Prime Minister Netanyahu is Wrong: The US Must Stand Up for Israel, Not for Settlements

October 20, 2016

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent statements warning against possible US actions related to West Bank settlement activity are just the latest evidence that he is far more interested in defending the settlement enterprise than in seriously pursuing a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They display a serious misunderstanding of longstanding US policy and contempt for the US role in advancing a two-state solution.

Speaking to a group of Likud activists and settlement residents, the Prime Minister reportedly described how he must act cautiously with regard to settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land, in order to preserve the greater good of the overall settlement enterprise. He described the final months of President Obama’s term as a dangerous time, claiming that previous presidents had used this time to act counter to Israel’s interests.

According to a spokesman from his office, the Prime Minister “added that he hopes this won’t happen again, and he expects the U.S. not to change its traditional policy of the last several decades and to prevent anti-Israel resolutions at the UN Security Council.”

The United States has always stood and will continue to stand against anti-Israel actions at the United Nations or anywhere else. But unlike the Prime Minister and his government, the United States does not conflate Israel with the occupied territory that it controls beyond the Green Line, and does not conflate the best interests of Israel with the best interests of the settlement movement.

Opposition to settlement-building in the occupied territory has been the policy of every Presidential administration, Democratic and Republican, since 1967. In the past, the US has not shied away from supporting non-binding Security Council efforts that set forth constructive suggestions for making progress toward a negotiated, conflict-ending agreement, and which condemn harmful and counterproductive actions by both sides.

The United States was instrumental in drafting and passing UNSC Resolutions 242 (in 1967) and 338 (in 1973), which together set forth the international community’s call for a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict through territorial compromise. And, under President Reagan, the United States did not veto UNSC resolutions criticizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and its activities in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Advancing a two-state solution that peacefully resolves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and secures Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state is a major American interest and goal. It is outrageous that Prime Minister Netanyahu apparently views past good faith US efforts to do so, like the Clinton Parameters and President George W. Bush’s Annapolis Conference, as contrary to Israel’s interests.

The Prime Minister’s vision for the US role is clear: The US government should do nothing while Israel acts to entrench the occupation and expand settlements in the West Bank, undermining the prospects for a two-state solution. It should staunchly reject any international scrutiny or criticism of Israel for these actions, ensuring that they can continue without any consequences – and that the Prime Minister can hold together his right-wing coalition and remain popular with the settlement movement.

That would not be friendship or leadership, but a complete abdication of American interests, values, and obligations – including our obligation to prevent Israel from wandering further down the path of endless occupation and conflict. President Obama cannot accept that. Nor could any President who understands the true precepts of the US-Israel relationship.

We urge the Obama administration to use its remaining time in office to take meaningful action to preserve the prospects for a two-state solution and to make clear that settlement expansion is unacceptable and runs counter to shared American and Israeli interests and values.