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After Netanyahu’s Reelection, What is to be Done?

In March 2015, Israeli PM Netanyahu and the Israeli electorate have made manifest what was before implicit [1]—that Israel will not willingly make either a two-state peace or a democratic one-state peace with the Palestinians.

That means that Israel is committed to indefinite prolongation of its present apartheid-one-state regime.

President Obama has 18 months left in office in which to demand that Israel conduct the occupation legally.

For Israel to do so would require Israel: [1] to remove from all the territories occupied by it in 1967 and still occupied all the settlers, the wall, and all the settlement buildings;and [2] to end the siege on Gaza.

Most of this was called for by UNSC-465 (1980) and by the July 2004 ICJ decision w.r.t. the wall. But neither the USA nor anyone else has ever applied sanctions against Israel to compel it to conduct the occupation legally, and Israel is clearly willing to maintain its apartheid regime indefinitely if sanctions are not applied.

What is needed—and now for the first time clearly and unambiguously justified by Israeli intransigence—is the imposition of sanctions on Israel to require Israel to bring its occupation into compliance with international law.

Now is the time, and may be the last time in a generation, for the USA to act to accomplish this important human rights project.

I commend it to President Obama and sketch details of how it might be done.

The March 2015 Israeli Election Makes Israeli Intransigence Unambiguous

Binyamin Netanyahu’s reelection in Israel has made clear to everyone that not only he himself but also a large majority of Israel’s voters not only reject a reborn Palestinian State next to Israel on territory now occupied by Israel but also reject and fear an Israel with a significant “Arab” (Palestinian) voting block.

This means that they reject not only any “two-state solution” (Israeli and Palestinian States side by side) but also any democratic “one-state solution”.

What is a democratic “one-state solution”? It would be a democratic Israeli-Palestinian state whose territory would be Israel plus the West Bank and Gaza and whose citizens would combine present-day Israelis and the Palestinians of the occupied territories.

Since the Israeli voters were so evidently fearful of a “get out the vote” effort on the part of Israel’s 20% Palestinian population, it follows that they would not willingly elect to be part of a democratic Israel-Palestine in which the population would be approximately 50-50 Jewish and Palestinian.

If the Israeli voters rejected both the two-state and the democratic one-state possibilities, what did they not reject? What did they emphatically choose?

What the Israeli voters did not reject—what by implication they clearly hope will be as permanent as they can keep it—is the present apartheid one-state solution, a single state with a single government on the entire territory of Israel-Palestine wherein the Palestinian population of pre-1967 Israel is at best tolerated and the Palestinian population of the remainder is subjected to apartheid laws which, among other disabilities imposed on them, do not allow them to vote in Israeli elections.

A Challenge and an Opportunity

Most Americans desire a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most Americans would reject the indefinite continuation of the occupation, begun in 1967, with its apartheid regime in the West Bank and Gaza, a regime now in its 48th year.

Until this election it was possible for many to believe that Israelis wanted a two-state resolution but, in 48 years of trying, just hadn’t found out how to get there yet. Now this belief becomes impossible to sustain.

Until this election it was possible for some few to believe that the Israeli settlement project, by which about 10% of Israeli-Jews now live in occupied territory including occupied East Jerusalem,[2] was not intended to be permanent but only intended to provoke the Palestinians into making peace with Israel—peace on Israel’s terms of course. But if Israel rejects a two-state solution, it evidently intends to hold on to the settlements indefinitely. It is no longer possible to believe in the settlements as “bargaining chips”.

And it should be noted that the settlements, those sometime-supposed “bargaining chips”, are and always were illegal at international law!

Despite much obfuscation by Israel and some American politicians on the subject, repeated UNSC resolutions and a 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision make it clear that all of Israel’s settlements located in territories occupied in 1967 are forbidden by international law. Indeed, both the settlements (the buildings) and the Israeli settlers living in them are present within occupied territory “illegally”.

But today, all is changed. Israel’s voters have spoken. They reject two states. And they reject more Palestinian voters in a unified state.

They have chosen apartheid now and indefinitely.

That is the challenge to those who, like President Obama, desire, in the words of UNSC 242 (1967), a “just and lasting” Israeli-Palestinian peace. [3]

But if there is a challenge there is also an opportunity.

And Now, What is to be Done?

What is to be done? By the USA? By the UNSC?

Well, the easiest thing for the nations to do is what they have done since 1967. They have spoken but not acted. They have, in effect, praised Israel’s illegal settlement program “with faint damns”. And the mild exhortations of the nations, including UNSC resolutions, have rolled off Israel’s back like water off a duck. Instead of action, the nations have showered Israel with what I call “mere words”.

In 1980, the Security Council mildly exhorted Israel (UNSC 465) to remove the settlers then living in occupied territories and dismantle the settlements then in existence:
6. [The UNSC s]trongly deplores the continuation and persistence of Israel in pursuing those policies and practices [of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories] and calls upon the Government and people of Israel to rescind those measures, to dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem;
UNSC-465 had no enforcement provisions, no “teeth”, no proposed sanctions for non-compliance. Israel ignored it. The USA and UNSC thereafter ignored the matter.

If the USA and UNSC should wish to become involved, and President Obama suggests that a two-state peace has always been American policy, then they have two policy options which go beyond mere speech.

As I shall show, they have very little time to act. The window of opportunity is the remainder of President Obama’s term, about 18 months.

Option 1—A Dictated Peace

One option is for the international community to take peace out of the hands of Israel and the Palestinians and dictate a peace treaty and cram it down all throats. This would be a stronger version of what the UNGA did in 1947 with UNGA-181, the partition resolution.

