Sunday, December 25, 2016

U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 concerning Israeli settlement activity

On Dec. 23, 2016, the UN Security Council voted 14-0 on its Resolution 2334 concerning Israeli settlement activity. The vote was in favor of demanding that Israeli cease building settlements in disputed areas. The reason for condemning these settlements is that they are being built on disputed land that will likely have to be given to the future State of Palestine as part of any realistic peace agreement. The United States abstained from the vote, while some had hoped that it would use its veto power to stop the resolution.

After the vote, the Obama administration gave a 40-minute, on-the-record press call. On the call, Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, explained that President Obama had had "several rounds of discussions with Ambassador Rice, Ambassador Power, Secretary Kerry, and members of his national security team" before deciding not to veto the resolution. There is concern that accelerated settlement construction in disputed areas is an obstacle to a future peace agreement. Rhodes explained that "we cannot simply have a two-state solution be a slogan while the trend lines on the ground are such that a two-state solution is becoming less and less viable."

Separately, Ambassador Samantha Power said, "We would not have let this resolution pass had it not also addressed counterproductive actions by the Palestinians such as terrorism and incitement to violence, which we’ve repeatedly condemned and repeatedly raised with the Palestinian leadership, and which, of course, must be stopped."

The Obama administration continues to demonstrate its support for reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Three years previously, Secretary of State John Kerry spent nine months attempting to broker a deal (more information below).

2013: VP Joe Biden expresses his commitment to a two-state solution

The article below was originally posted to Helium Network on Oct. 1, 2013.

"This very moment may offer the best opportunity for peace," U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations currently under way in Washington. For the first time in years, he said, "both sides are talking directly, and both sides have taken some risk to get where they are today."

Biden addressed the J Street conference in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 30, 2013. Over 2,800 people were gathered in Washington for the conference. J Street is a political advocacy and education organization for American Jews who support a "two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, meaning the creation of a Palestinian state through negotiations with Israel.

"Like you, the president and I are absolutely devoted to the survival of the Jewish state of Israel," Biden said. That survival "requires a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

He described Obama's commitment as "unrelenting." "That's why Obama chose Israel for his first visit in his second term," he explained. "That's why Secretary of State John Kerry has been there six times in the last six months."

He said that the United States shares practical security interests with Israel, as well as having a moral commitment to it. "If there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one," he quipped. More seriously, he added, "The leaders on both sides need to know, if they take risks for peace, their people will be behind them, and so will we."

Biden spoke on the last day of the federal government's fiscal year, as politicians were working overtime to determine whether the government would temporarily shut down beginning at midnight after failing to pass a budget for the coming year. For this reason, Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, had to cancel his appearance before the same crowd; he had been scheduled to speak to the J Street audience just before Biden.

Biden had also been busy, spending an earlier part of the day meeting with President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The J Street crowd enthusiastically received the vice president after waiting over two hours.

Of his meeting with Obama and Netanyahu, Biden said only that they had been "talking about issues that are of mutual concern" and that Netanyahu had publicly thanked Obama. Secretary of State John Kerry is the only one "authorized to comment publicly on the talks," as Kerry previously stated at the beginning of the nine-month negotiation process. The negotiations intend to arrive at a "final status agreement" that solves the conflict.

Biden reminded the audience that the United States is simultaneously addressing other security concerns in the Middle Eastern region. Obama has been focused on Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons. Syria killed about a thousand of its own citizens with sarin gas on Aug. 21, an incident that was close to the Israeli border and that occurred in the context of Syria's larger violent ethnic conflict.

Iran may be on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon, and Obama also spoke with the new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on Sept. 27, the first such US-Iran diplomatic outreach in over 30 years. Furthermore, Egypt must continue building its democracy and maintain its peace treaty with Israel, Biden said.

"We approach these problems with a great deal of humility," he remarked, regarding efforts to resolve strategic problems that affect the entire world. "We cannot impose a solution."

"We cannot want peace in their country more than they do," he added.

He was introduced by Ambassador Lou Susman, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. Susman said that Biden "understands that a two-state solution is the only solution" and commended him for having the "guts" to speak his mind to Israel and to other parties in the region. "I think we can all agree," Susman said, "that is the measure of a true friend: to tell others the truth."

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