UN Security Council condemns deadly truck-ramming attack on Israeli soldiers


The United Nations Security Council condemned the truck-ramming attack in Jerusalem that left four Israeli soldiers dead.

The statement tweeted late Sunday night by Sweden’s mission to the United Nations “condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack” in the eastern part of the city on Sunday and expressed condolences to the families of the victims and the government of Israel. Sweden holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month.

“The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” the statement said, and that the council finds any acts of terrorism “criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation.”

The statement “reaffirmed the need for all states to combat by all means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law, and international humanitarian law, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.”

The soldiers were killed and at least 15 were injured when the driver of a large truck, a resident of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, drove into a group of soldiers who had just exited a bus on the promenade in the Arnon Hatnatziv neighborhood, which marks the border between the eastern and western halves of Jerusalem.  The driver then reversed back over the bodies after he had hit them before being shot by a civilian tour guide and at least two soldiers.

The Security Council late last month passed a resolution by a vote of 14-0, with the Unites States abstaining, condemning Israeli settlements, calling them illegal and an obstacle to achieving peace with the Palestinians and the Arab world.

Two-state solution divides Congress during House debate


This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com.

The discussion in the House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon regarding the recent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution condemning Israel turned into a lively deliberation about the vitality of a two-state solution.

“I would like to have a debate on the one-state solution versus the two-state solution because I believe that the two-state solution has run its course and we need to pack up our tools and ship those off to the side and start all over again with a new look,” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said. The Iowa legislator, a passionate supporter of President-elect Donald Trump, believes that the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would serve as a platform for rocket fire into the Jewish state.

“I can’t vote for the resolution when we are advocating what Joel 3 say will bring judgment down upon our nation for trying to partition Israel. Can’t do it.” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said in his opposition to House Resolution 11. AIPAC has strongly backed the House measure for strongly criticizing the UNSC in its “one-sided” and “anti-Israel” resolution. “How do the Palestinians deserve the land that was given as the Promised Land 1,600 years before Muhammad even existed?” Gohmert asked while citing the biblical verse of David ruling Hebron.

From the other side of the aisle, David Cicilline (D-RI) told the House floor, “I am extremely fearful that the two-state solution is, if not dead, in critical condition.” Citing Israeli settlement construction and Palestinians pursuing unilateral measures at the UN, “there are those in the Israeli and Palestinian governments who are actively working to ensure its (two state solution) demise,” Cicilline added.

Other Democrats rejected House resolution 11 because the GOP-led Rules Committee refused to allow an amendment to the measure, which would have focused additional attention on the two-state solution instead of assailing the Obama Administration for abstaining at the UNSC vote last month. Rep. David Price (NC) urged his colleagues to vote against the bill and expressed disappointment that Resolution 11 did not include adequate support for a Palestinian state.

In a significant shift, the Republican party removed the two state solution from its platform in July 2016. David Friedman, Trump’s designated Ambassador to Israel emphasized last May, “I don’t think that a two-state solution is a productive way for people to be spending their time in the short term.”

EMET, a pro-Israel organization that backed House Resolution 11, issued a clarification on Thursday that some of the measure’s wording was problematic given its support of the establishment of a Palestinian state. “Our endorsement had nothing, what-so-ever, to do with support of the two state solution,” EMET wrote in an email.

The Thursday debate also included other colorful language. Rep. Jim Mcgovern (D-MA) referred to Israel as “the government of Tel Aviv,” language atypically used by Congressional officials given that the Israeli government sits and legislates in Jerusalem. Freshman Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) claimed that “Palestinians [are] a group that has been historically defined by their responsibility for terror.”

Slamming the Republicans closed rule on the House Resolution, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) critiqued the GOP for “stifling Knesset-style” debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, representing the tone of the Republican majority, Rep. Bradley Bryne (R-AL) called the Obama Administration’s abstention at the international body a “dark stain on an already disastrous legacy.”

U.S. allows UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements to pass


This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com.

After days of uncertainty, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted unanimously (14-0-1) on Friday afternoon to condemn Israeli settlement construction. The United States abstained, allowing the resolution to pass, and infuriating Jerusalem.

Israeli officials harshly criticized the UN move. Noting the Security Council’s inability to pass a comprehensive resolution addressing the humanitarian crisis in Allepo, Israeli diplomat George Deek wrote, “Now that the UN satisfied its obsession with Israel, it can go back to doing nothing about Syria.” Given that President Barak Obama is currently serving its last month in office, Likud Minister Tzachi Hanegbi argued on Channel 2 News that the vote was a “spit in the face of American democracy.”

