United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon devoted part of his year-end press conference on December 19th to bashing Israel for its announcement of plans to build new housing in and around Jerusalem. He claimed that the Israeli announcement was a “near fatal blow to a very fragile Middle East peace process.”
“I am deeply concerned by heightened settlement activity in the West Bank, in particular around Jerusalem,” the Secretary General complained. “This gravely threatens efforts to establish a viable Palestinian state.”
A Palestinian reporter asked the Secretary General whether he would support Palestinian efforts to join the International Criminal Court and pursue criminal charges against Israel to stop settlement activities. While not answering the question directly, he said that Israel’s settlement activity was “clearly a violation of international law” and that “with the enhanced status of the Palestinian Authority in the General Assembly [with] non-member observer status, I think they have the right to sign the Rome Statute, but it is up to the Palestinian authorities.”
Adding insult to injury, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Israel should risk its own security by opening its borders to more than 100,000 Palestinians fleeing a refugee camp in Syria that had come under attack, so that they can safely reach the West Bank and Gaza by transiting Israel.
On the same day that Ban Ki-moon was putting Israel through the wringer, France led a chorus of members of the UN Security Council also condemning Israel for building more housing for its residents in Jerusalem.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor countered, in remarks to the press after the Security Council met to discuss the Israeli housing announcement among other issues, that the real obstacles to peace remain “the Palestinians’ quest for the so-called ‘claim of return’, terrorism, and Palestinian incitement.”
There is no credible Palestinian leadership willing and able to stop jihadist terrorism against Israeli civilians. There is no credible Palestinian leadership willing and able to end the extreme anti-Semitic indoctrination so pervasive in Palestinian society, which nurtures a culture of hatred and incitement to violence. The so-called “moderate” Palestinian leadership under Palestinian Authority President Abbas – feckless at best, malevolent at worst – is the real reason that the peace process is in a deep freeze. Israeli housing construction is nothing more than a convenient excuse for the international community to use in irresponsibly transferring the blame to Israel.
Indeed, Ambassador Prosor might have added the United Nations itself to his list of real obstacles to peace. Last month’s General Assembly resolution created the illusion of Palestinian statehood by upgrading their status at the UN to an observer state, with borders based on the lines in effect before Israel’s victory in the June 1967 Six Days War. On Dec. 17th, the UN’s head of official protocol wrote to the Palestinian delegation informing them that as a result of the General Assembly’s vote “the designation of ‘State of Palestine’ shall be used by the Secretariat in all official United Nations documents.”
The General Assembly became a tool in the Palestinians’ hands to “legislate” their claim to state recognition within the borders that the Palestinians unilaterally defined, in direct violation of the Oslo Accords signed by Israeli and the Palestinian representatives. The Oslo Accords had called for direct “permanent status” negotiations between the parties on the issues of “Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest.“ Using the UN to decide these issues by fiat is anything but direct negotiations.
The Oslo Accords were intended to help implement the objectives of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which called for the peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict through territorial compromise. The framers of these Security Council resolutions realized that the pre- June 1967 borders were indefensible.
Under the Oslo Accords, both borders and settlements were identified as negotiable issues. Jerusalem was referred to as one whole city – not artificially divided into eastern and western parts that would become the capitals of two separate states.
When the General Assembly adopted the Palestinian observer state upgrade resolution, it put its weight clearly on the side of the Palestinians’ unilateral position on the borders issue. It also endorsed the Palestinians’ claim to “East Jerusalem,” which in reality is nothing more than a geographical designation of the portion of the city of Jerusalem that Jordan illegally seized and annexed as a result of its illegal war aimed at destroying the new state of Israel in 1948. It is a complete distortion of international law to claim that the Palestinians are rightful heirs to the old portion of Jerusalem with its holy sites, which Jordan illegally seized in the first place and then proceeded to desecrate.
Israel responded legitimately to the General Assembly’s interference in the direct negotiations process by affirming its inherent right to expand housing within existing Jewish residential communities in Jerusalem and to begin longer term planning for possible residential development in an area contiguous with Jerusalem. There is no basis under international law to support the claim that Jews cannot live wherever they choose in and around Jerusalem and build the housing they need in order to do so. Yet the international community was outraged, as evidenced in the condemnations on December 19th by the UN Secretary General and all members of the Security Council except the United States.
Meanwhile, the critics of building more housing for Israeli residents in their own city look the other way as Hamas threatens Israel with extinction while re-arming and Hezbollah has amassed at least 50,000 deadly missiles in Lebanon with likely access to Syria’s chemical and germ weapons of mass destruction.
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