John Kerry standing among foreign ministers at Paris peace conference.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Under pressure, it seems, by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to call a “peace” conference in the last five days of the Obama presidency that neither Israel nor the Palestinians even bothered to show up at, they quickly faced the spectacle of farce. The anti-Israel, anti-settlement declaration of the conference was already a predictable, pre-established fact and one wonders what possible justification there could be for 70 nations wasting so much money sending their representatives – including 35 foreign ministers – to a ridiculous and useless one-day conference that achieved precisely nothing.
The principal purpose of the conference, it seems, was to serve as Obama and Kerry’s last anti-Israel gasp. After passing UN Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements, they needed one more international conference to confirm the sentiment.
Well done, gentlemen. We get the point. You really, really don’t like settlements, you have problems with Israel and you hate Prime Minister Netanyahu’s guts.
You still have three days to belabor the point. Good luck.
I predict that when the administration is over we will still continue to hear Kerry bloviating about how Israel is the reason there is no peace. This follows a long and predictable pattern that has emerged over the past several decades of US Middle East policy. The State Department will urge the president to pursue its formula for bringing about peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The president and his secretary of state waste years in this endeavor, made quixotic because of the failure to confront Palestinian irredentism. Then, after those failures become entrenched, the diplomats behind them retire and use the media to pontificate on what their successors should do.
The latest representative of the class of former emissaries to speak out is Daniel Kurtzer, who served as US ambassador to Israel and to Egypt. In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, Kurtzer complained that Trump’s selection of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel is a serious mistake. He asserted that “Mr. Friedman would be representing not the American people but a small, extreme minority of Americans who have in mind the interests of a small, extreme minority in Israel.”
I know David Friedman. He is a man of integrity, professionalism and total dedication to the Jewish people.
And it is Kurtzer rather than Friedman who represents the fringe of Jewish opinion here and in Israel.
Friedman, he argues, is wrong for the job because, “Mr. Friedman has been publicly arguing that Israel has a right to build settlements and annex parts of the West Bank. He believes that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
But Israel historically, politically, religiously and geographically has more right to sovereignty in Judea and Samaria than the Palestinians. No one disputes that the West Bank was the biblical cradle of early Jewish civilization and that the land was unlawfully occupied by Jordan between the 1948 and 1967 wars. Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank in 1950 was recognized only by the United Kingdom, Iraq and Pakistan. So what illegal occupation of the West Bank is Kurtzer referring to? Which legal entity did Israel illegally occupy it from? A vanished Ottoman Empire? A dissolved British mandate? A Palestinian state that has never existed? Who, pray tell, did Israel take this land from? Eugene Rostow, a former undersecretary of state for political affairs in the Johnson administration, observed that UN Security Council Resolution 242, the backbone of all peace negotiations, gives Israel a legal right to be in the West Bank. The resolution “allows Israel to administer the territories” it won in 1967 “until ‘a just and lasting peace in the Middle East’ is achieved.”
So Friedman is correct when he says Israel has a right to build settlements in the West Bank. In fact, the Palestinians agreed to it when they signed the Oslo accords.
Whether doing so is in Israel’s best interests is for Israel’s government (elected three consecutive times) to decide.
As for annexing parts of the West Bank, Israel is under no obligation to maintain the status quo forever because the Palestinians refuse to coexist with a Jewish state.
Israel annexed the Golan Heights and has been even more patient in holding off annexation of some or all of the West Bank.
Regarding moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Kurtzer knows that Congress passed a law to this effect in 1995 – that is US policy, not what the State Department advocates. Congress made the mistake of providing the president a loophole to ignore the law and that is why the embassy remains in Tel Aviv. So Friedman not only has the law on his side but the foresight Palestinian apologists lack, namely the understanding that recognizing Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of Israel will end the Palestinian fantasy of one day controlling the city.
From there the Palestinian house of cards will collapse.
Arab governments that have used innocent Palestinian refugees as pawns with which to demonize Israel will recognize they will never be migrating to Israel to demographically overrun the Jewish state and Palestine will never be “liberated” from the river to the sea.
Many American presidents have believed that they can somehow persuade the Palestinians to live in peace with Israel. Each of their peace plans have failed.
Many critics seem frustrated that Friedman will carry out a foreign policy that treats Israel as an ally as opposed to President Obama’s favorite whipping post.
The fact that Friedman is close to the president-elect and is a solid friend of Israel will ensure that he has an important voice in ensuring that the democratic state of Israel is not forced to make concessions to non-democratic terrorist entities bent on Israel’s destruction.
The author, “America’s rabbi,” is referred to by The Washington Post as “the most famous rabbi in America.” He is the author, most recently, of The Israel Warrior: Standing Up for the Jewish State from Campus to Street Corner.
Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.