, U.S. presidents generally have steered clear of saying the negotiations should start on the 1967 lines. Here is a sampling of comments by presidents or their secretaries of state, with some explanation or commentary.

“It is clear, however, that a return to the situation of 4 June 1967 will not bring peace. There must be secure and there must be recognized borders.”—President Lyndon Johnson, September 1968

“In the pre-1967 borders, Israel was barely ten miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel’s population lived within artillery range of hostile armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again.”—President Ronald Reagan, September 1, 1982

“Israel will never negotiate from or return to the 1967 borders.”—Secretary of State George Shultz, September 1988

Starting with President Lyndon Johnson, right after the Six-Day War, U.S. presidents often have shown great sympathy for Israel’s contention that the pre-1967 dividing line did not provide security.

“I think there can be no genuine resolution to the conflict without a sovereign, viable, Palestinian state that accommodates Israeli’s security requirements and the demographic realities. That suggests Palestinian sovereignty over Gaza, the vast majority of the West Bank, the incorporation into Israel of settlement blocks.… To make the agreement durable, I think there will have to be some territorial swaps and other arrangements.”—President Bill Clinton, January 7, 2001

In his waning weeks in office, Clinton laid out what are now known as the “Clinton parameters,” an attempt to sketch out a negotiating solution to create two states. His description of the parameters is very detailed, but he shied away from mentioning the 1967 lines even as he spoke of “territorial swaps.”

“In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”—Bush, letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, April 14, 2004

When Sharon agreed to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, Bush smoothed the deal by exchanging letters that supported the Israeli position that the 1967 lines were not a useful starting point. The letter infuriated Arabs, but it helped Sharon win domestic approval for the Gaza withdrawal. Interestingly, despite Israeli pleas, the Obama administration has refused to acknowledge the letter as binding on U.S. policy.

“We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”—Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nov. 25, 2009

When the Israeli government announced a partial settlement freeze, Clinton responded with a statement that specifically mentioned a state based on 1967 lines, but as a “Palestinian goal.” This was balanced with a description of an “Israeli goal.”

Originally, the Obama administration had hoped both sides would have agreed to acknowledge such goals as a starting point for negotiations—known in the diplomatic trade as “terms of reference.” When that effort failed, Clinton issued the concept in her own name. She would repeat the same sentence, almost word for word, many times over the next 1½ years.

The Bottom Line

In the context of this history, Obama’s statement Thursday represented a major shift. He did not articulate the 1967 boundaries as a “Palestinian goal” but as U.S. policy. He also dropped any reference to “realities on the ground”—code for Israeli settlements—that both Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton had used. He further suggested that Israel’s military would need to agree to leave the West Bank.

Obama did not go all the way and try to define what his statement meant for the disputed city of Jerusalem, or attempt to address the issue of Palestinians who want to return to lands now in the state of Israel. He said those issues would need to be addressed after borders and security are settled. But, for a U.S. president, the explicit reference to the 1967 lines represented crossing the Rubicon.

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S MISTAKE
Alan M. Dershowitz
Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2011

 

President Barack Obama should be commended for his emphasis on Israel’s security and his concern about Hamas joining the Palestinian Authority without renouncing its violent charter. But he made one serious mistake that tilts the balance against Israel in any future negotiations. Without insisting that the Palestinians give up their absurd claim to have millions of supposed refugees “return” to Israel as a matter of right, he insisted that Israel must surrender all of the areas captured in its defensive war of 1967, subject only to land swaps.

This formulation undercuts Security Council Resolution 242 (which I played a very small role in helping to draft). Resolution 242, passed unanimously by the Security Council in the wake of Israel’s 1967 victory, contemplated some territorial adjustments necessary to assure Israel’s security against future attacks. It also contemplated that Israel would hold onto the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem and the access roads to Hebrew University, without the need for any land swaps. Land swaps would only be required to make up for any areas beyond those contemplated by Resolution 242. The Obama formulation would seem to require land swaps even for the Western Wall.

Any proposed peace agreement will require the Palestinians to give up the so-called right of return, which is designed not for family reunification, but rather to turn Israel into another Palestinian state with an Arab majority. As all reasonable people know, the right of return is a non-starter. It is used as a “card” by the Palestinian leadership who fully understand that they will have to give it up if they want real peace.… Obama’s mistake was to insist that Israel give up its card without demanding that the Palestinians give up theirs.

Obama’s mistake is a continuation of a serious mistake he made early in his administration. That first mistake was to demand that Israel freeze all settlements. The Palestinian Authority had not demanded that as a condition to negotiations. But once the President of the United States issued such a demand, the Palestinian leadership could not be seen by its followers as being less Palestinian than the President. In other words, President Obama made it more difficult for the Palestinian leadership to be reasonable. Most objective observers now recognize Obama’s serious mistake in this regard. What is shocking is that he has done it again. By demanding that Israel surrender all the territories it captured in the 1967 war (subject only to land swaps) without insisting that the Palestinians surrender their right of return, the President has gone further than Palestinian negotiators had during various prior negotiations. This makes it more difficult for the Palestinian leadership to be reasonable in their negotiations with the Israelis.

It is not too late for the President to “clarify” his remarks so that all sides understand that there must be quid for quo—that the Palestinians must surrender any right to return if the Israelis are expected to seriously consider going back to the 1967 lines (which Abba Eban called “the Auschwitz lines” because they denied Israel real security).

