The year started in almost the same way it finished – with controversy surrounding an American President and Israel.
In late December 2016, the United Nations Security Council passed UNSC Resolution 2334, which related to Israeli settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.”
The United States of America would usually veto such a resolution but in this instance, it chose to abstain (some said it actually played a role in ensuring that the resolution would be put before the Security Council). Many commentators saw the failure (or refusal) to veto as President Obama’s parting shot at Israel before he left office. It was after all, just a month away from incoming President Trump’s inauguration, making the move seem like an odd one coming from a lame duck President.
The resolution struck not only at Israel’s controversial settlements, it also denied Israeli claims on the Old City or any other part of pre-1967 Jerusalem which along with other areas such as Bethlehem had been designated as an international territory and apart from the land set aside respectively for the proposed Jewish and Arab States in the partition of the old British Mandate of Palestine in UN Resolution 181 of 29 November, 1947.
As such, UNSC 2334 pre-empted the possible outcome of diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians and indeed, the supposedly “moderate” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and various organs of the United Nations were emboldened to proceed apace with various moves designed to deny any Jewish connection – historical, political or in any other sense – with Jerusalem.
Despite American claims to the contrary at the time, from the perspective of encouraging the Palestinians to come to the peace table, the resolution simply served to harden their stance. The passing of UNSC 2334 changed the ground rules and the political landscape for the worse and there was little movement in 2017 on all of the key issues of diplomacy.
At the time, President-Elect Trump tweeted for Israel to “stay strong” until his inauguration and also mentioned that “if it [the UN] lives up to its potential, it’s a great thing. If it doesn’t, it’s a waste of time.”
With the changing of a President, came the changing of the guard at the UN, and Samantha Power was replaced by Nikki Haley who has been a powerhouse since entering the UN, even declaring at the AIPAC conference that “For anyone that says you can’t get anything done at the UN, they need to know there’s a new sheriff in town”.
In mid-year, we again saw the handiwork of Abbas when terrorists used the Temple Mount to store weapons that were used to attack and kill two Israeli border policemen. Instead of co-operating with Israel’s efforts to maintain security by placing metal detectors in the area, Abbas called for days of rage inciting further clashes in the streets of Jerusalem. Ultimately, Israel removed the metal detectors in favour of other security measures but the event clearly showed that Abbas was in no conciliatory mood and the prospects for peace were placed on the backburner yet again.
So we arrive at the end of 2017 with President Trump declaring that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and announcing his intention to come good on his promise and that, at some time in the future, he will move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem where, among other things, the Knesset and Supreme Court have stood since the early days of the State.
Immediately, the entire world erupted into panic asking what this would mean for peace and stability in the region. The Guardian headlines screamed hysterically fearing for the future of the city. Such fears are par for the course, when the Palestinians don’t get what they want.
With the Palestinian leadership and other urgers in the region and even in the streets of some of the world’s democracies calling for more “days of rage”, American jurist Alan Dershowitz was right on the mark stating, “some have argued that the US should not recognise Jerusalem because it will stimulate violence by Arab terrorists. No US decision should ever be influenced by the threat of violence. Terrorists should not have veto over US policy.”
In fact, it seems that terrorists are managing to influence the world at large. We witnessed various people, even including Hollywood actors, coming out and urging Israel to show restraint in its reaction to Trump’s Declaration.
Surely, if we are going to ask people to show restraint, then that question should at least be directed to those who are the cause of the violence and upheaval to begin with? Instead of asking Israel to exercise restraint in responding, why not just ask the Palestinians for restraint in their violence?
Meanwhile, protesters took to the streets around the world, including in Sydney and in Melbourne. Around the world, there were anti-Semitic violent chants such as “Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa yahud” – which translates as “Jews, remember Khaybar the army of Muhammad is returning” which is a reference to the massacre of Jews in 628BCE.
And even here in Melbourne, I was shocked (or perhaps not so shocked) to see people marching with the flag of Hezbollah – you know the Lebanese terrorist organisation? (This is not just my opinion – Hezbollah is a proscribed terrorist organisation under the laws of our own country).
The Herald Sun reported on the rally and included a quote from a protester who said he came to show support for Palestine. It read, “Clad in the flag of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Mr Dirani said he believed in peaceful protest. ‘Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but anyone who does a bit of research, will support Palestine’, he said.”
How cute was it for a journalist, apparently oblivious to the irony, to use the words “Hezbollah” and “peaceful protest” in the same sentence? And what a shame that nobody thought of carrying out some basic research on that fact before going to print about peaceful protest!
Meanwhile, at the UN, the United States of America exercised its veto power to torpedo a Security Council resolution introduced by Egypt critical of the White House’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Strangely enough, the UN was suddenly concerned that the American announcement had somehow altered the status quo making peace harder to achieve. Naturally, none of them bothered to read its content which clearly showed that unlike the resolution passed by the Security Council a year ago, it changed very little.
And, to their eternal shame, the nations making up the United Nations continue to ignore the behaviour of Israel’s “peace partner” Abbas, his calls for days of rage, his incitement to violence, his comparison of Trump to Hitler, the rocket fire aimed at Israeli civilians and the anti-Semitic calls on Palestinian and other streets including in some Arab countries – nobody is listening to that at all. Of course, if they haven’t been listening to the cries of 500,000 dead Syrians and millions of others forced to flee that country, why would they care about what Abbas is doing to his own people? I am puzzled however, that the world never goes into a rage when Russia exercises its UN veto power to protect the Syrian dictatorship that is the cause of such a travesty.
While nothing has changed on the political scene, the Israelis push on with worthwhile pursuits to help humanity including tending for injured Syrians and traveling across the world wherever there are crises (except when the Iranians refused their help after an earthquake).
Fittingly, Israel’s economy continues to thrive despite the fact that it is located in such a tough neighbourhood.
And so we wait, with baited breath, to see what the future holds for 2018.
Emily Gian is the Media & Advocacy Director for the Zionist Federation of Australia.