J Street Welcomes US Abstention on UNSC Resolution

December 23, 2016

J Street welcomes the decision today by the Obama administration to abstain from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution, which reaffirms the need for a two-state solution and calls for a halt to actions by both sides that serve to undermine the prospects for peace.

The resolution is consistent with longstanding bipartisan American policy, which includes strong support for the two-state solution, and clear opposition to irresponsible and damaging actions, including Palestinian incitement and terror and Israeli settlement expansion and home demolitions.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only end based on mutual agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, and President Obama has repeatedly stated his opposition to the United Nations – or any other entity – imposing a binding resolution on the parties. He also has stated and demonstrated a commitment to vetoing UNSC resolutions that are one-sided or anti-Israel.

Recent Congressional resolutions have reaffirmed this position. They have made clear that there is no US obligation to veto UNSC resolutions, like the one passed today, which acknowledge harmful actions, rhetoric or policies of both parties to the conflict. In fact, Democratic and Republican Presidents alike have frequently supported such UN Security Council resolutions on the conflict.

Indeed, a Congressional resolution earlier this year joined by 64 Members of the House of Representatives, and supported by J Street and the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement, encouraged the US government to “firmly articulat[e] 49 years of consistent, bipartisan United States opposition to settlement expansion.”

This resolution conveys the overwhelming support of the international community, including Israel’s closest friends and allies, for the two-state solution, and their deep concern over the deteriorating status quo between Israelis and Palestinians and the lack of meaningful progress toward peace. It is also a clear signal that the international community’s patience with an occupation of almost 50 years has limits.

Over the past few years, a major increase in settlement expansion and other activities that undermine the two-state solution have made clear the urgent need for strong US and international leadership to help preserve it, to remind the parties of the responsibilities and to help move them back on the path to a comprehensive negotiated agreement.

The consistent failure of the Palestinian leadership to adequately condemn acts of terror against Israeli civilians, and the apparent commitment of the current Israeli government to expanding, entrenching and retroactively legalizing settlement expansion and land seizure in the West Bank, warrant a strong rebuke from the international community and a clear affirmation of the commitments that are needed from both sides. This resolution helps to fill that need.

The overwhelming majority of American Jewish supporters of Israel continue to believe that the two-state solution is the only way to secure Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, and support strong American leadership to help achieve that goal, even when that means criticizing and rebuking counter-productive actions of the Israeli government. Election Day 2016 polling found that 62 percent of Jewish voters believe the United States should either support or abstain from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank.

Moving forward, J Street hopes that both Israelis and Palestinians will respect the sense of this resolution and take appropriate steps in response. President Abbas and the Palestinians must show far greater vigilance and seriousness in opposing and condemning acts of terror, and acts of incitement – including actions at the UN that ignore Israeli rights and historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the holy sites of the Jewish people. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israelis must reverse the overwhelming tide of settlement expansion in the West Bank, cease home demolitions and expulsions of Palestinian residents and marginalize prominent leaders calling for a “one-state solution,” annexation, or permanent occupation.

We urge all actors, including the incoming US administration, to recognize that this resolution is now the benchmark set by the international community and must be respected as such. Steps to abrogate or ignore it would not only damage Israel’s future and the prospects for a two-state solution, but undermine American interests and standing in the world.

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