Countering the next anti-Israel resolution

The UN Security Council cannot justify the Arab Leagues’ call for Israel to stop settlement-building without a minimal quid pro quo.

arab league meeting 311 (photo credit: AP)
arab league meeting 311
(photo credit: AP)
The Arab League, that body that has stood in the way of peace with Israel for more than 60 years, has reportedly now added one more initiative to its long list of efforts to condemn and isolate the Jewish state. It has announced its intention to bring to the United Nations Security Council a resolution which, among other things, would oblige Israel to stop building settlements.
Among the many anti-Israel initiatives of the Arab League, this is one of the more cunning and devious because of the widespread sentiment against Israeli settlement policy. At the UN, even at the Security Council, there is a significant number of countries who will always vote against Israel; there are those, like the Europeans, who sometimes back Israel, but who often vote against or abstain depending on the nature of the resolution being presented; and there is the United States, which mostly stands with Israel or, at least at the Security Council, prevents egregiously anti-Israel resolutions from passing, by using its veto.
Since every American administration over the past 30 years has had adisagreement of one kind or another with Israel on its settlementpolicy, the Arab League undoubtedly thinks this is its opportunity tomake a significant breakthrough at the Security Council.
To clarify the history, and in response to periodic remarks by Israel’scritics that Israel is constantly violating UN decisions, it is onlySecurity Council resolutions that can be binding. And in this regard,because of consistent US activity either vetoing one-sided resolutionsor making sure that they are balanced by calling on Palestinians andArabs to act as well, the Jewish state has never been in violation.Added to that is the failure of Palestinians to fulfill SecurityCouncil mandates, which meant that Israel’s obligations have beennullified.
This brings us to the Arab League effort to get the Security Council tostate that Israeli settlements are illegal and must be stopped. Webelieve the passage of such a one-sided resolution would make itimpossible to achieve any progress toward peace. It would cause Israelto distrust any process that had an international imprimatur. And itwould lead Palestinians to believe they have no need to do what hasbeen the major imperative to reach peace, accept the legitimacy ofIsrael as a Jewish state and negotiate a compromise agreement on thatbasis.
All of which leaves the Obama administration with three options toprevent such a setback. The best would be to persuade the Arab Leaguenot to go forward with such an idea. The administration has widelyargued that peace can only be attained through direct negotiations. Itcan and should make the case to the Arab League that negotiations wouldbe far more difficult to achieve and sustain with such a resolution. In this regard, Washington can enlist its European allies to influencethe Arab League to back off.
If this fails, the US has the option to use its veto. As noted, thereis a history of such examples. It's something American officials don'tlook forward to doing but when insidious ideas reach the inner sanctaof the Council, it becomes necessary.
A third way is for American officials to insist on obligations for allsides. This may be an opportunity to address the delegitimizationagainst Israel campaign. The US could put forward a provision sayingthat boycott efforts against Israel by member states of the UN goagainst the charter and should be deemed by the Council as out ofbounds.
I have no illusion that the Arab League, guilty of a variety ofboycotts against Israel, would even consider such a clause. But itmight get them to rethink the wisdom of a anti-settlement resolution.And it could begin a long overdue discussion about the free pass somany get while trying to delegitimize the Jewish state.
 It is becoming increasingly difficult for two tracks to exist at thesame time. One track is the effort, led by the US, to bring Israelisand Palestinians to serious, good faith negotiations. The other trackis the expanding delegitimizing activities against Israel. ThePalestinians themselves say in one breath they want to live in peaceand security with Israel and in the next are encouraging andparticipating in campaigns to boycott and sanction the Jewish state.The tension between these two paths is great and an explosion is almostinevitable if it continues.
A UN Security Council resolution on settlements could bring everything to that breaking point.
Abraham H. Foxman is the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. His books include “Jews and Money: The Story of a Stereotype” (Palgrave Macmillan, November 2010) and "The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control.”