American lawmakers and the incoming Trump administration can take five steps to counter the deleterious effects of United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, which passed late last month despite Israeli opposition, a leading international law expert wrote Monday in The Washington Post.
Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at Northwestern University and head of the Kohelet Policy Forum’s international law department, pointed out that President-elect Donald Trump will not be able to directly reverse resolution 2334, which declares that Israeli communities in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem are in “flagrant violation” of international law. However, it will be within his power to negate the resolution’s ideas, “and to create a different reality from the one Resolution 2334 seeks to promote.”
The incoming administration could do this by recognizing that Israeli communities in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank do not violate international law, as resolution 2334 contends. Kontorovich pointed out that while the Security Council “is neither a legislature nor a court,” and thus can’t “create international law,” it can “contribute to the formation of international legal opinion.” Therefore, the United States must “clearly articulate a contrary (and correct) view.”
“The Security Council’s broad and general condemnation of any Jewish presence whatsoever in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank is a unique rule invented for Israel,” Kontorovich wrote. “There has never been a prolonged belligerent occupation — from the U.S. occupation of West Berlin to Turkey’s ongoing occupation of Cyprus to Russia’s of Crimea — where the occupying power has blocked its citizens from living in the territory under its control. Moreover, neither the United Nations nor any other international body has ever suggested they must do so. What is being demanded of Israel in its historical homeland has never been demanded of any other state, and never will be.”
Kontorovich observed that there would be a precedent for such a move. “President Jimmy Carter’s State Department issued a memo opining that settlements were illegal. President Ronald Reagan subsequently rejected this view. As Obama reenacts the tail end of the Carter presidency, Trump must adopt Reagan’s position, with greater emphasis and elaboration,” he noted.
The incoming administration could also reject the validity of the resolution by moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, Kontorovich added. Moving the embassy “over the imaginary line across which the United Nations says Jews may not go … would be the most tangible rejection of the resolution’s ‘1967 lines’ policy.” It would also fulfill the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which called for moving the embassy to a “unified” Jerusalem.
Washington could further clarify that all its treaties and trade agreements with Israel apply to all areas under Israeli civil administration. This would contradict the European Union’s efforts to differentiate between Israeli communities within and beyond the 1949 armistice lines. “Differentiation is a European Union euphemism for partial boycotts,” Kontorovich pointed out. “The United States must defy that suggestion, and by doing so it will make it much harder for the E.U. and others to follow it.”
Moreover, Congress can make amendments to “the anti-boycott provisions of the Export Administration Act, explicitly stating that it applies to boycotts of territories under Israeli jurisdiction.”
Finally, the U.S. could help fight resolution 2334 at the UN. “[Defunding] is one option — but vetoing Security Council resolutions not clearly necessary to the U.S. national interest is another. Because most resolutions “merely wag fingers at ongoing conflicts,” vetoing the majority of them would cause the council’s work to grind “to a halt.”
As an example, Kontorovich pointed out that vetoing the reauthorization of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) would both address its ineffectiveness and its bias against Israel. “UNIFIL was tasked with disarming Hezbollah in southern Lebanon by Security Council Resolution 1701 in 2006,” Kontorovich wrote. “A decade later, instead of disarmament, Hezbollah runs the country and has 100,000 missiles ready to ‘annihilate Israel.’ Vetoing UNIFIL’s reauthorization would bring welcome accountability to peacekeeping missions, whose mandates get rolled over almost automatically, and would remove a force whose principle accomplishment is assisting Hezbollah.”
[Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO]