Five Ways the
Trump Administration Can Negate the anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolution
January 3, 2017
U.S. decision to allow a U.N.
Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements to pass
was met with bipartisan
condemnation, including from leading players in efforts to achieve a
two-state solution, such as Democrats Dennis
Ross and George
Of course, the goal of the Obama administration
was to box in President-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy. The most direct
way to reject the Security Council Resolution 2334 is to reject the opinions it
expresses and act against its recommendations. Trump will likely seek to reverse
the measure, not only because of substantial policy disagreements, but to reject
the notion that a president can bind his successors more tightly through U.N.
action than through statutes or executive orders.
Trump cannot directly reverse the resolution,
but he and Congress can take action to negate its ideas, and to create a
different reality from the one Resolution 2334 seeks to promote. Here are some
ideas — most of which require no legislative action.
1) The U.S. must clearly declare that Israeli settlements do not
violate international law. The Security Council resolution says
that Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem are illegal and that the Israeli
government must prevent them. But the council is neither a legislature nor a
court. It cannot
create international law. But while Resolution 2334 is not binding,
contribute to the formation of international legal opinion, which is
why 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. 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
never been demanded of any other state, and never will be.
Thus the United States must clearly state its
position that whatever the political merits of Jewish settlements, they do not
violate international law. 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.
Going beyond executive policy statements, the
constitutional role of defining
offenses “against the Law of Nations” falls
to Congress, which can pass legislation making clear that Israel does
not violate international law by permitting Jews to live in territories under
its control, or by providing them with municipal services. This is already
implicit in certain laws, such as the Jerusalem Embassy Act and the
recent ban on enforcing foreign judgments against Israeli entities
that are based on the view that doing business in Israeli-controlled territories
is illegal. Congress can expand on this approach, and should explicitly invoke
its offenses power in doing so.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has signaled he could break with
decades of U.S. policy and end American objections to Israeli settlements in the
West Bank. (Griff Witte/The Washington Post)
2) The United States should move the embassy not merely to Jerusalem,
but to the location of the current Consular Section in the Arnona neighborhood.
This is a few hundred meters over the imaginary line across which the United
Nations says Jews may not go. Moving the embassy there would be the most
tangible rejection of the resolution’s “1967 lines” policy. It would also
fulfill the Republican Party platform of moving the embassy to “indivisible”
Jerusalem, and be in accordance with the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which calls
for moving the embassy to a “unified” Jerusalem, i.e., including those parts
which were reunified in 1967.
3) The United States must clarify that all its treaties or laws
applicable to Israel apply fully to all areas under Israel’s civil
jurisdiction. Congress already took this approach in the United
States-Israel Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, as well as several recent
anti-boycott laws. It must now be generalized, through legislation,
presidential proclamations, and new codicils to existing treaties with Israel.
For example, Trump could immediately rescind Treasury
regulations that require Israel goods from the West
Bank to be labeled “Made in West Bank,” and instead direct that
they be labeled “Made in Israel,” in line with their underlying customs
Doing so would clearly reject the United
Nations’ call for countries to adopt a differentiation policy.
“Differentiation” is a European
Union euphemism for partial boycotts. 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.
4) Congress should rapidly reintroduce and pass several anti-boycott bills from
addition, to respond to Resolution 2334’s encouragement of E.U. boycotts aimed
at the settlements — but which would inherently spill over to all of Israel
— a small amendment must be made to the the anti-boycott provisions of the
Export Administration Act, explicitly stating that it applies to boycotts of
territories under Israeli jurisdiction.
5) At the United Nations, defunding is one option —
but vetoing Security Council resolutions not clearly necessary to the U.S.
national interest is another. Strictly applied, this practice would grind the
council to a halt, as most of its resolutions merely wag fingers at ongoing
Some resolutions reauthorize peacekeeping
missions, and vetoing the
August reauthorization of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
would be a valuable way of addressing both the United Nations’ ineffectiveness
and its double standard toward Israel. UNIFIL was tasked with disarming
Hezbollah in southern Lebanon by Security Council Resolution 1701 in 2006. 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