“The international community must pressurise Israel more on settlements...”
David Horovitz and Alan Dershowitz respond

Published: 26 March 2011
Briefing Number 280

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Summary:  Most of the world believes that Israel’s settlements are a central  obstacle to peace in the region.  And Israel faces massive pressure to end settlements.  Most recently, a UN Security Council Resolution was proposed on this matter. Britain and other European countries supported the Resolution, but the United States vetoed it.

This Briefing contains two critiques of the thinking behind the Resolution, and the Resolution itself – by Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz, and Harvard law professor, author and renowned Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz.  Each explains the misconceptions behind the resolution, and how one-sided pressure on Israel does not improve the prospects for a two-state solution.   

Background – the proposed UN Security Council resolution:

On 18 February 2011 the UN Security Council considered a resolution condemning “all Israeli settlement activity” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, describing all such settlements as “illegal” and describing them as a “major” obstacle to a two-state solution. 

European governments supported the resolution.  British Prime Minister David Cameron told the UK parliament, and students in Qatar, that he was proud to support the resolution.

The United States vetoed the resolution, while expressing support for a watered-down version, and expressing opposition “in the strongest terms” to continued settlement activity. 

The proposed UN resolution was the culmination of months of diplomatic work by the Arab League and the Palestinian Authority, which accelerated following the Palestinian Authority’s decision of October 2010 to walk away from face-to-face peace negotiations with Israel.

These events prompted the following comments, by Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz, and American lawyer and academic Alan Dershowitz.  Each explains why it is misguided for the international community to bring this type of one-sided pressure on Israel over settlements, and why, ironically, it will not have the intended effect of bringing nearer a two-state solution.
Both Horovitz and Dershowitz are long-time supporters of a two-state solution.

David Horovitz wrote the following as part of a Jerusalem Post editorial published on 18 February 2011 (www.jpost.com):

“The message that Washington should be sending out right now is that Israel is the US’s only stable, dependable and democratic ally in the fast-destabilising Middle East. 

As regards the specific issue of settlements, the US should have internalised and should urge others to internalise that the Jewish people have religious, historical and security claims in the biblical Judea and Samaria.  It should have recognised and should encourage others to recognise that the fledgling state of Israel was attacked from precisely this territory in its first two decades of statehood, and yet this tiny embattled island of Jewish sovereignty has been ready to contemplate far-reaching territorial compromise there in the context of a genuine process of reconciliation.  That remarkable willingness to compromise should be appreciated by its allies, who should signal their resolute support for Israel in the face of its enemies, and should strive to press those enemies towards normalised relations with Israel amid a viable security framework.

At a time when it has become more clear than ever that repressive, bellicose autocratic regimes are the main source of instability in the region – and not an Israeli-Palestinian conflict that remains unresolved because of Arab intransigence (for instance, see Beyond Images Briefing 243 and Briefing 249) the US should be placing itself staunchly in Israel’s corner.  It should not be entertaining compromise proposals that imply the further delegitimisation of some of Israel’s historic and security imperatives......”

Alan Dershowitz on the international pressure over settlements, and the Security Council resolution......

After the US vetoed the Security Council resolution, Alan Dershowitz, law professor, author and renowned Israel advocate, wrote a piece dated 24 February supporting the US veto. It appeared on the website of the Hudson Institute in New York (www.hudson-ny.org). Extracts:

The proposed resolution was one-sided....

“The resolution omitted activities by the Palestinians – ranging from firing rockets at civilians, inciting violence against Jews, refusal to recognise Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, refusing to sit down and negotiate, and rejecting generous offers made by Israel in 2000, 2001 and 2008 – which have been the real “obstacles” to “peace on the basis of the two-state solution”....

The resolution discourages negotiation and two-way compromise
“This biased resolution would have discouraged the Palestinian Authority from coming to the negotiating table to try to resolve their differences with Israel by compromise.  Why compromise if the United Nations and the United States are prepared to give them what they want without any negotiation?  The international community is sending a destructive message to the Palestinians by threatening to recognise a Palestinian state based on a unilateral declaration of independence by the Palestinian Authority.  The vetoed Security Council resolution, pushed by the Palestinian Authority, was part of this unilateral strategy that would make peace, which can only be achieved through negotiation, more difficult....By demanding that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities”, broadly defined, and demanding absolutely nothing of the Palestinians in return, the resolution – if it had been passed – would substitute fiat for negotiation....”
The resolution forgets which party is refusing to negotiate

“What is forgotten in all this is that it is the Israelis who want to sit down and negotiate a two-state solution and an end to the occupation.  They have offered to begin negotiations immediately without any preconditions.  The Palestinian Authority has demanded preconditions, and Hamas refuses to negotiate a two-state solution under any circumstances.  But you wouldn’t know these facts from reading the proposed resolution......Now that the resolution has been vetoed, the Palestinian Authority should shift its attention back from the United Nations where nothing positive will be accomplished, back to Jerusalem and Ramallah, where real peace can be achieved through immediate negotiations.  The Palestinians may be pleasantly surprised by what Israel is prepared to give in exchange for real peace.....”     

The resolution treats the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territory”....

“While I oppose the expansion of Israeli civilian settlements deep into the West Bank, I also strongly oppose the one-sided, overbroad, legally erroneous and factually inaccurate resolution.  Read as intended by its draftsmen, the resolution would include the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem and the Western Wall as “occupied Palestinian territory” even though Jordan originally captured and desecrated these Jewish holy places illegally when it attacked the new Jewish state in 1948.  They are not occupied territory and Israel is entitled to build as much as it wants to there....”                 

Some related Beyond Images Briefings

Beyond Images Briefing 274 – 17 December 2010
Jewish settlements: complex realities behind the headlines

Beyond Images Briefing 247 – 19 November 2009
“Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law....”

Beyond Images Briefing 227 – 25 December 2008
“Moderate Palestinian leaders believe in a two-state solution.....”