Would Democratic Presidential Candidates Hold Israel Hostage?

Composite Illustration (l. to r.):Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg by Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Concerns have been growing that if elected, Democratic presidential candidates — and particularly U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Mayor Pete Buttigieg — would exploit U.S. military aid to control Israeli policy, including a demand to end "settlement" construction in Judea and Samaria.

When the Democrats talk about "settlements," it is good to remember that this includes all Jewish communities that United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334 terms "Occupied Palestinian Territories," including Jerusalem's Old City, the Temple Mount, and the Western Wall.

When they talk about "end settlements," "stop settlements," and "stop the illegal occupation," they mean Israeli withdrawal.

Then U.S. Presidemt Barack Obama did not veto UNSC 2334 in December 2016 that declares both the Temple Mount and the Western Wall to be in "occupied Palestinian territory." It also urges U.N. members “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967,” effectively endorsing BDS.

UNSC 2334 violates the Oslo Accords, and now Democrat presidential candidates apparently want to implement it by conditioning military assistance to Israel on Israel's compliance with the resolution.

Just earlier this month, on November 6, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro wrote an article titled "What democrats need to learn from Obama about aid to Israel." In it, he lauds Obama's military assistance to Israel while noting how it benefited the U.S.:

"In September 2016, the U.S. and Israel signed a 10-year, $38 billion agreement on U.S. military assistance... The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) provides $3.3 billion of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) each year, which Israel uses to purchase major U.S. military equipment. An additional $500 million per year goes to support missile defense programs (Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow 3)... The vast majority of the FMF dollars flow back into the U.S. economy and support thousands of jobs in our defense sector. While that is not the primary motivation for the assistance, it is the reason the MOU phases out a longstanding (and outdated) carve-out for Israel to spend a portion of the funds on purchases from Israeli firms."

However, the conditions imposed in Obama's agreement, which Shapiro promotes, would actually cripple Israel's defense industry. This was argued by journalist Caroline Glick in 2016: "The problem isn’t the money... The problem is that in exchange for the expanded military aid, Obama is demanding that Israel surrender its diplomatic and military independence to the White House.”

Glick added that Obama’s model of military aid packages constitutes an “assault on Israel’s military independence. Israel’s military industries are the primary guarantor of its independent capacity to fight and win wars... Israeli critics of US assistance note that Israel’s military industries are the primary casualties of the aid.” She noted the deal would “require Jerusalem to give up 25% of the military assistance it is now allowed to spend at home,” thereby harming the Israeli workforce and forcing Israel “to concede its military independence to the White House for a fistful of dollars. Without the independent capacity to develop and produce defense systems, spare parts and munitions, Israel will be unable to take military action without White House approval."

Many were left asking why Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accepted Obama’s aid package. Obama's conditions crippled Israel's military industry, making Israel more dependent on U.S. aid. Now his would-be successors are calling to use military aid to coerce Israel out of Judea and Samaria.

The threat of Democratic candidates to condition military aid to Israel on Israel withdrawing from "Occupied Palestinian Territories" including many sites in Jerusalem contradicts the terms of former U.S. President Bill Clinton's Parameters for Peace from 2000, showing how the party’s positions have shifted sharply.

In his autobiography "My Life," Clinton describes a conversation he had with former PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat when he was hosting a Palestinian-Israeli summit in Camp David in 2000. He recalled that Arafat asked him about the Parameters for Peace proposal, and “wanted Israel to have the Wailing Wall, because of its religious significance, but asserted that the remaining fifty feet of the Western Wall should go to the Palestinians. I told him he was wrong, that Israel should have the entire wall to protect itself from someone using one entrance of the tunnel that ran beneath the wall from damaging the remains of the temples beneath the Haram... Arafat argued that he should have a few blocks of the Armenian quarter [of Jerusalem’s Old City] because of the Christian churches there. I couldn’t believe he was talking to me about this… I said these parameters were nonnegotiable and were the best I could do… Arafat’s rejection of my proposal after [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Barak accepted it was an error of historic proportions.”

The Democrats’ threat to condition military aid to Israel on a withdrawal from the Temple Mount and the Western Wall also violates the Oslo Accords. This is because the Oslo II Accord, signed in 1995 between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and brokered by the Quartet of which the U.S. was a member, determine that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations." Therefore neither party can make unilateral steps such as withdrawals in absence of negotiations without violating the accords.

The Oslo Accords rule that borders can only be decided as the outcome of direct negotiations and not through UNSC resolutions. It follows that UNSC 2334, which calls the “West Bank” and Jerusalem's Old City "Occupied Palestinian Territories," violates the Oslo Accords.

