The Palestinian Authority has had relative success in bringing its campaign for national rights to the United Nations. There it has gained “non-member state status” in the General Assembly. Last month the UAE, which is representing the Arab states on the Security Council, announced it would bring a UNSC resolution condemning Israeli settlements. This was in response to the Israeli announcement of a massive new round of 9,000 settlement housing units, which was itself retaliation for Palestinian terror attacks.
The resolution was due to come up for a vote tomorrow. But in a last-minute flurry of international diplomacy, the US has averted having to veto the resolution. Don’t ask why a US government, which ostensibly opposes Israeli settlements, would veto a statement opposing those same settlements. It is mind-numbing to even contemplate the logic at work here.
It’s ironic that this intense round of negotiating among Israel, the US, and PA is more diplomatic activity than the Biden administration has exerted on this subject during his entire presidency.
Details are emerging about the content of the “deal” worked out by Secretary of State Tony Blinken. They are less than stellar. In fact, they’re pathetic. Among the provisions:
Israel agreed to temporarily suspend unilateral actions in the West Bank, including new announcements on settlement building for several months, according to Israeli officials.
Israel also agreed to suspend the demolitions of Palestinian homes and Palestinian evictions for a few months. It agreed to decrease the number of Israeli military raids in Palestinian cities, the officials said.
According to a source briefed on the understandings, Israel agreed to several economic steps that will increase Palestinian tax revenues by more than $60 million a year.
Israel has already announced those 9,000 new housing units. So this unprecedented expansion of settlements won’t be affected. As an Israeli official said: we don’t plan to announce any new settlements beyond these. So this is not a concession.
Everything Israel agreed to has an extremely limited time frame. “A few months” means practically nothing. Further, we’ve seen past Israeli behavior that completely ignores such agreements when it suits its purpose. In fact, no sooner was the pact announced than the IDF announced it would violate it: it will destroy the home of a Palestinian who killed two Israelis in a bus stop attack. By the way, destroying the homes of innocent civilians is a violation of international law.
Finally, it agreed to “decrease” the nightly assaults on Palestinian towns. What does that term even mean? Nothing. As for the increased tax revenues, Israel has stolen hundreds of millions in tax revenues on goods imported for the West Bank via Israeli ports. By international law, these are taxes collected on behalf of the PA by Israel. They are not Israel’s to withhold. But it does so anyway in order to punish the Palestinians for anything or everything. This is, in short, plain theft.
The Palestinian Authority has agreed to implement a US-devised security plan which is supposed to restore its control over the most restive West Bank towns, Nablus and Jenin. Many of the Palestinian acts of resistance against Israel originate there. Over the past months, the Palestinian security presence has disappeared, and Palestinian militants like the Lion’s Den have replaced them. This is an ostensible plan to restore a security presence which benefits no one but Israel. It wants Abbas to rein in terrorist attacks, while offering him nothing in return. The Israeli way of doing business with its “lessers.”
The US has made promises as well, many of them as empty as the Israeli undertakings. The Biden administration will:
Invite Abbas for a White House visit (nice photo op in the Rose Garden). It will say “pretty please” to the Israelis, asking for permission to re-open the US consulate in East Jerusalem. This was the US diplomatic presence in Palestine, which Donald Trump unceremoniously shut down. Since then, Biden has inexplicably continued the Trump policy of excluding any US presence in Palestine, while building a new US embassy in Jerusalem. Thus rewarding Israel for its theft of Palestinian land and flouting of international laws.
The Israelis, of course, will say No to the consulate, as they have in the past. Then Biden can tell Abbas: I tried. Without really trying. If the US really wanted a consulate it could have one. It could simply tell Netanyahu that it plans to reopen it. Israel gave its approval to the consulate before it was first opened. We should not have to beg to reopen what never should have been closed in the first place. If we simply told Netanyahu that we’re doing it, he would be presented with a fait accompli. And if he didn’t like it, I’m sure there are a few painful surprises it could spring on him.
As a substitute for the withdrawn Security Council resolution, Biden will offer a presidential statement denouncing settlements. Many past presidents have done so, though none in the past nine years. US statements opposing this Israeli policy have as much impact as a snowflake dropping to the ground. Words without deeds in the Middle East mean absolutely nothing. In this case words are meant to substitute for actions. But they can’t and, in fact, they insult the intelligence of everyone for whom they’re intended.
All this intense diplomatic activity does nothing to change the dynamic in Israel-Palestine. It is an attempt to dampen the potential for hostility and violence leading up to the holy month of Ramadan. This is the period when Israel tends to provoke Palestinian Muslims by imposing restrictions on pilgrimages to Haram al-Sharif; and when they in turn engage in acts of resistance to this religious incitement.
Given the violence of the past few months, officials feared such a Ramadan outbreak could turn into full-scale civil conflict. This agreement (if you can call it that), is intended to avert the worst of that. But it is a feeble effort. The equivalent of the Dutch boy putting his finger in the dike. No matter how many Dutch boys and how many fingers attempt to hold back the flood, they will eventually all fail.
The image of US diplomats scurrying from Ramallah to Jerusalem, while officials cajoled the UAE to withdraw its UN resolution, paints a pathetic picture. And all in order to avoid vetoing a resolution simply because Israel expects it to. This turns the entire US foreign policy establishment into a vassal of the Israeli state.