A Belated American Cry to Rescue the Two State Solution

Unless John Kerry's six-principle vision becomes a UN Security Council resolution before Barack Obama leaves the White House, the speech he delivered this week will remain a belated rallying cry to rescue the two-state solution, which is being killed by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Unless the European powers, led by Britain, France, Germany, and Spain as well as New Zealand take complementary steps to safeguard what has been achieved in the latest UN Resolution 2334, which reaffirmed Resolution 465 of 1980 and for the first time in 36 years restated the illegality of Israeli settlements and called for their dismantlement, then Netanyahu's panicked pushback will undermine it and invalidate its legal implications. This is exactly what Netanyahu is working to achieve, wagering that neither the US nor the European countries will dare to take any moves, specifically two things, to prove their seriousness in confronting Israeli policy: First using economic instruments such as sanctions as a real protest against settlement activities that are destroying the two-state solution. Second, heading to the Security Council in the wake of an international conference that France has been working to host for many months, to produce a resolution according to the six principles set out by the US Secretary of State. These two measures would make it clear to Netanyahu's government that the international community is serious and intent to impose the two-state solution instead of submitting to Israel's assault on the two-state solution. There is a strict deadline for these two steps: 20 January, 2017, the day the president-elect, Donald Trump, is sworn in. After that it will be too late. Thus, questions are being raised about the timing of John Kerry's speech at the 11th hour of Obama's second term. In a way, there is a measure of a plausible distance between Obama and Kerry's vision, which unlike previous initiatives did not carry the president's name, such as the Clinton Parameters that Bill Clinton tried to push at the end of his presidency when he could have done so much earlier. Some see Kerry's vision as an attempt to salvage his dismal legacy and reputation, tainted by his astounding concessions to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Syria. He finds himself leaving the Department of State haunted by the scenes of carnage in Aleppo. Kerry is attempting to compensate. Others have noted that Kerry invested years and made huge efforts with the Israelis and Palestinians to achieve piece and fulfill the two-state solution, which he personally believes is feasible and advantageous to both Palestinians and Israelis as does the international consensus and in theory Israel. Accordingly, he launched one final attempt, these commentators believe, to safeguard US national interests and Israeli and Palestinian interests, preempting a bleak future for the two parties and the Middle East following the current trajectory. Some argue that what Kerry has done now, no matter how sincere his vision and principles may be, was a political mistake that will cost the Palestinians dearly. The reason is that the timing chosen, in the wake of the US abstaining on UN Security Council resolution 2334, has put Donald Trump in a bend. Now, Trump will inherit a thorny issue from Obama. Yet some believe the legal and political ground laid by the Obama administration in the US and on the international arena, regarding the two-state solution, will be a precious gift for Trump, if he pauses and ponders its importance instead of rushing to make threats that harm US but also Israeli interests.

Benjamin Netanyahu is clear in his campaign against resolution 2334 and Kerry's vision, going as far as accusing the US secretary of state of lying when he challenged his claim that the US was not behind the resolution. He is priming himself to benefit maximally by engaging in calculated blackmail over this US 'misstep', and from the historic opportunity handed to him with the advent of Donald Trump and the appointment of a pro-Israeli US ambassador to Israel.

Indeed, David Friedman not only supports the building of Israeli settlements, but also favors moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, to signal US recognition of Jerusalem as the unified capital of Israel. Friedman, who is a bankruptcy lawyer, also opposes the two-state solution and Palestinian statehood along the lines of 1967. In other words, he is an anti-thesis to everything that the Obama administration's policy and all previous US policies represent regarding the resolution of the Palestinian- and Arab-Israeli conflicts.

It is possible that Friedman's nomination was a factor in convincing the Obama administration that its national duty requires the protection of US interests through an international resolution and a public vision setting out US principles with regard to the resolution of the conflict. Trump's reaction, meanwhile, does not suggest that the man coming to the White House will act rationally and responsibly. On the campaign trail, he appeared less dogmatic on relations with Israel, and even spoke of acting as a neutral mediator. Trump's actions as president-elect have come under the influence of his son-in-law Jared Kutchner, the husband of Ivanka Trump who converted to Judaism for him. However, the biggest proof of Trump's intention to celebrate with Netanyahu the burial of the two-state solution is David Friedman, who has not concealed his hatred for the principles of this solution and its supporters, including Jewish Americans and part of the Israeli public themselves.