And yet Obama allowed the resolution’s approval at the end of his term in December 2016. Speaking to the program “60 Minutes” in May 2017, months after he allowed UNSC 2334 to pass, Obama said he did so because he supported the condemnation of Israeli “settlements” — in other words, Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria. He said the number of these homes has "gotten so substantial" that it is inhibiting the possibility for an "effective, contiguous Palestinian state.”

But Obama lied about "massive settlement construction" to create an excuse to bury the Oslo agreements and abandon Israel in the UNSC. The “settlements” take up just 1.7% of the “West Bank,” approximately the same as they did when the Oslo Accords were signed. By inventing the myth of “massive settlement construction,” Obama created a false sense of urgency to justify the UNSC resolution.

The U.S. witnessed and backed the Oslo Accords, but instead of defending the accords, Obama helped PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas violate Oslo. Abbas would not have been able to violate Oslo without Obama’s help in the UNSC.

Obama tried to portray UNSC 2334 as being about “settlements,” but it actually is much more than that. If Obama just wanted to stop “settlement” growth as he claimed, why authorize a resolution that rules that both Jerusalem's Temple Mount and Western Wall are “occupied Palestinian territory”? Even Clinton's parameters asserted that it is non-negotiable that the Western Wall remain in Israel, although they also called for the Temple Mount to be in “Palestine.”

If Obama believed the "two-state solution" was in danger and, as he claims, imposing a solution in the UNSC was necessary to protect i, could he not have been more balanced? Why not adopt the more balanced Clinton parameters? Why, for example, give all four quarters of Jerusalem's Old City to the Arabs and not two quarters to the Arabs and two quarters to the Jews as Clinton had proposed in Camp David in 2000? Why not promote a position giving the Western Wall to the Jews?

Then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Clinton did not consider settlements to be illegal and did not require that Israel give away all the land beyond the armistice lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War. Rabin said “We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.” Clinton said “I recommended 94 to 96 percent of the West Bank for the Palestinians… an understanding that the land kept by Israel would include 80 percent of the settlers in blocs.”

Obama's UNSC 2334 rules that “the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”. UNSC 2334 “calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground.”

Obama contradicted the positions of both Rabin and Clinton. By calling for the “reversal” of “settlements,” Obama's UNSC 2334 basically called for the ethnic cleansing of over 800,000 Jews who reside over the 1949 Armstice Lines — the so-called “Green Line.”

When UNSC 2334 was passed, Netanyahu said that Obama’s administration had staged a “shameful ambush,” adding that the resolution “doesn’t bring peace closer. It pushes it further away.” He further called it “absurd” that the resolution termed Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter and Western Wall “occupied territory.”

Likewise, the Wiesenthal Center declared UNSC 2334 the worst anti-Semitic incident of 2016, noting that it reversed decades of U.S. policy to veto such moves against Israel. For example, a similar resolution was vetoed back in 2011 by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who said, "This draft resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides. It could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations.” That same year, Obama told the U.N. General Assembly that peace would “not [come] through statements and resolutions at the UN."

U.S. Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) echoed the sentiments of many Democrats and Republicans, labeling UNSC 2334 “destructive and irresponsible” and as seeking “to isolate and delegitimize Israel… U.S. actions were completely unacceptable and reckless.”

Five months after the passage of UNSC 2334, the U.S. Congress approved H.Res.11 entitled “Objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 as an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace, and for other purposes.” Congress affirmed that the UNSC resolution undermined “the long-standing U.S. position to oppose and veto Security Council resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final status issues or that are one-sided and anti-Israel.”

The U.S. Representatives declared that “any future measures taken in international or outside organizations to impose an agreement including the recognition of a Palestinian state will set back the cause of peace, harm the security of Israel, run counter to the enduring bipartisan consensus on strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship, and weaken support for such organizations.”

Instead, they affirmed that “a sustainable peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will come only through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties resulting in a Jewish, democratic state living next to a demilitarized Palestinian state in peace and security.” Further, “the U.S. government should oppose and veto future Security Council resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final status issues or that are one-sided and anti-Israel” and that the House “calls for such resolution to be repealed or fundamentally altered."

The Democratic candidates' threat to condition military aid to Israel on Israeli withdrawal is an attempt to implement Obama's antisemitic UNSC 2334. This resolution violates the Oslo Accords and was condemned by Congress members as “destructive and irresponsible.” It is a shame that leading Democrat presidential candidates are embracing this policy.

Ezequiel Doiny is the author of Obama's Assault on Jerusalem's Western Wall, which examines Obama's role in the plot to take the Western Wall from Israel by using fake news of “massive settlement construction” to create a false sense of urgency in the UN Security Council which led to the passage of anti-Israel Resolution 2334 — a resolution that includes both Jerusalem's Temple Mount and the Western Wall as “occupied Palestinian territory.” Click here to read more of this author’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.

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