If President Obama is to play a positive role in bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis to the negotiating table, he should insist that there be no preconditions to negotiation. This would mean the Palestinians no longer insisting on a settlement freeze before they will even sit down to try to negotiate realistic borders. The President did not even ask the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Nor did he ask them to drop the condition that he, in effect, made them adopt when he earlier insisted on the freeze.

The President missed an important opportunity in delivering his highly anticipated speech. We are no closer to negotiations now than we were before the speech. My fear is that we may be a bit further away as a result of the President’s one-sided insistence that Israel surrender territories without the Palestinians giving up the right of return. I hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington may increase the chances of meaningful negotiations. I wish I could be more optimistic but the President’s speech gave no cause for optimism.…

 

WHAT SHOULD NETANYAHU SAY?
Jerold S. Auerbach
American Thinker, May 20, 2011

 

Next Tuesday, four days after he meets with President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu will address Congress. With Israel now confronting a triple-security threat that leaves the country more vulnerable than at any time since the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, it is imperative for the Israeli leader to stand firm.

Netanyahu’s planned “peace initiative” has been undermined by recent events. With its peace treaty with Egypt fraying since Mubarak’s forced departure, Gaza will surely become a Hamas arsenal. Reconciliation between Hamas, sworn to Israel’s destruction, and the Palestinian Authority, too weak to resist, will trap Israel between Palestinian pincers in Gaza and the West Bank. Looming in September is United Nations recognition of Palestinian statehood, another step in that organization’s persistent delegitimization of Israel.

Pressure continues to mount, from the international community and from the Obama administration, for Israel to relinquish the West Bank for a Palestinian state—and, presumably, “peace.” That is a delusion.

It is time for Netanyahu, in his address to Congress, to decisively reject the seductive but menacing mantra of “land for peace.” His recent declaration that the Palestinian Authority can have peace with Israel or with Hamas, but not both, was reassuring. His conditions for peace, recently outlined to the Knesset, sounded firm: Palestinian recognition of Israel; its refugee problem to be solved outside Israel’s borders; settlement blocs to remain part of Israel, with Jerusalem as its united capital. But they are insufficient.

The West Bank mountain ridge forms the major land barrier against an attack from the east that could decimate the coastal plain (including Tel Aviv), where 70 percent of Israelis live. The widely despised Jewish settlements located there are not the primary obstacle to peace; enduring Arab hostility to a Jewish state is. Between 1948 and 1967, there were no settlements—and still no peace.

The prime minister might use his opportunity to remind the world that the West Bank, biblical Judea and Samaria, is the biblical homeland of the Jewish people. Two thousand years of ancient Jewish history unfolded there. If there is Jewish land anywhere in the world, it is there.

Until after the Six-Day War, however, this land was Judenrein. Only then, following yet another failed Arab attempt to annihilate the Jewish state, could Jews return to live in their historical homeland. More than 300,000 Israelis have done so. Surrounding settlements with a Palestinian state will destroy them and undermine Israeli security. The alternative—Israeli expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews who live outside the settlement blocs—is no better.

Finally, given relentless international efforts to delegitimize Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu might remind critics that Jewish settlement, protected by international guarantees ever since 1922, is fully consistent with international law.

The League of Nations Mandate then cited “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the legitimacy of grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” After Great Britain lopped off three-quarters of Palestine for Trans-Jordan (the first Palestinian state), Jews were assured the right of “close settlement” in the remaining land west of the Jordan River. That right has never been rescinded.

Article 80 of the United Nations Charter explicitly protected the rights of “any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.” Drafted in 1945 by Jewish legal representatives (including Ben-Zion Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s father), it preserved the rights of the Jewish people to settle in all the land west of the Jordan River.

Settlement critics often cite Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, adopted in 1949 in the shadow of the Holocaust, as a restriction on settlement. They are mistaken. Drafted to prevent a repetition of the forced Nazi and Soviet deportations of civilian populations, it declared that an “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

This provision has no applicability to Jewish settlements. Neither during nor since the Six-Day War did Israel “deport” Palestinians from the West Bank or “transfer” Israelis there. Settlers acted on their own volition to restore a Jewish presence in the Jewish homeland—precisely as Zionist kibbutzniks had earlier done in the Galilee and Negev.…

Prime Minister Netayahu’s speech should be framed with reminders of these international guarantees, the historic Jewish attachment to the Land of Israel, and the menacing security situation that Israel will confront should its ancient homeland be abandoned. The consequences for Israel of surrendering its legitimate security and its historic and internationally guaranteed land claims would be dire, if not fatal.…

Netanyahu’s willingness to [compromise] Jewish land, first demonstrated when he capitulated to Clinton administration demands under the Oslo II Accords, is a disturbing harbinger. Last year he acceded to President Obama’s insistence on a ten-month freeze on settlement construction—in return for nothing. Even after the freeze expired, with no discernible Palestinian willingness to resume peace negotiations, Netanyahu tacitly acquiesced to its continuation.

Appeasement paved the way for one horrific Jewish tragedy. It is imperative for Israel’s Prime Minister to state, clearly and unequivocally, that the Jewish state will not become another Czechoslovakia, sacrificed by “friends” to please its enemies. Clinging to the fantasy of land for peace can only deepen Israel’s alarming vulnerability.

(Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Brothers at War: Israel and the Tragedy of the Altalena.)