In explaining her vote, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power began her speech quoting Republican President Ronald Reagan: “Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”

Yet, while noting her opposition to Israeli settlements, Power also reprimanded Turtle Bay in justifying the United State’s decision to abstain rather than supporting the draft. The UN Human Rights Council passed more resolution targeting the Jewish state than the world’s most egregious human rights violators: Syria, North Korea, Iran and South Sudan combined, the American Ambassador reiterated.  

Speaker Paul Ryan lashed out at Obama for refusing to veto the resolution calling the move “absolutely shameful…. Our unified Republican government will work to reverse the damage done by this administration, and rebuild our alliance with Israel.”

Even Democratic legislators opposed their own party leader. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) said that he was “disappointed that the U.S. delegation did not use veto power on Security Council.”

Leading Republican Senators including Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) have vowed that with the passing of this UNSC resolution, they would work to cut funding from Turtle Bay.

But within the Israeli Knesset, views were more mixed on the resolution. Zahava Gal-On, chairwoman of the Meretz Party urged Obama before the vote not to issue a veto. She blamed the government’s policy for advancing legislation that legalized an unauthorized outpost built on private settlement land in unifying the international community against the settlement enterprise. The Israeli Prime Minister’s office launched a harsh attack against the White House in its statement after the vote: “The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes.”

“Unprecedented failure in the Security Council,” blasted former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. “The Prime Minister needs to fire his Foreign Minister, and of course blame Obama, Kerry, Arafat and the Mufti.” Netanyahu currently serves both as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Amir Tibon, diplomatic correspondent for Walla News, highlighted the fact that Russia supported the anti-settlement resolution despite Netanyahu’s repeated touts of the intimate Moscow-Jerusalem relationship 

Noting the criticism of Obama’s abstention from Democratic circles, Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications said on a conference call with reporters, “We have great respect for Senator Schumer… What I would say is where is the evidence that by not taking this action it would slow settlement activity?” Rhodes added that the Administration would have vetoed any resolution that would have imposed a settlement on the two sides or recognized a Palestinian state.

Palestinian support for the resolution was widespread ranging from the Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour along with the Islamic Jihad militia, which praised the resolution for isolating and boycotting the Jewish state.

Martin Indyk, former U.S. Middle East Peace Envoy and Ambassador to Israel stressed, “Hope settlers will understand UNSC 2334 meaning: their determination to settle West Bank and undermine peace negotiations is hurting Israel.”

Despite all of the condemnations and commendation for the UN resolution from both sides, it remains unclear how today’s vote in Turtle Bay will directly impact Israelis and Palestinians on-the-ground thousands of miles from New York.  

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted, “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20,” suggesting that the next commander in chief will adopt more pro-Israel policies in Turtle Bay.

Jewish Insider reporter Jacob Kornbluh contributed to this article.  To receive Jewish Insider’s free morning briefing, click here.

Women and armed conflict: A need for a united resolution not a UN resolution


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

The turmoil engulfing the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) today is at one of its most vicious and aggressive phases. It would seem that everywhere you look around there is a state falling apart, a nation being divided, an economy collapsing and most of all chaos and terrorism. What’s worse is the fragmentation of the social texture, which unlike infrastructure and governments, will take decades to heal.

Despite its significance, not many politicians or decision makers are prioritizing or even acknowledging the effects of conflict on culture and societies. There are the immediate concerns of deaths, injuries, displacement, food insecurity and other humanitarian emergencies, and there is the long term issue of rebuilding state institutions and putting sound political systems in place. What about the people? Aren’t they the ones who are supposed to do all that, from rebuilding the economy to enforcing and respecting the law?

According to a survey by the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK); compared to seven violent crises in the region in 2005, the number has risen to 32 in 2014. And according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, conflict forcefully placed nearly 60 million persons by end of 2014, either Internally Displaced or as refugees. With the numbers of civilian causalities increasing exponentially it becomes obvious that whatever MENA politicians are trying to do to stabilize the region is not working, that is, if they are indeed trying to do something about it rather than being the reason behind it.

Hence, comes to play the role of women as peace builders. A 2015 research highlighted in the Global Study commissioned by UN Women under the title “Preventing Conflict, Transforming Justice, Securing the Peace” emphasized the role of women in improving humanitarian assistance, peace keeping efforts and economic recovery. This study comes 15 years after the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) issued its 1325 resolution on women and armed conflict (issued in October 2000) which was created after the issuing of four similar resolutions on children and armed conflict (Resolution 1261 issued in August 1999 and Resolution 1314 issued in August 2000) and civilians and armed conflict (Resolution 1265 issued in September 1999 and Resolution 1296 issued in April 2000).

