It is rare to get the warring political factions in Washington to agree on anything. But last week, in a unanimous vote, the House of Representatives sent a clear message to President Barack Obama that he should oppose any U.N. Security Council resolution that seeks to impose on the parties a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In unmistakable terms, the bipartisan resolution called on the president “to oppose and veto … resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final status issues, or are one-sided and anti-Israel.” It even directed that proposed “parameters” of a settlement should be rejected.
Add to that a similar letter signed in September by 88 senators that urged Obama to veto any Security Council resolution that recognizes Palestine and it seems that Israel has wall-to-wall support in the Capitol for its position that negotiations should be bilateral and that solutions should not be imposed from the outside.
While these developments give comfort to Israel’s supporters, we can’t help but notice disconcerting moves coming from the Obama administration and troubling commentary from the left flank of the Democratic Party on the need for some kind of U.S. or international intervention. The concern seems to be based on the recognition that chances for a two-state solution are being eroded by facts on the ground — that toxic combination of Palestinian intransigence and Israel’s expansionist policies in the settlement blocs. So, there have been reactions. For example, Secretary of State John Kerry recently told the Women’s Foreign Policy Group that short of direct U.S. intervention, “there are other things we can do” to preserve a two-state solution.
What was Kerry talking about? Could it mean some effort to recognize a Palestinian state, if only in name? Does that make any sense? Well, that is exactly what former President Jimmy Carter called for last week in a New York Times op-ed. “This is the best — now, perhaps, the only — means of countering the one-state reality that Israel is imposing on itself and the Palestinian people,” Carter wrote. And he argued that “recognition of Palestine and a new Security Council resolution are not radical new measures, but a natural outgrowth of America’s support for a two-state solution.”
Carter has been battling Israeli settlements for more than three decades. He conveniently ignores the clear choice made by the Palestinians at the beginning of the millennium to disengage from the peace process and to embark on continued warfare against Israeli civilians. But while that may explain the logjam, it doesn’t excuse it.
There is no question that Israel can do something to create a better situation in which to make peace. But it would be foolish to do so without a willing partner with whom to negotiate. And until one appears, Congress seems to be telling the president that we need to step back and let the parties choose their own course. Because that’s what self-determination is all about.