In an editorial, the New York Times says: Many of Mr. Netanyahu’s accusations and those of his supporters misrepresent the history of Israeli-American relations, malign Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, and confuse what should be a serious debate over the future of a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which seems further away every day. With less than three weeks before Mr. Obama leaves office, Mr. Kerry on Wednesday finally gave the speech he wanted to give two years ago — a passionate, blunt and detailed warning about why the two-state solution is in jeopardy and how it might yet be salvaged before incalculable damage is done to Israel and the region.
Inconveniently for Mr. Netanyahu’s claim that the Security Council resolution was the result of perfidy by Mr. Obama, the measure was adopted 14 to 0, with support from Russia, China and Egypt, among others. It declared that the settlements, in territory that Israel captured from Jordan during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, have no legal validity; affirming longstanding United Nations and American policy, it cited the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which prohibits any occupying power from transferring its own people to conquered territory.
The most politically volatile feature of the new resolution was that it explicitly condemned Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. Mr. Netanyahu has emphasized that the language did not distinguish between Jerusalem and the West Bank and hence treated the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, as occupied territory.
Under any negotiated solution to the conflict, Israelis expect their capital to be Jerusalem. But Palestinians also expect to have areas of Jerusalem as their capital, and to have access to Muslim holy sites there. That is why this resolution did not represent a change in the position of the United Nations, which has referred to Jerusalem in many such statements backed by past American administrations. Under Mr. Obama, the United States continues to subscribe to the position enshrined in the 1993 Oslo accords that the future of Jerusalem, like that of the West Bank, should be decided through negotiation — not by diktat by either side.
Anyone who doesn’t think so hasn’t looked at the map or studied the history of the settlement movement. Right-wing Israeli settlers have been quite open for decades about their patient approach to claiming Jerusalem and the West Bank by strategically placing settlements to prevent the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Since 2009, when Mr. Obama took office, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has grown to around 400,000, a gain of more than 100,000, and the number of settlers in East Jerusalem has grown to roughly 208,000, from 193,000, according to Americans for Peace Now. During the same period, construction has begun on over 12,700 settlement units on the West Bank.
Supporters of Mr. Netanyahu argue that Mr. Obama has now only inflamed the Israeli right and encouraged more settlement-building, as if this Israeli government would otherwise show restraint. This is the cynical logic of the settlement movement: When the world is silent, Israel can build settlements; when the world objects, Israel must build settlements. Under any scenario, settlements will grow, and the possibility of a two-state solution will recede. [Continue reading…]