The United Nations Peace Keeping agency states that this resolution “stresses the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace-building and peacekeeping. It calls on member states to ensure women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspective in all areas of peace building.”

Since the Beijing Declaration and its Platform of action in 1995 it took women’s movements and gender activists five years to lobby for a resolution at the international level, one that would respect and facilitate the positive involvement of women in the peace process, hence the 1325 resolution in 2000. Eight years later, the UNSC issued another resolution on women and armed conflict (Resolution 1820 issued in June 2008) which “reinforces Resolution 1325 and highlights that sexual violence in conflict constitutes a war crime and demands parties to armed conflict to immediately take appropriate measures to protect civilians from sexual violence.” This was in turn followed by a two resolutions in 2009 (Resolutions 1888 and Resolution 1989 issued in September and October 2009 respectively) which aimed at “further strengthening of women's participation in peace processes and the development of indicators to measure progress on Resolution 1325..” These was again followed by another resolution (Resolution 1960) in December 2010 and two more three years later (Resolution 2106 and 2122 issued on June and October 2013 respectively) re-endorsing all the previous resolutions and inviting the Secretary-General to review resolution 1325’s implementation.

Table

At the international level, the UN Security Council has adopted seven resolutions on Women Peace and Security. Source UN Peace Keeping:

Resolution Number

Year of adaptation

1325

2000

1820

2008

1888

2009

1889

2009

1960

2010

2106

2013

2122

2013

Although the UNSC and its member states unanimously endorsed the various resolutions on women and armed conflict while acknowledging the fact that women were deliberately shunned away from the warfare paradigm, in reality not much has been done to follow up on these promises. In his article in the 2010 NATO Review on women and conflict, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury who was led the initiative on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in his role as President of the Security Council expressed his disappointment at not living up to the promise. His article under the title “10 years on, the promises to women need to be kept” he says that the main point is not to make wars safe for women, but rather not to have wars in the first place by structuring the peace process in a way that prevents future conflicts. He says, “That is why women need to be at the peace tables, involved in the decision-making and in peace-keeping teams. They need to be there particularly as civilians, to make a real difference in transitioning from the cult of war to the culture of peace.”

It is not the lack of UN resolutions or international treaties that undermine the important role of women in armed conflict whether representing their best interest as victims or seriously acknowledging their contributions to peace building and conflict resolution. It is rather the lack of political will and adequate practices in peace building processes which are almost always are exclusively managed by men; that is the problem. Although in theory, there is slight improvement in the referencing of women in peace agreements. The same global study by UN Women marking 15 years since the resolution indicated that only eleven percent of signed peace agreements referenced women, a percentage that has increased to 27 percent since 2000. Naturally it is gravely inadequate to reduce women’s involvement in the peace process to a percentage of agreements where women were referenced.

There are many stories that illustrate how involvement of women in conflict resolution and peace keeping could prove significantly useful to sustaining the peace and catering to the minorities especially from a cultural perspective. Women have an innate skill in attending to the social fabrics of the society being the nurturers and the consensus builders. There are examples of heroic peace building efforts by women in conflict zones in the MENA region itself such as in Palestinian-Israel conflict, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and beyond. These stories remain of no interest to most media and decision makers who fail to see the real value of women in such turbulent times. Consider this alternative scenario of the MENA region: If at least one third if not half of the participants in the peace processes were women, would the results be any different? Would there be more peace in the region? My answer is definitely yes. Why not give women a chance to contribute to stability, after all, men have been doing it for a long time and a new way of thinking is long due.

Nadia Al-Sakkaf is a researcher and independent journalist. She was Yemen’s first Information Minister in the 2014 cabinet and the Editor of Yemen Times for nine years before that.

France set to propose new Palestinian state resolution at UN


This story originally appeared at The Media Line.

The French government has seen a window of opportunity, after recent elections in Israel, to get the United States on board for a renewed effort toward an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, and is preparing a draft United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution.

The draft would define the pre-1967 borders as a reference point for talks but allow room for exchanges of territory, designate Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a Palestinian state and call for a fair solution for Palestinian refugees. The French proposal also includes a requirement for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state,” the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas informed the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). That recognition is an Israeli demand that Abbas has rejected in the past.

The French effort will be based on three steps: First, French diplomats will present a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council, a step which requires U.S. acquiescence that it will not exercise its veto; second, an international peace conference will be held; and third, France, along with other European allies, will recognize an independent Palestinian state built on the 1967 borders.