SEPTEMBER SHOWDOWN AT THE UN: ISRAEL VS. WORLD—WILL “PALESTINE” PREVAIL?

 

 

 

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PUTTING THE UN IN PERSPECTIVE
Herb Keinon
Jerusalem Post, April 13, 2011

 

For years, the Likud and the Right have been accused of fear-mongering, of playing upon the country’s real security concerns to turn their backs on peace. Time and time again [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu…has been accused of exaggerating the threats facing the country in order to avoid making concessions to the Palestinians. Many were the times he was mocked before Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza for saying that rockets would fall on Ashdod and Ashkelon if the IDF withdrew.…

Forget for a moment that many of the nightmare scenarios, such as the rockets on Ashkelon, have transpired; the Right is not the only part of the country’s political map that can spread fear. These days it is coming from the Left (and also from some in the Center), in the form of doomsday scenarios bandied about over what will happen if the UN General Assembly passes a resolution in September that recognizes a Palestinian state.

One argument gaining currency is that if the UN General Assembly does indeed recognize a Palestinian state, then the minute it does so the 600,000 Israelis living in east Jerusalem and the West Bank will, under international law, be considered to be occupiers of another UN state, and international consequences in the form of sanctions are sure to be harsh and swift. But this is overwrought. Since the conquest of the Golan Heights in 1967, Israel has been viewed by the international community as occupying the territory of another country. Yet Israel was not ostracized, nor were sanctions leveled against it.…

But whether the General Assembly will recognize a Palestinian state in September is in itself a “big if.” And any UN move must be measured on three levels: What the declaration itself might say, what operational steps it will call for, and what are the implications of such a resolution.

First of all, it is not clear what a resolution to recognize a Palestinian state will say. Since General Assembly resolutions are primarily political and symbolic in nature, the Palestinians historically have wanted to have as broad a majority of states on board as possible. The Palestinians in the past have not aimed for resolutions that would push away the European countries, but rather have sought the lowest common denominator that would keep countries like Britain, France and Germany on board.

What happens often is that the Palestinians bring a resolution, the Europeans propose a counter-resolution, and after a great deal of diplomatic haggling, a middle ground is hashed out. [Accordingly], on the recognition question, the Palestinians will have to determine how far they can go without losing Europe. As a result, the resolution that may, in the final analysis, come to the General Assembly is likely to be much milder than many people fear, simply because many in the EU are unlikely to support a Palestinian declaration recognizing a Palestinian state as-is, within the 1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital, without being able to ensure Palestinian control over that territory.…

Regarding operational significance, UN General Assembly resolutions are largely political and symbolic, with ramifications solely inside the UN system. A recognition-of-statehood resolution could call for an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice, as was done in 2004 when the GA sent [Israel’s decision to construct a] security barrier to The Hague. The ICJ ruled against Israel, but the fence still remains.

Under the UN Charter, to become a member state, a new nation needs a Security Council resolution, and a two-third majority inside the GA. It is highly unlikely the US would let such a resolution through the Security Council, so the Palestinians would be left with the General Assembly majority.

In this scenario the Palestinian hope is that this would give them full rights as a state within the UN system, including recognition of the prohibition of the use of force against it. But even the UN recognizes the right of self-defense, which means Israel would have legal rights to respond to attacks coming from Palestinian territory.

Regarding sanctions, the General Assembly can recommend sanctions, but this would not be legally binding on anyone. In 1981, when the UN General Assembly recommended sanctions against South Africa to promote Namibian independence, these sanctions were largely adopted because the world saw South Africa as illegitimate and was interested in those types of sanctions. That is not our case regarding Israel.

Outside of settlement goods, there is no real conversation in Europe at this time about a wholesale sanctioning of Israel. While the idea has some traction on the radical Left and in college campuses, the governments of the world’s democracies—despite all the Israel Apartheid Weeks—are not there.…

Furthermore, the General Assembly can’t force Israel to withdraw. It’s important to remember that the UN doesn’t create states, it recognizes them. On this note it is a bit ironic that the Arabs, who in 1947 rejected the UN vote in favor of the partition and then attacked the fledgling Jewish state, are now looking to that same body as the moral authority for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The true question revolves around the consequences of this move beyond the UN context.… Such a declaration would be an energizer for those seeking to marginalize Israel, and would illustrate the degree to which the world wants one thing, and Israel something else.

Recognition of statehood would make a return to negotiations much more difficult, empowering the false idea that an imposed solution can take the place of an agreed-upon one, and changing the whole “negotiation” trajectory of the diplomatic process of the past two decades.

And, finally, such a move could possibly prompt another popular Palestinian uprising.

But even with all that in mind, one should still keep an honest eye on what it is exactly that the UN General Assembly can and cannot do, and not exaggerate the impact of a GA resolution.

 

IMPENDING ‘DIPLOMATIC TSUNAMI’ IS GREATLY EXAGGERATED
E. Kontorovich
Jerusalem Post, April 11, 2011

 

The Palestinian Authority’s declared intention of seeking admission to the United Nations from the General Assembly would be considered a triumph for the Palestinians and would ostensibly put Israel in instant legal and diplomatic jeopardy if it does not promptly withdraw to the armistice lines of 1949. But these assumptions give the possible GA vote far more significance and legitimacy than it deserves.

First, the General Assembly can only admit states upon the recommendation of the Security Council, where an American veto appears to block the way. In the absence of such a recommendation, seeking recognition from the GA resolution is at best a legal nullity, and a mockery of the procedures enshrined in the UN Charter.

