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NYT calls for UNSC Resolution on Palestine, in Lame Duck Season, from Fred Myers

(1) NYT calls for UNSC Resolution on Palestine, in Lame Duck Season
(2) New West Bank Settlement is Obama's Red Line
(3) US Criticizes Israel over West Bank Settlement Plan - NYT
(4) Approval of New West Bank Settlement - Statement from State Dept
(1) NYT calls for UNSC Resolution on Palestine, in Lame Duck Season
At the Boiling Point With Israel
OCT. 6, 2016
If the aim of the Israeli government is to prevent a peace deal with the
Palestinians, now or in the future, it’s close to realizing that goal.
Last week, it approved the construction of a new Jewish settlement in
the West Bank, another step in the steady march under Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu to build on land needed to create a Palestinian state.
The Obama administration, with every justification, strongly condemned
the action as a betrayal of the idea of a two-state solution in the
Middle East. But Mr. Netanyahu obviously doesn’t care what Washington
thinks, so it will be up to President Obama to find another way to
preserve that option before he leaves office.
The best idea under discussion now would be to have the United Nations
Security Council, in an official resolution, lay down guidelines for a
peace agreement covering such issues as Israel’s security, the future of
Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and borders for both states.
The United Nations previously laid down principles for a peace deal in
Resolution 242 (1967) and Resolution 338 (1973); a new one would be more
specific and take into account current realities. Another, though
weaker, option is for Mr. Obama to act unilaterally and articulate this
framework for the two parties.
The new settlement, which would consist of up to 300 homes, is one of a
string of housing developments that would nearly divide the West Bank.
It is designed to house settlers from a nearby illegal outpost, called
Amona, which an Israeli court has ordered demolished because it is built
on private, Palestinian-owned land.
In a statement, the State Department denounced the new construction
plan, saying it would create a "significant new settlement" so deep into
the West Bank that it would be "far closer to Jordan than Israel." It
said the project would "effectively divide the West Bank and make the
possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote" and contradicts
earlier Israeli government assurances that it would block more settlements.
A failure to freeze settlements has long been at the center of tensions
between successive American administrations and Israel. This latest
decision was especially insulting, coming just a few weeks after the
United States and Israel concluded a defense agreement guaranteeing
Israel $38 billion in military aid over 10 years. If the new settlement
was known earlier, it might have affected those negotiations.
Theoretically, the aid gives the United States leverage over Israel, but
various administrations have been loath to exercise it; the first
President George Bush withheld $400 million in loan guarantees from
Israel in 1990 over the settlement issue. The move was later assumed to
have been one factor in his re-election defeat.
However important weapons and military assistance are, the best chance
of improving Israel’s security lies in reaching a comprehensive peace
agreement with the Palestinians. The ever expanding settlements have
poisoned Palestinian hopes and functioned variously as a spark, a target
and an excuse for violence, intensifying the conflict.
Mr. Netanyahu, however, feels no real pressure to halt the construction.
Certainly not from the Palestinians, who are divided under a weak
leader. Certainly not from Arab states like Saudi Arabia, which have
shown little real commitment to Palestinian statehood and now are
forging business and intelligence ties with Israel, a former enemy that
is now a thriving economic and technological hub.
The most plausible pressure would come from Mr. Obama’s leading the
Security Council to put its authority behind a resolution to support a
two-state solution and offer the outlines of what that could be. That
may seem like a bureaucratic response unlikely to change anything, but
it is the kind of political pressure Mr. Netanyahu abhors and has been
working assiduously to prevent.
A version of this editorial appears in print on October 7, 2016, on page
A26 of the New York edition with the headline: At the Boiling Point With
(2) New West Bank Settlement is Obama's Red Line
Is a new West Bank settlement Obama's red line?
If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists on defying the US
president and building a new West Bank settlement, Barack Obama could
respond by abstaining in a UN Security Council vote on Palestinian
Author Akiva Eldar Posted October 11, 2016
Translator Ruti Sinai
If it were up to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister would have asked
the settlers to rein in their passion for real estate at least until
Barack Obama vacates his seat for the next US president. Netanyahu can
already take comfort in the fact that despite the protests of the
outgoing Obama administration, since it took office in 2009 the number
of Jewish West Bank settlers has grown from some 300,000 to about
400,000. Nothing troubles the prime minister more these days than the
possibility that Obama will take advantage of the transition period
between Nov. 9 and Jan. 20 to leave him a poisoned farewell gift. And
nothing makes the Obama administration angrier than the construction of
a new settlement.
