By Maxine S. Seller
The U.N. Security Council resolution on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the Middle East is one-sided, ahistorical and counterproductive to the pursuit of peace.
The resolution is one-sided because it blames mainly Israel for the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Terrorism is mentioned as an obstacle to peace only briefly, and without even identifying the terrorists as Palestinians. The Security Council does not ask the Palestinian Authority to stop vilifying Jews and inciting violence, or to stop honoring murderers (“martyrs”) and rewarding their families.
It asks Israel, however, to stop building homes in East Jerusalem, the neighborhood of the original Hadassah Hospital, Hebrew University, centuries-old synagogues and the Western Wall.
The Security Council resolution makes the ahistorical claim that Israel has no legal right to any of the land it acquired in the War of 1967, not even East Jerusalem. The resolution would return the country to the indefensible truce lines of 1949, when its narrowest point was only 9 miles wide.
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The resolution’s sponsors ignore what most countries recognized at the time – that the 1967 war was a defensive war, when huge Egyptian and Syrian armies surrounded the then vulnerable Israel in June of 1967 promising to destroy it at any moment. Only a spectacularly successful military campaign saved the country – and unexpectedly doubled its size, creating the issues of the territories and the settlements.
After the 1967 war a U.N. resolution called for Israel to give back “territories” (but not all of the territories) it had acquired. In the years that followed, Israel returned 90 percent of its new territory, the Sinai Peninsula, to Egypt and evacuated Gaza, removing thousands of settlers from both. The result was peace with Egypt, and constant rocket attacks from Gaza.
While some Israeli extremists want to keep the remaining territory, most would relinquish it if they had assurances that it would not become a haven for terrorists or a launch pad for rockets. Israel’s position is that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that permanent borders must be negotiated between them, not imposed from the outside.
Israeli communities living on land acquired in 1967 are not insurmountable obstacles to the forming of a Palestinian state. People can be moved, as they were from Sinai and Gaza. However, the demand that every Israeli must leave the West Bank to make way for a Palestinian state is unreasonable.
By declaring all Israeli land beyond the pre-1967 border to be illegally occupied, the Security Council has moved the peace process backward, not forward.
If the Security Council wants to promote peace, it should not issue one-sided, unfair and damaging resolutions. Instead, it should encourage direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinian governments that may eventually lead to a fair and lasting solution.
Maxine S. Seller is professor emerita at the University at Buffalo. She taught courses in the history of Israel and spent two semesters as a visiting professor at the University of Haifa.