Even within the scope of its role in admitting new members, the GA only has the power to admit states, not the power to create or determine members’ borders. (That role, within the UN system, would fall to the International Court of Justice or the Security Council). The Security Council has already determined in Resolution 242, adopted in the wake of the Six Day War, that Israel need not return all of the land it took from various Arab states in that conflict. Certainly the GA cannot overrule the Security Council. Moreover, one of the first opinions of the Court held that decisions about membership cannot be leveraged to push other substantive agendas. Thus it is meaningless to speak of the GA recognizing Palestine with any particular set of borders. Just as the GA had no binding role to play in 1947, when it came out in favor of a partition of the Palestine Mandate, it can no more enforce partition now.

Another major fallacy contends that the GA’s recognition of a Palestinian state within all of the Green Line would automatically make Israel an international outlaw, because it would be occupying some of that territory. Palestinian leaders dramatically claim that Israel would be in “daily violation” of the GA resolution. If the GA’s resolutions controlled Israel’s legitimacy, it would long have ceased to exist within any borders. The international parliament in 1975 famously adopted its “Zionism equals racism” resolution, condemning the very project of a Jewish state in the Middle East within any borders. Yet the endorsement of the idea by an overwhelming vote of the GA did not make it real or true, and the resolution was eventually rescinded, the only GA measure to meet such a fate.

Even if Palestine were properly admitted to the UN, the occupation of territory within the internationally recognized borders of a UN member by another member is not uncommon. It does not result in condemnation, boycotts or even any attention. For example, Turkey occupies half of Cyprus; Russia occupies several sections of Georgia, Moldova and other former Soviet states. And that is just tranquil Europe. Indeed, Russia significantly expanded its occupation and colonization of Georgia in the war two years ago, yet it remains an erstwhile member of the Middle East Quartet. Even if a Palestinian state were announced by the GA, conflict would exist only over a small portion of the territory. Because of the Oslo process, which turned half of the West Bank over to Palestinian control, and the 2005 disengagement, which took all Israeli troops and civilians out of Gaza, Israel’s central demands now involve sovereignty over settlements, which make up a small percentage of the total area. A Palestinian state would join the long list of states that have unresolved border disputes with neighbors. None of these situations results in a diplomatic tsunami.

To be sure, GA recognition of Palestine may be turned into an occasion for further demonizing and isolating the Jewish state. But that would not be the obvious and natural effect of such a resolution. It would simply be the illegitimate use to which Israel’s critics and enemies may choose to put it, a use that has nothing to do with international law or neutral principles. Those nations and organizations willing to jump on such a hollow excuse for a diplomatic assault on Israel have clearly already made up their minds.

Delegitimization by the UN can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. When friends of Israel fret about delegitimization by the GA, they unwittingly give the body more power than it has.

(The writer is a professor of law at Northwestern University,
specializing in international and constitutional law.
)

 

ISRAEL MUST NOT SUCCUMB TO FALSE DIPLOMATIC ALARMS
Moshe Arens
Haaretz, April 12, 2011

 

Anyone who has helped design alarms and early warning systems knows the phenomenon of false alarms. They bedevil both the developers and those who are supposed to be protected by the system. The systems being put in place to warn of oncoming “tsunamis” are also affected by this false alarm syndrome. The more sensitive the system, the more likely it is to sound the alarm when there is nothing to actually be alarmed about. Israel has its own tsunami warning system—and it is none other than our defense minister, [Ehud Barak], who has already sounded the alarm.

According to him, Israel will be hit by a political tsunami in September. His warning bell is being echoed by many who demand the government launch a daring initiative before it is too late, before the tsunami hits us. But they have a pleasant surprise awaiting them: Israel will still be here in September, and for many many months to come.…

States have never been created by UN declarations and never will be. For those who have forgotten, Israel was not created by UN resolution 181 in November 1947, but by David Ben-Gurion’s declaration of Israeli independence on May 15, 1948 and by the IDF’s ability to take and control the areas of the new state.

A UN declaration, whether at the Security Council or the General Assembly, recognizing a Palestinian state within the borders of the April 1949 armistice lines with Jordan, with Jerusalem as its capital, will be no more effective than Security Council resolution 1701, which prohibited Hezbollah from military operations in southern Lebanon, or General Assembly resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism.

If this latest declaration is actually passed, it will merely serve as another reminder of the impotence of the United Nations and its irrelevance when it comes to dealing with international conflicts. The U.S. government must surely be aware of this.

All this brouhaha about the coming tsunami skirts the fundamental issues preventing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Namely, that such an agreement must constitute the end of the conflict, and that the Palestinian signatories to the agreement must be capable of assuring that no acts of terror will be launched from territories that Israel turns over as part of the agreement.

The current Palestinian spokesman, or president if you like, Mahmoud Abbas, is not capable of satisfying either of these conditions. At best, he represents only half of the Palestinians, and regardless of what commitments he undertakes, Hamas and other Islamic jihadists will have plenty of additional claims on Israel even after Abbas signs an agreement. His control over areas in Judea and Samaria is limited at best, and he certainly cannot be relied on to prevent acts of terror against Israel from those areas Israel would withdraw from.