Unfortunately for Netanyahu, the American calendar is not in sync with
the Israeli one. Dec. 25 marks the expiration of the two-year delay
granted to carry out the court-ordered demolition of the West Bank
outpost of Amona. The chief justice at the time, Asher Grunis, wrote in
his ruling that the difficulties of the settlers notwithstanding,
illegal construction on private Palestinian land cannot be allowed and
does not justify non-enforcement of the law. The judge stressed that not
vacating Amona constitutes a violation of the state’s reiterated
commitment to carry out the demolition orders, in addition to being a
serious violation of the Palestinian inhabitants’ rights. A report by
the state comptroller several months prior to the ruling described
Israel’s planning in the West Bank as "every man did what was right in
his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).
On one hand, in a democratic state a prime minister is supposed to
respect court rulings. But on the other hand, Netanyahu is dependent on
his coalition partner, the nationalist-religious party HaBayit HaYehudi
— whose leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, operates according
to the rulings of a higher power that transcends that of flesh-and-blood
authorities. In July 2015, Bennett climbed onto the roof of a house in
the Beit-El settlement to protest the razing of a building ordered by
the Supreme Court. He demanded that Netanyahu inform the nation’s top
court that the demolition (of Jewish homes, of course) "does not fit the
spirit of the government."
In an attempt to have his cake and eat it, Netanyahu decided to
establish new residences for the Amona evacuees. On Oct. 1, several
hours after President Barack Obama delivered his stirring eulogy of
Shimon Peres at the Jerusalem graveside of Israel’s ninth president,
Channel 2 News reported that the top planning committee of Israel’s
civil administration in the West Bank had authorized a plan to build 98
housing units in a new settlement to be built near the settlement of
Shvut Rahel. According to the plan, up to 300 housing units can be built
in the designated area. As a consolation prize, the Amona squatters have
also been promised permission to build an industrial zone in their new
settlement. In order to circumvent a pledge delivered in Netanyahu’s
2009 Bar-Ilan speech to Obama and to the entire world to refrain from
building new settlements in the West Bank until a permanent arrangement
is reached with the Palestinians, the new settlement has been defined by
the committee as a "neighborhood" of Shvut Rahel.
Israel (as well as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC]
lobby in Washington) claims that in 2004, on the eve of Israel’s
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, President George W. Bush OK'd Israeli
construction in the "settlement blocs" of Area C, the area of the West
Bank under total Israeli control. As far as Israel is concerned, it, of
course, is the one that defines these "blocs." Israel and AIPAC claim
that this unwritten presidential authorization was an annex to the
written commitment (letters exchange) provided by Bush to late Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the effect that negotiations on a
permanent agreement with the Palestinians would factor in "new realities
on the ground" created since 1967, when Israel took over the West Bank.
But it was then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said in 2009,
"With respect to the conditions regarding understandings between the
United States and the former Israeli government and the former
government of the United States, we have the negotiating record. … There
is no memorialization of any informal and oral agreements."
She went on to say, "If they did occur, which, of course, people say
they did, they did not become part of the official position of the
United States government." She even pointed to the existence of
documents suggesting that oral agreements should not be viewed in any
way as contradicting commitments Israel had undertaken to the Road Map
for Middle East peace. "These commitments are very clear," she noted,
referring to the Middle East Quartet’s 2003 blueprint for
Israeli-Palestinian peace. The document obliges Israel to totally
refrain from construction in the settlements, without distinguishing
between a "neighborhood," a "bloc" or "outside a bloc." That same year,
at the initiative of Bush, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted
the Road Map.
Israel is taking seriously the Oct. 5 White House announcement that the
new settlement constitutes a violation of the Israeli government’s
commitment to the United States. An Israeli violation of commitments it
gave regarding settlements would make it easier for the United States to
extricate itself from its commitment to oppose unilateral moves against
Israel. If Netanyahu insists on establishing the new settlement, despite
Obama’s anger, the president could well be encouraged to abstain in the
UN Security Council vote on the recognition of a Palestinian state.
Paradoxically, the Amona settlers might turn out to be the ones to pull
the irons out of the fire for Netanyahu. Their refusal to move to the
site designated for their relocation makes the new settlement redundant.
An upgraded 2016 rerun of the 2006 evacuation of nine houses in the
settlement of Amona, a move that ended in a violent confrontation with
security forces, could push HaBayit HaYehudi into the opposition.
