Only a U.S. veto can prevent the adoption of a resolution that will make
peace harder to achieve.
By ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ Wall Street Journal January 26, 2011
Although I have opposed Israel's civilian settlements in the West Bank since
1973, I strongly believe that the United States should veto a resolution
currently before the U.N. Security Council that would declare illegal "all
Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory." This
condemnatory resolution is being supported by all members of the Security
Council other than the U.S. So it will pass unless the U.S. exercises its
There is a big difference between a government action being unwise, which
the Israeli policy is, and being illegal, which it is not. Indeed, the very
Security Council resolution on which proponents of the condemnation rely
makes it clear that the legal status of Israel's continued occupation isn't
Passed in 1967, Resolution 242 (which I played a very small role assisting
then-U.N. Ambassador Arthur Goldberg in drafting) calls for Israel to return
"territories" captured during its defensive war of 1967. The words "all" and
"the" were proposed by those who advocated a complete return, but the U.S.
and Great Britain, which opposed that view, prevailed.
Even partial return of captured territories is conditioned on "termination
of all claims of belligerency" and "acknowledgment of the sovereignty . . .
of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure
and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."
Resolution 242 does not mention the rights of nonstates, such as the
Palestinian Authority, Hamas or Hezbollah, the latter two of which do not
accept the conditions of the resolution. (Nor do Iran and several other
states in the region.) It would be wrong for the Security Council
retroactively to rewrite Resolution 242, which is the foundation for a
two-state solution-Israel and Palestine-44 years after it was enacted.
But the real reason the U.S. should veto this ill-conceived resolution is
that it is inconsistent with U.S. policy, which has long advocated a
negotiated resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. As Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton has put it: "We continue to believe strongly that New
York is not the place to resolve the longstanding conflict."
A negotiated resolution will require the Palestinian Authority to
acknowledge that some of the land captured by Israel from Jordan, after
Jordan attacked Israel, rightfully belongs to Israel. These areas include
the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem and the Western Wall-which were illegally
captured by Jordan in its aggressive and unlawful 1948 war calculated to
undo the U.N.'s decision to divide the area into Jewish and Arab homelands..
Additionally, there will have to be land swaps that recognize the realities
on the ground. Areas such as Ma'ale Adumim and Gilo, for example, have
become integral parts of Jewish Jerusalem.
Finally, Resolution 242 explicitly requires that Israel have "secure and
recognized boundaries," an implicit recognition that its pre-1967 boundaries
were neither secure nor recognized. Some territorial adjustments will be
essential if Israel is to remain more secure than it was in the lead-up to
the 1967 war.
The Palestinian Authority seems to understand at least some of these
realities, as reflected in the recent disclosure of 1,600 internal documents
by Al Jazeera. In one 2008 document, Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurie is
quoted proposing that Israel annex all settlements in Jerusalem, with the
exception of the Jewish areas of Har Homa and part of the Old City of
Jerusalem. Some on the Security Council, however, clearly don't understand.
The current draft of the proposed resolution condemns "all Israeli
settlement activities." Read literally, this condemnation would extend to
the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, and those areas that even
the Palestinian Authority concedes must remain under Israeli control. Israel
will not, and should not, return "all" such territories. The U.S. does not
believe it should, nor do reasonable Palestinians.
So what then is the purpose of the utterly unrealistic resolution now under
consideration? It simply gives cover to those Palestinians who do not want
to sit down and negotiate directly with Israel. It is also a stalking horse
for the Palestinian effort to secure a further U.N. resolution unilaterally
declaring Palestinian statehood-a result that neither Israel nor the U.S.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to negotiate without
any preconditions. He promises generous proposals, which could lead to
Palestinian statehood relatively quickly. The Palestinian Authority,
however, has set preconditions to any negotiations, most specifically a
second freeze on all West Bank and East Jerusalem construction. While I
favor such a freeze, I do not believe that it should be a precondition to
Let serious discussions begin immediately about the borders of the two
states. As soon as the borders are decided, Israel will stop building in all
areas beyond them. This is the only way toward peace. A Security Council
resolution unilaterally deciding the central issue of the negotiations will
only make matters worse.
Mr. Dershowitz is a law professor at Harvard. His latest novel is "The
Trials of Zion" (Grand Central Publishing, 2010).