February 17, 2011
President Barack Obama
The White House
By electronic mail
Dear President Obama,
We write to you on behalf of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, to urge you to direct your Administration to oppose a resolution that may be brought to the United Nations Security Council which would characterize Israeli “settlement activity” as “illegal” or “illegitimate”. Anything short of the United States casting a veto against a resolution containing such language would be a deviation from America’s historic support for Israel against assaults at the UN and, we suggest, counterproductive to your Administration’s interests and goals in the Middle East.
Assertions that Israeli “settlement activity” is illegal under international law are incorrect as such a position is at variance with United Nations Resolution 242.
Passed in 1967, Resolution 242 calls for Israel to return “territories” captured during its defensive war of 1967. The words “all” and “the” were proposed by those who advocated a complete return, but the U.S. and Great Britain, which opposed that view, prevailed. Even partial return of captured territories is conditioned on “termination of all claims of belligerency” and “acknowledgment of the sovereignty . . . of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” Resolution 242 does not mention the rights of non-states, such as the Palestinian Authority, Hamas or Hezbollah, the latter two of which do not accept the conditions of the resolution. (Nor do Iran and several other states in the region.) As noted Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz has written: “It would be wrong for the Security Council retroactively to rewrite Resolution 242, which is the foundation for a two-state solution—Israel and Palestine—44 years after it was enacted.”
A Security Council resolution declaring “settlement activity” as “illegitimate” is no better, and no less counterproductive, than a resolution asserting it’s illegality. Such phrasing by an authoritative body such as the Security Council is nothing more than semantics. Given the record of animosity toward Israel in the UN and its bodies and the actions and stated intentions of the resolution’s proponents, it is clear that a slightly amended text would be used for the same purposes against Israel; to further isolate the Jewish State diplomatically, utilize the UN and other international entities to pressure Israel economically, and ultimately undermine Israel’s security.
Moreover, we suggest that the passage of such resolution by the Security Council will be counterproductive to your stated objective of facilitating, through a process of direct negotiations, achieving peace and security for Israel and the Palestinians. Adoption of the Security Council resolution will significantly encourage proponents of the Palestinian cause to seek their goal everywhere but the negotiating table with Israel. And, it will, frankly, sow great suspicion toward your Administration within Israel and among her supporters.
Mr. President, we acknowledge and appreciate that your Administration has, over the past two years, acted in many fora – within the UN and elsewhere – to support Israel’s security and combat her delegitimization. In this, you have maintained the unbroken chain of bipartisan support for Israel which commenced in 1948. We ask, as well as hope and pray, that you will continue this support for Israel at the United Nations Security Council today.
Simcha Katz, President
Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President
Yehuda Neuberger, Chair, Public Policy
Nathan Diament, Director of Public Policy
cc: Hon. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State
Hon. Susan Rice, Ambassador of the U.S. to the United Nations