Until the Palestinians get their act together, there seems little chance of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. That is the sad truth, and no amount of theatrics by Abbas, and maneuvering by the Quartet, the United States and the United Nations, or all of them in concert, will change that. That is what Israeli spokesmen should be explaining to everyone—friends, do-gooders and enemies alike.…

The important thing is to stay calm, not press the panic button, and not listen to those familiar faces who reappear every now and then with a new-old initiative suggesting that Israel announce it is prepared to withdraw to the “‘67 borders.” And to not make any hasty, half-baked statements under the illusion that they will appease those applying pressure on Israel.… Only when it is clear that the Israeli government is standing firm on its positions will the pressure on Israel be relaxed.

(Mr. Moshe Arens is a former Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, and has served
as Israeli Defense Minister on three occasions. Mr. Arens will be the keynote speake
 at CIJR’s upcoming Gala, scheduled for Wednesday, June 15, 2011.)

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, April 13, 2011

 

Dear Mr. President,

During your recent meeting with American Jewish communal leaders, you reassured them of “America’s unshakable support for Israel’s security, opposition to any effort to delegitimize it or single it out for criticisms, and commitment to achieve a peace that will secure the future for Arabs and Israelis alike.” Moreover, you reaffirmed your undertaking to keep US military aid at its current high levels.

On the eve of Pessah, when we celebrate our freedom from bondage, permit me to explain why, despite such assurances, most Israelis still harbor profound anxiety about your attitude toward our security.

I preface this with a reference to your disturbing remarks at the meeting, when you urged them to “search your souls” over whether Israel is genuinely serious about peace, and called on them to encourage us to take “bold steps.” Many of us consider such remarks as exemplifying the moral equivalence you consistently apply to our defensive actions in relation to terror attacks, and your penchant for condemning us while largely ignoring Palestinian intransigency.

You appear to have endorsed the Arab narrative, which ignores the fact that it was the Jewish state that suffered aggression from its neighbors preceding the ‘67 war. You also seem to disregard the fact that the vast majority of Israelis today—including our prime minister—have no desire to rule over Arabs, and would dearly like to separate from them.

We may debate the amount of land beyond the 1949 armistice lines that Resolution 242 entitles us to retain, but the discussion is over minor percentages. Besides, two prime ministers offered the Palestinians over 90 percent of these territories—and were rebuffed.

Today our region is undergoing unprecedented upheaval. For years we have been confronting a xenophobic, Islamic Iran, on the eve of achieving nuclear status, which repeatedly declares its intention to wipe us off the face of the world. Now the entire Arab world is in the throes of revolutionary turmoil. But far from emerging as free societies, new Arab regimes may prove to be even more committed to radical Islam than their corrupt predecessors. We fear that we will again be surrounded by fanatical rejectionist states committed to our destruction.

In this context, Mr. President, Israelis ask: What do you really expect of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government? Bear in mind that unilateral withdrawal from Gaza led to increased missile attacks. And since your election, Israel has made all the concessions. Last year, under enormous pressure from you, Netanyahu took the unprecedented step of imposing a 10-month freeze on settlement construction, even in areas that will unquestionably remain part of Israel. He also committed the government to endorsing a two-state solution—a major policy reversal in his Likud party.

In contrast, beyond making duplicitous statements—concealed from their constituents—endorsing peace, the Palestinian leaders remained utterly intransigent, unwilling to compromise on a single issue, even refusing to negotiate. In fact, following Al Jazeera disclosures of compromises allegedly reached during negotiations with prime minister Ehud Olmert, the PA leaders blatantly denied having offered any concessions. Surely this suggests that when negotiating with Olmert, Abbas was either duplicitous or conscious that brainwashing his constituents to hate us had been so effective that any genuine Palestinian accommodation was inconceivable.…

Besides, the PA has been adamant in its refusal to recognize us as a Jewish state. Indeed, whereas 20% of the population of Israel consists of Arab and Muslim citizens, our “moderate peace partner” has proclaimed that a Palestinian state would be judenrein, insisting that he would not tolerate the presence of a single Jew. Mr. President, can you ignore such blatantly racist remarks from a leader you repeatedly refer to as a moderate peace partner? Many of us believe that the principal objective of Abbas, like his Hamas kinsmen, is still the dissolution of Jewish sovereignty; that he is merely employing Yasser Arafat’s tactics of extracting unilateral concessions and attempting to dismantle us in stages.

However, even if we accept your premise that Abbas is genuinely willing to make peace, can you, seriously visualize him having the power to deliver? Besides, you are aware that Hamas is a genocidal organization, committed to killing all Jews. Yet the man you insist is a moderate peace partner unequivocally repeats his desire to merge his PA with these Islamic psychopaths. Is it reasonable to expect us to support the creation of a neighboring state in which a dominant group remains proudly committed to our destruction?…

And finally, Mr. President…when you urge your Jewish constituents to press Israel to make further unilateral concessions, it epitomizes the concerns we share about your inability to appreciate the perils we face. It also fuels our fear that you are contemplating further pressure on us to retreat behind the 1949 armistice lines—which would endanger our very existence.

I urge you to reinstate the principles outlined by the Bush administration. I refer to US rejection of the right of return for Palestinian refugees; recognition of demographic changes in relation to the major settlement blocs, not seeking to impose a return to the 1949 armistice lines; and support for defensible Israeli borders.

I believe I echo the vast majority of my fellow Israelis when I appeal to you to provide us with the confidence to move forward by taking these elements into account and review your current policy.

