The UN Security Council resolution is just one more fruitless international effort to address a conflict that refuses to end.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) vote on December 23 is a fitting end to the Obama administration and, of a different sort, to the term of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The vote—on a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem—will achieve nothing.
The resolution is rendered all the more absurd, if not risible, by the inaction of the US administration and the UNSC to stem the mayhem, death and destruction of Aleppo, one of the world’s most historic cities. Subject to unrelenting and indiscriminate bombing by Russia and the paltry-numbered forces of its Syrian puppet, President Bashar al-Assad, for more than 18 months, the city finally fell to Syrian forces and their Iranian overlords and Shia mercenaries only days before the UNSC vote on West Bank settlements. The UNSC, neutralized by Russia’s veto, stood idly by and offered little more than pathetic consolation and finger-pointing prattle.
Palestinians, therefore, may take no comfort. The vote they secured will do little more to alleviate their plight than would have a UNSC vote that has eluded the Syrian crisis for five years and counting. Friday’s resolution and a few shekels might get them a cup of good Turkish coffee at their nearest coffee stand but little else.
Israel, Palestine and the Obama Administration
For an American administration that took office eight years ago amidst so much hope and high-mindedness on the Middle East, the vote—while technically consistent with long-standing US policy opposing settlements—seems an appropriate denouement to its ineffective Middle East policies. Washington’s aspirations for the Middle East—from a resolution of this, the Middle East’s most enduring conflict, to stability in Iraq and from an end of violent extremism in the region to a flowering of democracy in the wake of the Arab Spring—have uniformly been dashed.
President Barack Obama may take small comfort from the much criticized deal struck in 2015 to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. That accord could hardly pass muster in the US Congress and the Democratic Party. And America’s incoming president, Donald Trump, campaigned on a pledge to negotiate a better one (as unlikely as that seems at present).
Moreover, the Iranian nuclear agreement did little to attenuate the venomous oratory emanating from Tehran, which is apparently even more determined now to detest its Western nemeses, the US and Israel, all the while looking to capitalize on commercial deals and foreign investment. Again, lofty Obama rhetoric may be America’s only compensation. Enter President Trump and the art of the deal.
Obama seems to have learned little from his eight years wrestling with the hydra-headed monster of the Middle East. He came into office believing that Israeli settlements were the issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and named a respected politician and experienced negotiator, Senator George Mitchell, to work to resolve it.
In 2010, Obama and Mitchell managed to secure a temporary, limited suspension of settlement activity in the West Bank from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Then, it was Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), who refused to acquiesce. A meaningless, 11th hour sop by Abbas to the US president toward the end of the suspension period predictably led to nothing. Some two years later, the good senator quietly resigned, having made no headway. Not surprisingly, the settlements continued.
Three years later, the president’s eager new secretary of state, John Kerry, despite 30 years of experience confronting the issue as a US senator and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took up the challenge. Fourteen months of furtively furious diplomacy foundered on Kerry blaming Israeli hardheadedness on settlements. And settlement activity continues.
Little has changed on the Palestinian side either. In November, Fatah, the party headed by Abbas, held its oft-postponed General Conference in Ramallah. It unsurprisingly reelected its Procrustean leadership, whose control of the party and the PA has been marked by insidious corruption, deteriorating quality of life for Palestinians, and declining prospects for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Neither the United Nations (UN) nor the United States can fix that either.
US Foreign Policy
America’s vote on Friday went against more than 35 years of US policy opposing action in the UN that imposed conditions on the Israelis and Palestinians. Administrations of both American political persuasions have long—and rightly, in my view—believed that this tragic conflict can only end when the two sides themselves sit down, negotiate the tough issues and ultimately make the very painful compromises necessary to resolve their conflict.
When they each can commit themselves to that and then produce the courageous leadership required to achieve that herculean task, then and only then will these two peoples see a resolution. Until that time, the well-meaning do-gooders like the US, the European Union and the UN will offer what we witnessed in Friday’s vote.
If anyone expects this resolution to change anything, then read the sad history of this conflict dating back to 1948 and even before. Moreover, America’s incoming administration, also long on rhetoric (though of a much different sort) and very short on history (or even policy for that matter), is likely to take US policy on this issue into uncharted waters.
The UN Security Council resolution will stand as one more fruitless international effort to address a conflict that refuses to end.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
Photo Credit: GA161076