Netanyahu has already ascertained that the other parties in his ruling
coalition would gladly welcome opposition leader Isaac Herzog to their
ranks, thus cementing a coalition majority even if HaBayit HaYehudi leaves.
After Netanyahu evacuates the settlement that has become a symbol and
replaces HaBayit HaYehudi with Herzog’s Zionist Camp, Obama will have no
choice but to praise him. And what about Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas? He will probably have to wait until Nov. 8 and hope that
Democratic candidate Clinton knows that the letter "C" does not
designate the third article of the Second Oslo Accord between Israel and
the Palestinians that her husband signed while in office, but is the
designation of the Palestinian territory that Israel is only supposed to
rule temporarily. The deadline for Israel to cede control of Area C came
and went when she was still the first lady.
(3) US Criticizes Israel over West Bank Settlement Plan - NYT
United States Criticizes Israel Over West Bank Settlement Plan
OCT. 5, 2016
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Wednesday castigated the
Israeli government for approving plans to create a new Jewish settlement
on the West Bank, three weeks after it signed a lucrative military aid
package with the United States and just as President Obama was traveling
to Jerusalem for the funeral of Shimon Peres.
In an uncommonly harsh statement, the State Department "strongly
condemned" the move, asserting that it violated Israel’s pledge not to
construct new settlements and ran counter to the long-term security
interests Israel was seeking to protect with the military deal, which
provides $38 billion in assistance over the next decade.
The new settlement, one of a string of housing complexes that threaten
to bisect the West Bank, is designed to house settlers from a nearby
illegal outpost, Amona, which an Israeli court has ordered demolished.
The timing of the approval especially infuriated the White House,
American officials said, because it came after Mr. Obama met with Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations. Mr. Netanyahu, they
said, gave the president no advance warning, even though Mr. Obama
expressed deep concerns about Israel’s continuing settlement
construction. The officials declined to speak for attribution owing to
the sensitivity of the issue.
"It is disheartening that while Israel and the world mourned the passing
of President Shimon Peres, and leaders from the U.S. and other nations
prepared to honor one of the great champions of peace, plans were
advanced that would seriously undermine the prospects for a two-state
solution that he so passionately supported," the State Department’s
deputy spokesman, Mark Toner, said in the four-paragraph statement.
The harsh words also rekindled speculation that Mr. Obama might lay down
guidelines for a proposed peace agreement between Israel and the
Palestinians before he leaves office, either in a speech or, less
likely, by backing a resolution at the United Nations Security Council.
"The administration has been escalating its rhetoric in opposition to
West Bank settlement activity for more than a year," said Martin S.
Indyk, who served as Mr. Obama’s special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations. "The government of Israel doesn’t seem to be listening."
"At a certain point," said Mr. Indyk, who is now the executive vice
president of the Brookings Institution, "the administration may well
decide that there needs to be consequences for what it now sees as an
effort to close off the two-state solution."
Mr. Obama, officials said, has kept his own counsel about whether to
thrust himself back into the peace process. After two failed attempts to
broker an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, the president
is leery of getting involved in another hopeless effort, aides say. He
would also likely consult with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic
presidential nominee, were she to win to make sure his move did not
complicate her plans.
The plan for a new settlement grows out of a bitter impasse between the
Israeli authorities and settlers in Amona, which sits on a hilltop near
the Palestinian administrative capital, Ramallah. Israel’s High Court of
Justice has ordered the residents of Amona, which is built on private,
Palestinian-owned land, to leave by Dec. 25.
The government’s plan is to move them to the newly approved settlement,
built on public land, which would initially have 98 houses and
eventually could accommodate up to 300 houses. The settlers have so far
refused, creating an acute political crisis for Mr. Netanyahu’s
coalition government.
The Israeli authorities have dealt with other such standoffs by seeking
to retroactively legalize the settlements. But because Amona is built on
private Palestinian land, it cannot solve the problem with legal
machinations. Israeli authorities view the settlement as a "satellite"
of another settlement, Shvut Rachel, which itself was retroactively
legalized and lies within the redrawn boundaries of an established
settlement, Shilo.
"The 98 housing units approved in Shilo do not constitute a ‘new
settlement,’ " Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement
issued on Wednesday. "Israel," the ministry added, "remains committed to
a solution of two states for two peoples, in which a demilitarized
Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel."