ISRAEL HAS BEEN PROMISED “DEFENSIBLE BORDERS”!— WILL THE WORLD FULFILL ITS COMMITMENT?

 

 

 

ISRAEL’S REQUIREMENTS FOR DEFENSIBLE BORDERS
IN A RAPIDLY CHANGING MIDDLE EAST
Dore Gold
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, April 5, 2011

 

Prepared Statement before the Foreign Affairs Committee
of the U.S. House of Representatives

 

Israel is entering an extremely dangerous period in the year ahead. It is not facing an imminent military attack, but rather is confronting a new diplomatic assault that could well strip it of the territorial defenses in the West Bank that have provided for its security for over forty years. This applies particularly to its formidable eastern barrier in the Jordan Valley, which, if lost, would leave Israel eight or nine miles wide and in a very precarious position against the threats that are likely to emerge to its east, in the years ahead.

Traditional U.S. policy indeed recognized that Israel is not expected to withdraw from all the territories it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. This was enshrined in the language of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which was the basis of successive peace treaties between Israel and the Arab states. This key element of Resolution 242 also appeared in repeated letters of assurance to Israel by U.S. secretaries of state from Henry Kissinger to Warren Christopher. In 1988, Secretary of State George Shultz reiterated: “Israel will never negotiate from, or return to the lines of partition or to the 1967 borders.”

More recently, the April 14, 2004, presidential letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also spoke explicitly about Israel’s right to “defensible borders” and to the need of it being able to defend itself by itself. The latter point implicitly acknowledged Israel’s doctrine of self-reliance, by which the Israel Defense Forces were to guarantee Israel’s survival and not international troops or even NATO. Two months later, that letter was confirmed by massive bipartisan majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Significantly, it also ruled out the notion that Israel would be expected to withdraw in the West Bank to the 1967 lines, which were only armistice lines, and not internationally recognized borders.…

Yet today, Britain, France, and Germany are lobbying for a radically new Middle Eastern initiative with the UN Secretariat and the European Union, which, along with the U.S. and Russia, are members of the Middle East Quartet. What they are proposing is that the Quartet detail already the outlines of an Israeli-Palestinian treaty with the hope that international endorsement of key Palestinian demands, like borders, will prompt Mahmoud Abbas to return to negotiations with Israel. The Quartet will have to make a decision about this proposal, perhaps as early as April 15.

But Britain, France, and Germany are not just acting as facilitators, for they are insisting that Israel must accept an agreement on borders based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War. This was confirmed in public by British Foreign Secretary William Hague last week during an address at Chatham House in London, where he reiterated these terms. In Washington, there have been both public and private efforts underway to press President Barack Obama to join the Europeans and issue his own blueprint for Israel’s future borders, based on the same territorial parameters. It is only known that the Obama administration has neither embraced nor renounced the 2004 U.S. letter to Israel concerning its right to “defensible borders.”

Amazingly, these new demands of Israel, which would be problematic in any event, are being proposed at the worst possible time, that is, precisely when the entire Middle East looks like it is engulfed in flames. Rebellions against central governments have been spreading from Yemen to Syria, as well as from Egypt to Bahrain. This will hopefully lead in the long-term to accountable and democratic governments. But in the short- and medium-term, the results could be highly destabilizing and bring to power far more radical forces that could seek renewed conflict.

In fact, on March 22, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted in an interview in the Washington Post: “I think we should be alert to the fact that outcomes are not predetermined and that it’s not necessarily the case that everything has a happy ending.…We are in dark territory and nobody knows what the outcome will be.”

What this means is that just as Israel faces complete strategic uncertainty with regard to the future of the Middle East, it is being asked to acquiesce to unprecedented concessions that could put its very future at risk. This is clearly misguided advice.

First, how can Israel be expected to sign agreements, predicated on it withdrawing from strategic territories, like the Jordan Valley, when it cannot be certain if the governments it negotiated with will even be there in the future?

Look what is happening in Egypt after the fall of President Mubarak, where senior political figures are already saying that they will have to re-examine the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace. No one can provide a guarantee to Israel that the regimes ruling today in Syria, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia will not be overthrown. In the West Bank, the regime of Mahmoud Abbas remains in power largely due to the deployment of the Israel Defense Forces throughout the area and their counter-terrorist operations against Hamas and its allies. Were Israel to pull out of the West Bank, under present circumstances, it could not depend on Abbas remaining, regardless of what is happening to Arab regimes today across the region. In short, the degree of strategic uncertainty for Israel, given current political trends around it, has increased sharply.…

The pressures Israel faces at this time to agree to a full withdrawal from the West Bank and to acquiesce to the loss of defensible borders pose unacceptable risks for the Jewish state. It also stands in contradiction to the international commitments that were given to Israel in the past. These recognized that Israel did not have to agree to a full withdrawal from this territory. Additionally, the 1993 Oslo Agreements envisioned a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Borders were to be decided by the parties themselves and not be imposed by international coalitions or by unilateral acts.

In fact, those commitments to a negotiated solution of the conflict appeared explicitly in the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement. Notably, that agreement bears the signatures of President Bill Clinton, and officials from the European Union and Russia, who acted as formal witnesses. What is clear today is that the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas has no interest in a negotiated solution to its conflict with Israel. It prefers to see the international community impose territorial terms that are to its advantage without having to formally declare an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict and without having to recognize the rights of the Jewish people to a nation-state of their own.

