The New York Times joined the chorus of criticism this week against Israel for the announcement of some 98 new housing units in the West Bank, defending the Obama administration’s scathing criticism of the construction plans and suggesting the president find another way to express the US’s displeasure with the Israeli government, including by letting the UN Security Council set out guidelines for a peace deal through a resolution.
In an editorial on Thursday, the paper said US criticism of the construction, accusing Israel of a betrayal of trust, was made “with every justification” amid the government’s “stead march under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build on land needed to create a Palestinian state.”
Israel also came under criticism by the EU on Friday, which questioned its commitment to peace following the approval of construction of homes for settlers set to be evacuated from the illegal outpost of Amona, under a Supreme Court order.
The construction plan calls for two phases of construction, with a further 200 units to be approved after the first round of 98 homes is completed.
The New York Times said Netanyahu “obviously doesn’t care what Washington thinks, so it will be up to President Obama to find another way” to make Israel understand how important the two-state solution is.
“The best idea under discussion now,” said the paper, “would be to have the United Nations Security Council, in an official resolution, lay down guidelines for a peace agreement covering such issues as Israel’s security, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and borders for both states.”
Citing previous UN resolutions 242 and 338, the paper said a new one “would be more specific and take into account current realities.”
US policy has traditionally been to encourage the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through direct talks between the two parties, rather than via international efforts to impose terms. US administrations, including Obama’s, have blocked efforts to impose terms via the Security Council, even vetoing resolutions regarding settlements that conform to US policy in order to avoid discomfiting Israel.
Another “weaker” option would be for Obama to “act unilaterally,” said The New York Times.
“The most plausible pressure [on Israel] would come from Mr.Obama’s leading the Security Council to put its authority behind a resolution to support a two-state solution,” the editorial read, adding that it’s precisely the kind of political pressure Netanyahu “abhors and has been working assiduously to prevent.”
The New York Times said Israel’s approval of the recent plans was “especially insulting” given last month’s signing of an unprecedented military assistance deal between the US and Israel and said US knowledge of construction plans could have affected the negotiations.
The Security Council is expected to hold a session next Friday under the official banner: “The settlements as the obstacle to peace and a two-state solution.”
The meeting, initiated by the Palestinians, is considered the opening salvo to a resolution condemning Israel for settlement activity.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon criticized the Palestinians for the initiative, accusing them of “using the international community to harm the State of Israel instead of stopping incitement and sitting at the negotiation table.”
Israeli government members have been worried that Obama, before leaving office in January but after a successor is chosen in November, may seek to impose or advance a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or at least set out parameters for how it should be solved, including through the Security Council by not using the US veto for any anti-Israel resolutions.
According to a Channel 2 report Thursday, an Israeli official charged that the “disproportionate criticism” from Washington over the latest construction plans was “an alibi” to cover plans by Obama to take anti-Israel actions in the final weeks of his presidency.