Monday, December 26, 2016


The Security Council voted a resolution condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The United States abstained.

P.M. Netanyahu condemned the US vote in unequivocal terms. The relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv is a strange one. As much as the US military support for Israel remains solid, the chemistry between President Obama and the Israeli P.M. is absent. Under a Trump administration, improvement (in Israeli eyes) is expected.

A lot can be said about past and current dysfunctions. The deal between the US and Iran regarding nuclear weapons is working out, for now.  Still, it would have been better if a collateral existential issue, the recognition of Israel by Iran, could have been included. The diplomatic toolbox provides for enough alternatives to find a solution for this delicate issue. The unacceptable narrative on the Palestinian side continues to create a climate of increasing alienation and bad faith.  On the other hand, the same goes for all Arab states but this does not stand in the way of a cynical modus vivendi between Israel and many of the same Arab states.

President Obama followed in the steps of President Eisenhower who sent a resolution to the General Assembly of the UN, condemning Israel, France and the U.K. after their combined Suez attack in 1956.

P.M. Netanyahu, for his part, transgressed protocol when he addressed the US Congress over the head of the Obama Administration. Thin skin on both sides overruled wiser considerations.

It would be wise to deescalate. Obviously Trump's choice of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel might look like a blank check given to the Israeli P.M. However, personalities considered as too extreme in one direction or another can "surprise". This goes for the whole of the incoming US administration. The core of a fundamentally important partnership between Israel and the US remains unchallenged. The only democratic partner in the region deserves the respect of and support by both the United States and the EU. 

A two-state solution is the only possible outcome for a problem which drains Israel as much as the many willing to help. It is often impossible (Gaza) or hard (West Bank, Jerusalem) to find common ground with the Palestinians and the arteries, needed to keep a negotiation flowing, are hardening. The demographic clock is ticking. The outlines for a possible two-state architecture are known. Jerusalem remains a major stumbling block for now and any arrangement will require the input of more than two. Israel 's claims are just ones, as long as they also provide room for a form of "co-steering".

Security for all can't wait.

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