The idea that the Quartet would dictate to Israel the 1967 lines and set the stage for an imposed solution serves this Palestinian interest, but not the interest of achieving real peace. European support for such initiatives would contravene the very peace agreements they signed in the past as witnesses. It would set the stage for further Palestinian unilateralist initiatives at the UN in September and deal a virtually fatal blow to any negotiations.

Finally, it must be added that the people of Israel have undergone a traumatic decade and a half. For the most part, they passionately embraced the promise of the 1993 Oslo Agreements and yet, instead of peace, they saw their cities attacked repeatedly by waves of suicide bombers that left over 1,000 Israelis dead. They still considered taking further risks and supported unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, only to find that there was a five-fold increase in rocket fire against Israeli population centers in the year that followed. Longer-range rockets poured into Hamas-controlled Gaza, as Iran exploited the vacuum created by Israel’s withdrawal.

The people of Israel have an inalienable right to security and to certainty that the mistakes of the last seventeen years will not be repeated. The full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip must not be attempted again in the West Bank, especially given what is happening today across the Middle East region. For those reasons, Israel must not be asked to concede its right to defensible borders.

 

WILL THE U.S., THE U.N., AND THE PALESTINIANS
RENEGE ON PRIOR AGREEMENTS?
Jennifer Rubin

Washington Post, April 5, 2011

 

Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and adviser to multiple prime ministers, held a two-hour on-the-record lunch with journalists, former U.S. government officials and think-tank scholars. Gold previewed his testimony today before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and emphasized some key, if underreported, facts.

He began by debunking the mantra that at Camp David “we were never so close to peace” (or its other incarnation—“everyone knows what the final deal will be”). Former Clinton officials and a cottage industry of peace processors seemed determined to propagate the idea that if only Bill Clinton had hung in there a few more weeks, we’d have had peace. This is false. Gold said that at a December 2000 cabinet meeting under Ehud Barak, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said the deal would be “a threat to the vital interests of Israel.” Moreover, the Palestinians never gave up the right of return or the cessation of war against Israel.

Gold also hammered home the point that settlements and “land swaps” are entirely beside the point. The public debate, he said, has boiled down to “how many settlers can I fit on the head of a pin”—in other words , how to maximize the number of settlers in the smallest space. This is wrong and misguided, Gold said.

The real issue is whether the United States, its Quartet partners, the United Nations and Russia will live up to the commitment made in U.N. Resolution 242 (which provided for “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and theirright to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force”) and by presidents of both parties to ensure that Israel has defensible borders. The U.N. commitment to secure borders was reiterated by the Clinton administration in a January 1997 letter from then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher to the Israeli prime minister:

“Mr. Prime Minister, you can be assured that the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad and constitutes the fundamental cornerstone of our special relationship. The key element in our approach to peace…has always been a recognition of Israel’s security requirements.… Finally, I would like to reiterate our position that Israel is entitled to secure and defensible borders, which should be directly negotiated and agreed with its neighbors.”

That promise was repeated in an April 14, 2004, letter from President George W. Bush to the Israeli prime minister: “…The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.… As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.…”

These commitments were made as part of the U.S. inducement to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to put forth the Gaza disengagement plan and to agree to withdraw some military installations and settlements in the West Bank. It was acommitment by the U.S. government that was in keeping with bipartisan U.S. policy. Moreover, Gold pointed out that this arrangement was endorsed by both houses of Congress. The House voted 407-9. In the Senate the vote was 95-3. Voting to back the April 14 letter were, among others, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.). The Obama administration has repeatedly refused to indicate whether it is repudiating or standing by that commitment.…

So the issue remains: Will the United States insist that all parties live up to their commitments or will the United States publicly or privately push for concessions that violate U.N. resolutions, Palestinian commitments and U.S. obligations?…

It goes without saying that the Obama presidency has been a disaster for Israel. But it is not too late for Israel and friends of Israel to push back and insist that the United States not violate international law.

 

RICHARD GOLDSTONE AND PALESTINIAN STATEHOOD
Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, April 4, 2011

 

Richard Goldstone’s repudiation of the eponymous blood libel he authored in 2009 provides a number of lessons about the nature of the political war against the Jewish state and how we must act if we are to defeat it. Learning these lessons is an urgent task as we approach the next phase of the war to delegitimize us.

By all accounts, that phase will culminate in September at the UN General Assembly’s annual conclave in New York. As America marks the 10th anniversary of the September 11 jihadist attacks, the Palestinian Authority’s well-publicized plan to achieve UN recognition of a Palestinian state in all of Judea, Samaria, Gaza and northern, southern and eastern Jerusalem will reach its denouement.…

Over the past year or so since this new Palestinian plan to delegitimize Israel began coming into view, a swelling chorus of doom and gloomers has warned that if the General Assembly recognizes “Palestine”…it will be a disaster. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has called it a “diplomatic-political tsunami.” The New York Times claimed Sunday that it “could place Israel into a diplomatic vise” as “Israel would be occupying land belonging to a fellow United Nations member.…”

Certainly it is true that we will not benefit from such a UN action. But the fears being sown by the likes of Barak and Haaretz columnists are overwrought. The fact is that while acceptance of “Palestine” as a UN member state will be a blow, it will mark an escalation not a qualitative departure from the basic challenges we have been facing for years.…

As we approach the September deadline, the question we need to consider is what the concrete consequences of Palestinian membership in the UN would be? What new anti-Israel activities will international organizations and states engage in following such a move? And how can we meet those challenges? In general, the acceptance of “Palestine” will present us with new threats from three different actors: the International Criminal Court, the EU and the US.

