By Louis Kriesberg
(Re-published from Foreign Policy in Focus | Jan. 10, 2017) President Barack Obama’s decision that the US abstain on the vote at the UN Security Council regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Secretary of State John Kerry’s talk on the Israeli Palestinian conflict have been attacked too often with willful mischaracterizations. Such attacks demonstrate again how Americans are suffering from uncivil, nasty discourse, which is harmful to all parties.
Obama and then Kerry worked very hard to bring about serious negotiations to reach a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians that would benefit both sides. Most people in Israel and most Jews in the US believe that would be desirable. Obama and Kerry failed due to conditions they could not control. Those many conditions are well known, and Kerry listed many of them in his speech.
Even before the US election, there was serious discussion in the Administration about publicly setting forth the parameters for a two-state solution, which had emerged from prior negotiations and mediation. That statement could have served as a platform for possible renewed negotiations early in President Hillary Clinton’s administration. With Donald Trump’s electoral victory, another opportunity arose for Obama and Kerry to take some actions relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Obama and Kerry carefully explained their actions. The US UNSCR vote was an abstention, not an affirmative vote. The vote on the resolution had no negative votes, with Russia, China, England, France and all other members voting yes. By abstaining, the US revealed the isolation that the Israeli government had created for itself with its policies regarding the Palestinians. It made clear too, that the US has other concerns and interests in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world, in addition to those of the Israeli government.
Furthermore, Benjamin Netanyahu warranted no personal favors from Obama and Kerry following his extraordinary partisan actions to fight against and subvert the work of the US and the other permanent members of the Security Council to negotiate the ending of the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Netanyahu’s acceptance of the Republican invitation to address the US Congress and deliver a fear-mongering, partisan speech was shocking.
Kerry, in his comprehensive talk at the Department of State, analyzed the obstacles to successful negotiations arising from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, indicating what changes were needed …
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INSCT Affiliated Faculty Member Louis Kriesberg is Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies at Syracuse University and the author of Realizing Peace (Oxford University Press, 2015); Louis Kriesberg: Pioneer in Peace and Constructive Conflict Resolution Studies (Springer, 2016); and co-author with Bruce Dayton of the fifth edition of Constructive Conflicts (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017).