In recent days, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity centering around the possibility of a new United Nations Security Council resolution aimed at setting forth a framework to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians drafted a resolution demanding an end of the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state based on a return to the pre-1967 lines within two years, and Jordan has submitted this to the Security Council.
France, Britain and Germany have been working on a more nuanced resolution as an alternative to the Palestinian draft. The United States has not yet declared a position, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Secretary of State John Kerry in recent days and urged him to veto any such resolution. Adding to the sensitivity of the matter is the Israeli election campaign now getting underway.
In the absence of any negotiations and a swiftly deteriorating situation on the ground, a blanket veto threat against any and all UN Security Council resolutions on the subject from the Obama administration would be an abdication of leadership. It may be that the United States will ultimately feel obliged to — and should — use its veto if it cannot shape a resolution that accords with its policies and principles. But that should not be its first option.
Instead, the administration should view the situation as an opportunity and should look for ways to work with international allies to use a Security Council resolution as a springboard for meaningful negotiations.
Of course, one cannot help but be acutely aware of the history of anti-Israel bias at United Nations bodies and be dismayed at the ongoing, disproportionate focus on Israel’s behavior in the General Assembly and in other UN agencies. Despite the UN’s role in Israel’s creation and its important work globally on many issues, including humanitarian relief and peacekeeping, the United Nations arouses justifiable mistrust when it comes to matters related to Israel.
Accordingly, Washington must stoutly resist and oppose any UN action under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter which would seek to impose a resolution of the conflict or sanction Israel in any way. And while a Palestinian-drafted resolution introduced by Jordan this month is a significant improvement over an earlier draft, it is not yet in a form the United States can accept.
But the fact remains that the two-state solution is the best way to safeguard Israel as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. The U.S. government and other friends of Israel should realize that providing the Palestinian people with a viable path, backed by the international community, to fulfill their legitimate aspirations for a state is the best way to avert Israeli isolation or even sanction in international institutions like the UN and the International Criminal Court.
The work going on right now around possible UN resolutions presents the U.S. with an opportunity to play a constructive role in shaping a resolution that is consistent with longstanding U.S. policy and internationally accepted parameters on which a negotiated two-state solution would be achieved.
This outline would specify the need to establish borders based on pre-1967 lines with swaps, a Palestinian capital in Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, mutual recognition and guarantees for the security of both states, an agreed-upon resolution to the refugee issue, mutual recognition by Israel and a new state of Palestine of each other as the national homeland of their respective people — and a diplomatic process to achieve agreement within a set period of time. The U.S. and the international community should then invite the parties to reconvene talks based on the basis of that resolution.
Seventy-six percent of American Jews would support the U.S. government putting forward a plan for resolving the conflict based on the parameters outlined above. With Israel’s Jewish and democratic character under long-term threat, and both Israelis and Palestinians suffering an endless cycle of violence, President Obama should not miss the opportunity to shape a UN Security Council resolution that could advance the prospects for a two-state solution.
Dylan Williams is director of government affairs for J Street.