What Kerry did was to challenge Israel, especially the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, to be honest about the two-state solution. He was clear in explaining that settlement activities practically and on the ground prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. He insisted that American values required upholding the two-state solution as both a moral and strategic imperative. He affirmed US commitments to Israeli security, and said that the Obama administration offered unprecedented support for Israel, more than any US administration in the past, whether in terms of the size of military aid or in terms of military and intelligence cooperation. However, Kerry also warned that the termination of the two-state solution will lead to the emergence of one state in Israel, one that is Jewish but not democratic, which will undermine the US ability to defend it.

The majority of the six principles of Kerry's vision already enjoy international support now the US administration after decades. What is new is that these principles were elaborated in a package the Obama administration has now presented based on international resolutions. The first principle calls for establishing secure, sustainable, and recognized borders between Israel and Palestine through negotiations but what is new is that Kerry mentioned resolution 242 of 1967, which has not been implemented in Palestine before but was the basis of negotiations with Syria and Jordan. By mentioning 242 in the context of the two-state solution, saying the international community will not recognize any non--agreed alteration by Israel of the 1967 lines, Kerry expanded the scope of 242 to include Palestine. This is an important development, especially if the European countries take the six principles to the Security Council to issue a resolution, which would set a new legal precedent. Kerry mentioned in the second principle another famous resolution: 181, passed by the UN General Assembly in 1947 on the establishment of two states for two peoples, the Jews and the Arabs. However, Kerry did not mention resolution 194 on Palestinian refugees, only calling for a just and realistic resolution to the refugee question.

In his fourth principle, Kerry raised an issue categorically opposed by the extremists in Netanyahu's government as well as Trump's ambassadorial nominee to Israel, namely, finding a mutually accepted solution to Jerusalem as an internationally recognized capital of two states, with secure and free access to religious sites.

In the fifth principle, John Kerry mentioned a word that the Netanyahu government has sought hard to abolish from the political lexicon: occupation. Kerry spoke about ending the occupation, but riled up Palestinians when he spoke about a sovereign but de-militarized Palestinian state.

And in the sixth principle, Kerry did something that previous US administrations should have done since 2002, when the Beirut Arab summit adopted the Arab Peace Initiative, pledging to recognize Israel's right to have secure borders in return for its withdrawal to the 1967 lines and agree borders with the state of Palestine.

These principles are not new, but they have gained additional significance by being presented as an American package. Resolution 2334 on settlements is not new either in that it challenged the legitimacy of settlements and urged Israel to stop settlement activity and dismantle illegal settlements. Indeed, under President Jimmy Carter, the US administration voted for a similar resolution on settlement, but was pressured to change its vote to 'abstain'. The George H. W. Bush administration in 1991 used a 10-billion loan guarantee and other aid to pressure Israel with regard to settlements. In 2003, under the George W. Bush administration, the UN Security Council passed unanimously resolution 1515, agreeing a roadmap for two states, Israel and Palestine, side by side.

What is new in resolution 2334, which Palestine's UN envoy Riad Mansour has worked hard on since early 2016, and which was met with Arab reposition through the ministerial committee and the only Arab Security Council member at present - is that the resolution contains implementation and monitoring mechanisms, according to Mansour. He adds: "The resolution empowers the ICC prosecutor to launch investigations into war crimes as we demand as the state of Palestine a member state of the ICC." Currently, Fatou Bensouda move to official investigations, having spent two years conducting preliminary examinations. "This has made Netanyahu lose his mind," Mansour says, describing the resolution's focus as being on settlements and legal frameworks that apply to Palestine, such as resolution 242 and urging states to distinguish in their relations with Israel territories prior to 1967 and territories occupied in 1967, including Eat Jerusalem "for the first time."

New Zealand played a crucial role in pushing the resolution, backed by France, Britain, and the US as well as Malaysia and Senegal, which insisted on putting the resolution to a vote after Egypt backed down following a phone call between Trump and President Sisi. Egypt's president is betting on special relations with Trump's America at any cost.

This raises another point: the burden of welcoming Kerry's principles as something in line with Egypt's vision falls on the shoulders of the only current Arab member of the Security Council, and not just on European, Asian, and African states. Furthermore, convincing Donald Trump that Kerry's vision is the right step is a big challenge for Egyptian diplomacy in the face of Israeli panic over resolution 2332 and Kerry's principles and rallying cry, answering which requires Arab and international boldness to do the right thing.

Translated by Karim Traboulsi http://www.alhayat.com/Opinion/Raghida-Dergham/19333065/%D8%B5%D8%B1%D8%AE%D8%A9-%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%AA%D8%A3%D8%AE%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%AC%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%8B-%D9%84%D8%A5%D9%86%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%B0-%D8%AD%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%8A%D9%86