This option, a dictated peace, would be hard to implement because both Israel and the Palestinians (and other Arabs) would likely try to steer the negotiations, and the other nations would have to come to agreement on the many, many terms of a successful treaty. Moreover, sanctions would have to be agreed to—sanctions to pressure both Israel and the Palestinians to comply with what both sides might see as a bad deal.

I don’t see the nations (the UNSC) coming easily to agreement either as to the shape of the “peace” or as to the (semi-permanent?) sanctions regime to put in place to compel compliance.

Option 2—Enforcement of International Law

Since Israel, from 1967 to the present, has conducted the occupation in violation of international law, the second option is for the UNSC to spell out a sufficient compliance by Israel with international law regarding occupation and then—unlike past UNSC resolutions which contained no enforcement provisions—to create a sanctions regime to enforce such sufficient compliance.

The “sufficient compliance” might be modeled on existing international thinking—UNSC-465 and ICJ-2004—as follows.

The UNSC could demand, within a “specified time period” of a year or two, Israeli permanent and final: removal of all settlers from all occupied territories, including occupied East Jerusalem; removal of the wall where it is within occupied territory (per ICJ-2004); removal of the settlement buildings (per UNSC-465); and termination of the siege on Gaza save as to weapons.

The UNSC resolution might give Israel one month to publish a schedule for gradual and uniform removal over the stated “specified time period” of settlers, wall, and settlements; and one month to end the siege on Gaza.

The UNSC resolution would specify a gradually increasing set of sanctions to come into effect one month after Israel failed either to publish its schedule or to comply with it—the sanctions to continue in effect, with increasing (ratcheting) severity, until Israel published its schedule and came into compliance with it. The sanctions then in effect would, at that point, continue in effect but without ratcheting. Should Israel at any time thereafter again fail in compliance, the ratcheting upwards of sanctions would begin again. Sanctions at any time in effect would remain in effect until Israel’s full compliance (all settlers removed, all settlement buildings demolished, etc.) or until Israel and the Palestinians had fully and finally implemented a peace treaty. Such a treaty would be expected to speak to the issues of any settlers, settlements, or wall then still remaining; and would be expected to end Israel’s siege on Gaza by allowing Gaza (Palestine) full and unimpeded access to the Mediterranean as well as to the West Bank.

Early sanctions might be diplomatic (withdrawal of ambassadors, etc.), travel restrictions on Israeli citizens, freezing of significant bank accounts, etc. Later sanctions might be trade sanctions.

The present sanctions on Iran might be a model.

What would be important would be for Israel to see that the nations were serious, this time, and not merely admonishing Israel with “mere words”.

What would be important would be a definite, short, and non-extensible time period in which Israel would come into compliance and sanctions to persuade Israel to comply. This would not be a re-play of the Oslo agreement with its promise of peace within 5 years freely broken by Israel.

The reason I prefer option-2 is two-fold.

First, I believe that the nations could far more easily agree to the required Israeli compliance with international law than to any other demand (such as a two-state peace treaty dictated by UNSC).

Second, I believe that with 10% of Israeli citizens facing displacement and homelessness and the very expensive Israeli settlement building project facing demolition with no reparations, Israel would frantically use the “specified time period” as a time to negotiate peace with the Palestinians. They would do so in earnest because they would, at this point and unlike in the past, have “something to lose”. And I imagine that both the Israelis and the Palestinians would prefer a peace treaty that both agreed to—whether for two states or for a single democratic state or for something else entirely—to any treaty written by others and imposed from outside.

Why Now?

President Obama has a scant about 18 months left in office and has demonstrated an inclination to get to an Israeli-Palestinian peace. He might wish to deserve his Nobel Peace Prize which was awarded so far in advance of any peace.

And all candidates for president in 2016 will be far more subject to the political (that is, money) power of the hard-line Zionist lobby centered around AIPAC than President Obama is today.

Thus, if anything is to be done with USA’s involvement, it must be both begun and finished soon. At a minimum, any UNSC resolution will have to be agreed to and formalized (in non-retractable form) before the USA’s next elections.

The clock on peace, as on international legitimacy, is ticking. The nations have a choice—whether to enforce international law now, immediately, or to let another generation go by with that law ignored.

The world’s next big project will be climate change. It should clear away Israel/Palestine now, while there is a good chance to do so.

Peter Belmont lives in Brooklyn. He can be reached at: pabelmont2007@verizon.net.


[1] At Mondoweiss we read what many have long believed: “The reality is that what Netanyahu stated publicly is what has been true of all of Israel’s prime ministers, whether from the left, the center, or the right. For the past 22 years, all have been lying and misleading the world, pretending to seek peace with the Palestinians while pursuing policies to ensure there will never be peace and never be a Palestinian state. The irony is that the greatest of all these liars is the one who finally told the truth and we should thank him for it.

The truth is that under both Likud and Labor governments, negotiations with the Palestinians have been a charade since Israel continued to swallow up more Palestinian land and build more settlements even as it proceeded with the negotiations. And under both governments, Israel has maintained a brutal occupation and initiated wars against the Palestinian people to ensure there would never be a Palestinian state.”

[2] The Guardian reports that in 2012 there were 300,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem and 350,000 living elsewhere in the West Bank. This is 650,000 Israeli-Jews. Altogether Israel’s population was 8.3M in 2014 of which 20% was Palestinian and thus about 6.6M Jews.

[3] These words should be familiar to Americans. Abraham Lincoln spoke them in his Second Inaugural Address:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

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