Abbas said at the PLO meeting: “We do not need more decisions that then fail to be implemented. It is known that we have 12 resolutions passed by the Security Council, including resolutions endorsed by America, but despite these calls for decolonization, no progress has been made.” He went on to reiterate his refusal to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.”

Paris is working together with Washington in order to provide cover for new efforts to reach a peace agreement. The French also are seeking to raise support from their European neighbors and from Arab countries.

“While the substance of the French draft may not differ much from past failed efforts to revive Mideast peace talks, France is hoping this time to avoid a U.S. veto at the UNSC because of increasing American frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Nabil Shaath, a senior official of the Fatah Central Committee, said in an interview. Fatah is the Palestinian faction that controls the Palestinian Authority.

Shaath described a possible “backdoor” for negotiations presently and said, “All actors, including the Americans, now realize that all other ways have been explored, without success.”

After Netanyahu’s re-election win and tough campaign comments against Palestinian statehood, the White House said it would re-evaluate its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution would aim at presenting a framework for negotiations toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“France is working with the U.S. to gain backing for the new peace effort. France is also seeking support from European and Arab partners,” Shaath said. He declined to provide more details on the possible sticking points in the negotiations. The weight of a Security Council resolution, which is legally binding, would add to international pressure on Israel.

Even if a new resolution were to avoid a U.S. veto and win U.N. backing, its prospects are unclear. Israel remains opposed to returning to the pre-1967 borders and insists that any peace process should include recognition of a Jewish state. 

 “If we want to have a two-state solution, and if we want to avoid a complete crash, we must go in the same direction,” the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told reporters at the United Nations late last month. “I hope the partners who were reluctant in the past will not be so in future.”

Fabius declined to say how soon France would bring up a draft measure before the council. “We shall work in that direction, yes — our aim is to be efficient,” he said. But he added France would consult with other councilmembers “in the coming days” over a framework for negotiations. Doing so is likely to put pressure on the White House to act.

The French government circulated a draft late in 2014 that would have laid out what are known as parameters for talks between the two sides in the Middle East conflict, and would have set a deadline for completing the talks. President Barack Obama’s administration was reluctant to support that draft, especially with a general election in Israel approaching.

Shaath said the draft resolution will be based on previous international resolutions passed by Arab and European countries. He also said he expects that other major European powers, such as Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy, will join France in recognizing a State of Palestine, based on the 1967 borders, at the end of this diplomatic process.

The French draft decision is based on U.N. Resolution 181, published on Nov. 29, 1947, which provided for the establishment of two separate states, one Jewish and one Arab, often called the partition plan. Israel accepted the deal, which would have created an independent Palestinian state on 52 percent of historic Palestine. The current proposals, which call for an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, would create a Palestinian state on 22 percent of the area.

Hale Fahoum, Palestinian ambassador to Paris, told The Media Line that the Palestinian Authority views the French move as positive but was waiting to see details of the final version before the Palestinians would give their full approval.

Fahoum said the French would use the pre-1967 borders as a framework to research a route for a new practical border, a border that could take into account changes for mutual land swaps. The French proposal also keeps the door open to discussions on “Jerusalem as the capital of two states,” and calls for “a just solution” for Palestinian refugees. 

Last year, the UNSC rejected a Palestinian resolution demanding an end to Israeli occupation within three years. The U.S. opposed that draft, stating that Palestinian statehood can be achieved only through negotiations with Israel, not through an imposed timetable.

When asked how Palestinians would react if the U.S. was to veto the proposal, Fahoum stated simply, “The Palestinian leadership has nothing left to lose.”

Netanyahu praises EU for new Iran sanctions


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the European Union for adopting new sanctions against Iran.

Netanyahu, speaking Tuesday at the start of a meeting in Jerusalem with European Union member state ambassadors, called the sanctions “tough” and said Iran was “the greatest threat to peace in our time.”

“These sanctions are hitting the Iranian economy hard, (but) they haven’t yet rolled back the Iranian program. We'll know that they're achieving their goal when the centrifuges stop spinning and when the Iranian nuclear program is rolled back,” he said.

The European Union Foreign Affairs Council on Monday adopted new economic sanctions against Iran that hit its banking, shipping and industrial areas.

“The Council reiterates its serious and deepening concerns over Iran's nuclear program and the urgent need for Iran to comply with all its international obligations, including full implementation by Iran of UNSC and IAEA Board of Governors' Resolutions,” said a statement issued Monday by the foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries that referred to the United Nations Security Council and the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. “The Council condemns the continuing production of enriched uranium and expansion of Iran's enrichment capacity, including at the Fordow site.”

The new sanctions come on top of an oil embargo imposed by the European Union earlier this year and new economic sanctions levied by the United States.