For American officials, the problem is that Israel is establishing a
string of settlements, which the administration’s statement said
"effectively divide the West Bank and make the possibility of a viable
Palestinian state more remote." The latest settlement, the State
Department said, was "deep in the West Bank, far closer to Jordan than
to Israel."
No matter how strongly worded its condemnations, some former diplomats
said, it would do little to change Israel’s behavior. They urged Mr.
Obama to lay down his version of a road map to a peace deal.
"Of course he should," said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former American
ambassador to Israel and Egypt. "These statements are meaningless if
there is no action. The U.S. should expect Israel not to do these
things, especially as ‘compensation’ for removal of an illegal outpost."
Israel has a long history of ill-timed announcements on settlements.
In 2010, four months after Mr. Netanyahu had agreed to a moratorium on
the construction of settlements in the West Bank, municipal authorities
in Jerusalem approved 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish
housing development in East Jerusalem that had been excluded from the
agreement. The announcement came as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
was visiting Israel, and was viewed in Washington as a slap in the face.
At Mr. Obama’s behest, Mrs. Clinton, then secretary of state, delivered
a 43-minute lecture to Mr. Netanyahu over the phone. Officials said the
episode angered the president more than Mr. Biden himself.
Settlements have poisoned the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mr.
Netanyahu from the earliest days of the administration. Mr. Obama
demanded that Israel halt construction as a gesture to draw the
Palestinians back to the bargaining table. Mr. Netanyahu complained that
the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, frittered
away most of the 10-month moratorium before sitting down to talk.
The timing of this approval, administration officials said, was
particularly galling: Israeli authorities approved the settlement on the
day that Mr. Peres, one of Israel’s founding fathers, died — and two
days before Mr. Obama arrived in Jerusalem. That raised the possibility
that the news could have leaked out while the president was at the
funeral, which officials said would have dwarfed the diplomatic uproar
during Mr. Biden’s visit.
For Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu, it is a bitter coda to a relationship
that seemed to end on an uncharacteristically gracious note in New York,
when the two men smiled for the cameras, and the prime minister invited
the president to Israel to play golf at a course next to his house.
Privately, the president raised concerns with Mr. Netanyahu about
settlement construction and what Mr. Obama regards as its corrosive
effect on the peace process. On Wednesday, Josh Earnest, the White House
spokesman, said the administration felt misled yet again by the Israelis.
"We did receive public assurances from the Israeli government that
contradict this announcement," Mr. Earnest said. "I guess when we’re
talking about how good friends treat one another, that’s a source of
serious concern as well."
Follow Mark Landler on Twitter at @MarkLandler.
Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem.
A version of this article appears in print on October 6, 2016, on page
A1 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Condemns Israeli Plan
for New Settlement.
(4) Approval of New West Bank Settlement - Statement from State Dept
Approval of New West Bank Settlement
Press Statement
Mark C. Toner
Deputy Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
October 5, 2016
We strongly condemn the Israeli government's recent decision to advance
a plan that would create a significant new settlement deep in the West Bank.
Proceeding with this new settlement, which could include up to 300
units, would further damage the prospects for a two state solution. The
retroactive authorization of nearby illegal outposts, or redrawing of
local settlement boundaries, does not change the fact that this approval
contradicts previous public statements by the Government of Israel that
it had no intention of creating new settlements. And this settlement's
location deep in the West Bank, far closer to Jordan than Israel, would
link a string of outposts that effectively divide the West Bank and make
the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote.
It is deeply troubling, in the wake of Israel and the U.S. concluding an
unprecedented agreement on military assistance designed to further
strengthen Israel's security, that Israel would take a decision so
contrary to its long term security interest in a peaceful resolution of
its conflict with the Palestinians. Furthermore, it is disheartening
that while Israel and the world mourned the passing of President Shimon
Peres, and leaders from the U.S. and other nations prepared to honor one
of the great champions of peace, plans were advanced that would
seriously undermine the prospects for the two state solution that he so
passionately supported.
Israelis must ultimately decide between expanding settlements and
preserving the possibility of a peaceful two state solution. Since the
recent Quartet report called on both sides to take affirmative steps to
reverse current trends and advance the two state solution on the ground,
we have unfortunately seen just the opposite. Proceeding with this new
settlement is another step towards cementing a one-state reality of
perpetual occupation that is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel's
future as a Jewish and democratic state. Such moves will only draw
condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from many
of its partners, and further call into question Israel's commitment to
achieving a negotiated peace.
Peter Myers