If “Palestine” is accepted as a UN member nation, we have been warned, it will join the International Criminal Court and file war crimes complaints against us. While this is probably true, the fact is that even without the prerequisite UN membership, the Palestinians have already filed war crimes complaints against us at the ICC. Although “Palestine” must already be a state for the ICC to entertain the complaints, it has not rejected them.

But two can play this game. Say “Palestine” joins the ICC. Even if Israel remains outside the treaty, it can use its membership against it. Both Fatah and Hamas have committed innumerable war crimes. Every terrorist murder and attempted murder, every missile, mortar shell and rocket fired is a separate war crime. And every terror victim has the right to file war crimes complaints against “Palestine” with the ICC prosecutor.

As to the Europeans, the fact is that they have already joined the Arab onslaught on the international diplomatic stage and they have already imposed limited economic sanctions. They have set aside negotiations on upgrading the EU-Israel Economic Association Agreement. Several EU member states have unofficially enacted trade boycotts. Britain, for instance, implemented an unofficial arms embargo several years ago.

Looking ahead, we need to consider how they may escalate their hostile behavior and develop plans to minimize the damage Europeans can cause the economy.… As the 18 years since Oslo have shown, begging Europeans for mercy on the basis of concessions to the Palestinians is a losing strategy. Europe is not interested in displaying mercy toward the Jewish state, and it does not view any concessions as sufficient. But Europe does respond to power politics. With India now producing cars and Israel developing its own natural gas and shale oil fields, it is the job of the government and business leaders to make the Europeans think long and hard about how willing they will be to alienate our consumers and businesses.

This brings us to the US. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s greatest fear is that President Barack Obama will fail to veto a Security Council resolution recommending General Assembly approval of Palestinian membership in the UN. The gloom and doomers advise the premier the only way to avert this prospect is to render such a resolution superfluous by preemptively capitulating to all of Obama’s demands.

Obama has let it be known that he expects Netanyahu to announce his surrender in an address before both Houses of Congress in May. And this makes sense from his perspective. If Netanyahu gives a speech before Congress in which he effectively embraces Obama’s anti-Israel positions as his own, he would make it practically impossible for Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates to criticize those policies.…

Netanyahu’s best bet [then] is not to ask Obama for favors. Since the General Assembly will likely approve Palestinian membership even if the US does veto a Security Council resolution, Obama’s ability to prevent the gambit is limited. And the price he wants to exact for a veto is prohibitive.

And this brings us back to Richard Goldstone. His repudiation of his own report did not happen in a vacuum. Goldstone’s admission Friday that his report’s central conclusion—that Israel committed war crimes in its campaign against Hamas in Gaza—was wrong is a case study in how we must contend with difficult political challenges if we are to emerge victorious in the political war. The fate of Goldstone and his report hold several vital lessons for our leaders.

The first lesson then is never to surrender or give any quarter to lies. We greeted Goldstone’s mendacious report on Operation Cast Lead with justified indignation and furor and never backed down. In the face of the massive international pressure that followed his presentation of his lies, we stood our ground. Our behavior denied Goldstone and his cronies the ability to portray his mendacious report as the unvarnished truth. Because of this reaction, from the beginning it was clear that its findings were at best dubious.

The second lesson is that the government must hold firm. In the Internet age when everyone can have a say, the most important commodity a person can have is legitimacy. The government confers legitimacy on its defenders and so empowers them to take action. If the government had capitulated to Goldstone, half the voices attacking his blood libel would probably have never spoken out or been heard.

The third lesson from the Goldstone experience is that people make up governments and people make policies. Since people are social animals, the social sphere is a critical one in foreign affairs. Our diplomats and leaders tend to act as though the only possible goal of their personal relations with other diplomats and leaders is to make the foreigners love them. The Goldstone case study shows us that as Machiavelli taught, it is just as good if not better to be feared.

When Goldstone issued his tendentious report, he no doubt assumed he would suffer no personal consequences for claiming IDF soldiers and commanders are war criminals and that Israeli Jews are neurotic. After all, everyone libels Israel and gets away with it. But rather than get a pass for his behavior, Goldstone got ostracized. Following the government’s lead, Jewish activists throughout the world attacked him for his lies. Everywhere he went he was challenged. Obviously, these attacks had an effect on him that attempts to appease him would not have had.

The final lesson of the Goldstone experience is found in the fact that the publication of malicious slander did not paralyze the country. The IDF continued to strike Hamas targets. Fear of more lies from Goldstone and his Israel-bashing associates did not convince the government to stop defending the country. The lesson is that we must not allow the misdeeds of others to deny us our rights. Rather, we must assert them in the face of condemnation and wait until the condemners realize they cannot defeat us.

Israel is being challenged by a political war that escalates every day. But we are not powerless in this fight. As we prepare for the Palestinians’ UN gambit, we must keep in mind the lessons from Goldstone. If the government remains faithful to the truth and to our rights, it will empower our supporters throughout the world to rally to our side. If we are good to our friends and bad to our enemies, we will know how to reward our friends and punish our enemies. And if we boldly assert our rights even in the face of international condemnation, we will see that in the fullness of time, the rightness of our position will carry the day.