Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Herod to head UNICEF?
EVEN THOUGH, ON one level, Israeli contempt for the U.N. and international law knows no bounds, we have written before about their desperate deep psychological need for the organization’s approval and to abuse the body’s prestige.
At the end of May, the Israeli Mission chose the U.N. General Assembly Hall as the venue for a daylong “Building Bridges Not Boycotts conference,” which was essentially a rally of pro-Israel organizations on how to stop the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It is somewhat odd that the U.N. would host a rally against efforts to enforce its decisions on the illegality of occupation and settlements, but one has to appreciate the inexorable pressure on officials from the U.S. and other allies.
For example, several years ago, when Israel secured temporary admission to the “West European and Other Group” (WEOG), many of the Europeans were very upset, and only acquiesced because of American pressure. Partly it was principle—not wanting to be associated with Israeli crimes—but it was also professional jealousy, so they insisted that Israel would not actually get nominated for important positions. Hard work and the adoption of pro-Israel positions by conservatives all over Europe bore fruit this year, when Israel secured WEOG’s nomination for chair of the U.N.’s Sixth Committee, the Legal Committee. It then went on to win the position in a secret ballot.
It was well managed. WEOG usually has contested positions, and so it put up stalking horse candidates to make it look like a contest. Clearly the fix was in, however, and so Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon became chairman of the U.N.’s Legal Committee. His opposition to the U.N.’s mandated two-state solution and his support for Israel’s continued occupation of most of the West Bank, not to mention illegal settlements, might make that anomalous anywhere else, but in this political atmosphere King Herod could become director general of UNICEF with the right backing.
To pile it on, forthcoming will be Israel’s bid for a seat in the Security Council. The election will take place in 2018, and contending already for two WEOG seats are Germany and Belgium. Needless to say, Tel Aviv’s message to Germany has been, “Thanks for all the submarines and the cash. But how dare you stand against Israel with your record!” The Germans are not, so far, going quietly into that good night. After all, they (and many other countries) think they deserve a permanent seat there, and residual guilt will not hold up against realpolitik in the country that invented it. In fact, WEOG often breaks out of the cozy rotation system for U.N. offices and has contested elections, and Israel’s behavior is not such as to inspire European sentimentality on the issue!
But once again, the odd scofflaw complementarity works. Security Council members often have included countries like Indonesia, occupying East Timor, and Morocco, occupying Western Sahara. In one sense, it is only fair to let Israel share in the breathtaking hypocrisy.
Perhaps that ability was rarely so well shown as with the Middle East Quartet. While the Quartet has been much improved since former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was squeezed out from the special representative sinecure that his grateful chums in Washington had secured for him, on the other hand it still has all the marks of its origins—which were an attempt to defang Russia, the EU and the U.N. on the Palestinian question by binding them into a consensus with the U.S., which is of course bound in that strange masochistic relationship with Israel.
However, considering how toothless Russia, the U.N. and the EU had become on the question, one did wonder why all the effort and showmanship was necessary. A critical part of the equation is the Israeli and American need to buffer and neutralize the clear statements of international and binding resolutions of the United Nations that are explicitly accepted and supported by all but one and a half nations in the world. And even the U.S. and Israel nominally accept them—they just do not accept their enforcement.
The U.S., as a founder of the United Nations, knows that the resolutions are binding but finds it politically inexpedient, for domestic reasons, to try to enforce them on the U.S. So the effort is to browbeat the Palestinians into voluntarily abandoning their rights in bilateral negotiations with Israel in an unbalanced settlement that would then be ratified by the U.N.
So far, there is enough of a residual sense of legality and anti-colonial solidarity in the U.N. to ensure that it would not ratify a settlement without the assent of the Palestinians. In a sense, the Palestinians are lucky they don’t have a fully recognized and functioning state, because if they did someone would have arranged a coup and a complaisant regime to put its seal on the surrender.
Nevertheless, the basic pattern remains. The Quartet allegedly monitors progress on the famous Road Map that got lost in the glove compartment almost immediately, while the Israelis do their own thing and continually complain about the Palestinians’ inability to respond positively, indeed rhapsodically, to land grabs, demolitions, killings and imprisonment.
History has many examples of heavily armed bullies vilifying those they persecute, but Israel and its supporters are surely unique in complaining about the ingratitude of the Palestinians for their treatment. Long overdue, a certain tone of exasperation is appearing in the statements of the various Quartet components.
Ban Ki-moon’s exasperation was evident in his statement on the Quartet’s report in July, but he at least upheld the U.N.’s legitimacy and cited the Quartet’s pledge “to actively support an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).” He also reiterated that “a negotiated two-state outcome that meets Israeli security needs and creates a sovereign Palestinian state, ends the occupation that began in 1967, and resolves all permanent status issues is the only way to achieve an enduring peace.”
And we can see how chastened Israel was after the Quartet had wagged three and half fingers at it. Ban immediately had to criticize Israel’s announcement of 560 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, as well as moves to build 240 housing units in settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. “This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by continuing statements of some Israeli ministers calling for the annexation of the West Bank,” which of course have included demands by the current Israeli U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon.
A frustrated Ban in his statement reiterated “that settlements are illegal under international law and urges the Government of Israel to halt and reverse such decisions in the interest of peace and a just final status agreement.” He was “deeply disappointed that this announcement comes only four days after the Middle East Quartet called on Israel to cease its policy of settlement construction and expansion.”
But at least Ban is not out on a limb: even Russia was upset by Israel’s indecorous finger to the Quartet, saying, "Moscow is seriously worried over new settlement projects in occupied Palestinian territories." The Foreign Ministry added that "Such settlements are illegal under the international law and are not recognized by the international community."
The plans "run counter to the report of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators that was made public on July 1," the Russian statement complained, "Along with inadmissibility of violence and incitement to violence, the report strongly recommends to stop construction and expansion of settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.”
So what will be done about it? As we go to press, the current U.S. president is haggling about how big the next arms aid deal for Israel will be, and the two contenders for his position will be seeing by how much they can inflate it. Rule of Law, anyone? ◙