A crucial dilemma will shortly face the United States in the United Nations, where a resolution is expected to be introduced in the Security Council by France that will seek to set the parameters for a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This would be a new departure in the long-running 'peace process'. The United States has for years, through its use of the veto power, consistently provided diplomatic cover for Israel in the United Nations. On many occasions, this has served the interests of both Israel and the United States. On other occasions, however, the United States has employed its veto against resolutions that directly reflect long-standing American policy. This pattern of virtually automatic use of the Security Council veto has, over time, empowered the government of Israel to pursue actions directly contrary to U.S. policy and against Israel's own long-term interests.
American Jewish organizations have too long routinely supported this process. Partners for Progressive Israel (PPI), an American Jewish organization affiliated with the Meretz party in Israel, believes that it is past time for the American government to halt this use of the veto power and to vote instead in support of resolutions consistent with U.S. policy that seeks a peaceful two-state settlement of the conflict in the Middle East. Such a change is in the interests of all the parties, including Israel, the Palestinians, and the United States.
American policy has for many years assumed that bilateral negotiations between the parties would be productive, but it is now clear that such negotiations are unlikely to resume, much less result in an outcome that both sides can live with. The recent elections in Israel produced a right-wing government with a majority of annexationists who favor a one-state outcome to the present impasse. It now falls to the international community to recognize, as it did in 1947 when it authorized the establishment of a Jewish and a Palestinian state, that it is the only force able to impose a solution, if necessary, and to set a timetable for the emergence of a Palestinian state next to Israel.
The U.S. has for over a generation, under the leadership of presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, endorsed the establishment of such a Palestinian state. An affirmative vote in the Security Council now would serve to implement this commitment -- and might be the last opportunity to bring about that long-desired and necessary outcome.
One of the major road blocks to constructive American action in the United Nations has been the fervent opposition of American Jewish organizations. In recent years they have been joined by Christian evangelical groups and most of the Republican Party, working closely with billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer who purport to speak for American Jews. In fact, they are not at all representative of the American Jewish community, which voted 78 percent for Obama in 2008 and 70 percent in 2012. It is time for American Jewish groups that genuinely support a two-state solution to urge the Administration to recognize that the current impasse is not in American or Israeli interests, and to work with the world community to rectify it.
There are Israeli groups actively working for the same cause. PPI urges American Jews and the US government to recognize the current dangerous reality and work with the French government to prepare a resolution and bring it before the UN as soon as feasible. PPI has issued a statement setting forth the basic elements of such a resolution, available at progressiveisrael.org. These should include:
•Establishing a two-year deadline for negotiations leading to an agreement between the State of Israel and a sovereign, demilitarized State of Palestine;
•Agreed-upon permanent boundaries based on the June 4, 1967 borders, with fully equitable land swaps that will allow the annexation by Israel of settlement blocks where the vast majority of Israeli settlers currently live;
•Jerusalem to be shared as the capital of each of the two states;
•A mutually-agreed-upon, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue, including a viable mechanism to provide for reparation, resettlement, compensation and other measures for permanent settlement of those dispossessed by the establishment of the Israeli state;
•Respect for the reasonable and legitimate security needs of both parties.
Should the parties, even with international encouragement and pressure, not be able to reach a mutually-agreed solution within two years, the State of Palestine should thereupon be admitted to the United Nations as a full member. Moreover, if either party does not comply fully and constructively with these parameters, it should be subject to coordinated international sanctions.
The present circumstances are similar to what the UN did when faced with an analogous situation in 1947, and it is now obliged to finish the job. In 1947 the UN created Israel; today it must create Palestine. Our preference is and always has been for a mutually negotiated settlement. The building blocks for such a settlement have been in place since the Clinton parameters of 2000, as well as the Arab League Initiative of 2002, the Geneva Initiative of 2003, and the Olmert-Abbas negotiations of 2008. If the parties cannot arrive at a settlement within two years, it is incumbent on the international community to act decisively to impose one based on these models.
This goal is even more urgent given the current turmoil in the region. It is true that the emergence of a Palestinian state may have no direct bearing on the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere, but by the same token there can be no doubt that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been a severe exacerbating factor in the entire region for decades. Moreover, Israel now has shared geopolitical interests with the most important Sunni powers, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Gulf States. The only impediment to full diplomatic relations with them and the rest of the Arab League is the Palestinian issue, as has been clear since the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.
PPI calls on American Jewish and other groups concerned with Israel and the Middle East to recognize this reality and join it in seeking American support for international action along these lines. Now is the time.