The new statement by the United Nations Security Council, supported by the United States, is an important rebuke of the Israeli government’s moves to accelerate settlement expansion and annexation in the occupied West Bank.
The statement stressed that both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples are entitled to equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and dignity, and reiterated that continued Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of a two-state solution. It expressed concern over the “legalization” of settlement outposts and demolition and displacement of Palestinian communities. Importantly, it also stressed the obligation of the Palestinian Authority to renounce and confront terror, and clearly condemned all acts of violence and terrorism against civilians.
As pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy Americans, we know that serious criticism of Israel at the UN is never comfortable. At the same time, we know that in this case, it is absolutely necessary. There is nothing “pro-Israel” about defending the Netanyahu government’s actions in the occupied territory. Its annexationist agenda is disastrous for Israel’s stability, security and future as a democracy. Its actions run completely counter to longstanding US policy, trample on Palestinian rights and violate international law.
While the Biden Administration and international diplomats work around the clock to reduce Israeli-Palestinian tensions and the risk of further violent escalation ahead of the month of Ramadan, it’s alarming that the Netanyahu government is insisting on moving forward with the construction of thousands of new settlement units and the “legalization” of at least nine unauthorized settlement outposts. While the prime minister apparently promised the US that he would hold off for several months on the further legalization of additional outposts, his office nonetheless also announced that it would continue with the demolition and displacement of Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
While we hope that ongoing diplomacy can succeed in calming tensions, we also know that Prime Minister Netanyahu and the settlement movement have a long history of pocketing concessions from the United States, the Palestinians and others, while refusing to fundamentally alter their continued push toward annexation. As with its push to undercut Israeli democracy by gutting the independence of the judiciary, the current government seems dead-set on pursuing its far-right agenda.
Only clear red lines set by the US and the international community can hope to deter further escalatory actions. That is why we continue to urge the Biden Administration to take urgent steps against the Netanyahu government’s moves toward annexation.
The Administration should begin with revoking the “Pompeo doctrine” by restoring bipartisan US policy that the settlements are inconsistent with international law. It should take concrete steps to differentiate between Israel and the territory it occupies, and ensure that no US arms or taxpayer dollars are being used to further de facto annexation of occupied territory. At a pivotal moment in Israel’s history, American leaders should also demonstrate solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are desperately trying to defend their country’s democracy.