New J Street Policy Statement on Settlement Expansion & UN Security Council Resolution

January 20th, 2011

Following the introduction of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion, J Street released a new policy statement:

J Street shares the growing global frustration at the lack of progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and at the Israeli government’s continued expansion of settlements beyond the Green Line.

J Street grounds its work in a deep commitment to the security, survival and character of the state of Israel as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people. As a pro-Israel organization and as Americans, we advocate for what we believe to be in the long-term interests of the state of Israel and of the United States. Ongoing settlement expansion runs counter to the interests of both countries and against commitments Israel itself has made.

For over forty years and across eight Presidential administrations, the United States has made it crystal clear that Israel needs to stop building settlements over the Green Line. As President Obama put it in his June 2009 Cairo speech, "the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Our opposition to settlement expansion does not contradict our belief that ultimately some Jewish settlements and a clear majority of settlers on the West Bank close to the Green Line, and the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, will be incorporated within the borders of Israel in return for swaps of equivalent land with the state-to-be of Palestine.

It pains us that against its own self interest and despite clear warnings from the United States and the rest of the international community, the Netanyahu government has nonetheless chosen to continue expanding settlements, rendering a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict increasingly hard to achieve.

The Resolution introduced in the United Nations Security Council this week condemns Israel’s ongoing settlement activity and calls on both parties to continue negotiating final status issues in an effort to resolve the conflict in the short term. These are sentiments that we share and that we believe a majority of Jewish Americans and friends of Israel share.

We would urge the government of the state of Israel to recognize that it is in Israel’s own interest to stop further building over the Green Line, and to immediately sit down with the United States and the Palestinians to establish a border and security arrangements that define where it can and cannot continue to build. Barring that, we urge the Obama administration to put forward quickly, and with strong international support, its own bold, proactive diplomatic initiative, including ideas for establishing borders and security arrangements.

The lack of movement on the diplomatic front has created the vacuum from which the present Security Council Resolution has emerged. By asserting clear leadership in a serious effort to reach a two-state resolution of the conflict, the United States can likely defer immediate consideration of this new Resolution by the Security Council.

Our preferred outcome would be Israeli or American action that averts the need for such a Resolution. However, if the Resolution does come to a vote, we urge the Obama administration to work to craft language, particularly around Jerusalem, that it can support condemning settlement activity and promoting a two-state solution.

While we hope never to see the state of Israel publicly taken to task by the United Nations, we cannot support a U.S. veto of a Resolution that closely tracks long-standing American policy and that appropriately condemns Israeli settlement policy.