Nov. 19, 2013 marked the 10-year anniversary of the unanimous adoption by the UN Security Council of the “Roadmap” for Mideast peace. A decade later, world leaders continue to misassign blame upon Israel for the Roadmap’s failure to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Roadmap was adopted during the Second Intifada, a war of brutal and unending bloody terror attacks on Israeli soil launched by Palestinian terror groups. In an act of self-defense, Israel began con- struction of a security fence to pre- vent infiltrators from entering the country from portions of the West Bank — an act which has become enmeshedininternationalcontrover- sy and led to massive and unjustified criticism of Israel.
On June 24, 2002, as the violence raged, President George W. Bush delivered a speech from the Rose Garden of the White House in which he set forth his vision of two states living side by side in peace and security. He chose to eschew diplomatic euphemisms and called on “the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror.” He further declared that so long as terrorists victimize Israeli citizens, “Israel will continue to defend herself.” If the Palestinian people would begin implementing necessary reforms, the president said, the world community would work to establish an independ- ent Palestinian state.
As the international president of B’ nai B’rith International at the time, I wrote to President Bush expressing full support for his vision and goal to create two states for two peoples — the Palestinian people and the Jewish people.
But the terror and violence of the Second Intifada continued unabat- ed. And, in October of 2003, the UN Security Council considered a resolution, vetoed by the U.S., that condemned Israel for its construc- tion of the security fence but did not mention the onslaught of terror endured by Israel on a daily basis. The UN General Assembly (UNGA) subsequently adopted a resolution that condemned both the suicide bombings and the construc- tion of the fence, implicitly suggest- ing that Israeli actions to protect its people were morally equivalent to the Palestinians’ incessant slaughter of innocents.
On Nov. 19, 2003, the UN Security Council adopted the Roadmap for Peace, which had the approval of the U.S., Russia, the EU, Israel and the Palestinians. The Roadmap stipulat- ed a series of actions that would ulti- mately lead to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The document expressed “grave concern at the continuation of the tragic and violent events in the Middle East” and called for a “cessa- tion of all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction.” The Quartet appointed former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as its envoy for Middle East peace.
In December 2013, contrary to any sem- blance of objectivity, and in violation of the UN Charter, the UNGA approved a res- olution seeking an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the “legal consequences” of the construction of the terrorism preven- tion security fence, referred to in the reso- lution as the “wall.”
The ICJ, over the objections of the U.S. and Israel, among other countries, accepted jurisdiction over the question and, in February 2004, convened hearings at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Victims of the Second Intifada protested those hear- ings by gathering in front of the gate to the Peace Palace with a burned out Egged bus that had been transported to the Hague. At the same time, hear- ings on behalf of victims of the Second Intifada were convened by the Center for Documentation and Information on Israel (“CIDI”) at the Old City Hall of the Hague in the presence of European and Dutch members of Parliament. At these hearings, victims of terrorism depict- ed the horror, anguish and suffering they’d endured at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. At those hear- ings, I served as lead counsel on behalf of the victims who addressed not the International Court of Justice but the court of world opinion.
Unfortunately, ignoring reality and the justification for construction of a security fence/barrier, parts of which are made of concrete to prevent stones, grenades and other weapons from threatening Israelis, the ICJ cas- tigated Israel in its Advisory Opinion on the security fence. The ICJ simply ignored the fact that the fence has saved an untold number of lives.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, working to bring the Israelis and Palestinians to an agreement based on the Roadmap, has encountered numerous challenges in overseeing the negotiations. In a TV interview several weeks ago with Israeli and Palestinian journalists, Kerry referenced the existence of the “wall,” Israeli settlements and Israeli Defense Force operations in the West Bank in a clear effort to blame Israel for blocking efforts to achieve a lasting peace. The interview sur- prised many, since Kerry took the opportunity to suggest that if the negotiations failed, Israel could well face a third Intifada. He also warned that Israel’s policies might create among the Palestinians an “increas- ing feeling that if we cannot get peace with a leadership that is com- mitted to non-violence, you may wind up with leadership that is com- mitted to violence.” The statement has been interpreted by many to fur- ther indicate Kerry’s belief that the present Palestinian leadership indeed is committed to peace and that the failure to achieve it rests entirely with Israel. Such a categorical statement will do little to resolve the issues which, 10 years after it was adopted, have kept the Roadmap on ice.
Not everything wrong in the Middle East is blamable on Israel. One must look to the root reasons for Israel’s actions: to defend and protect her people and to assure security for Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people living side by side in peace and security with her neighbors — indeed, in a dangerous neighborhood. Blurring the lines of responsibility for the failure of the Roadmap to achieve a permanent agreement will not resolve the issues between the parties, nor achieve the result envisioned under the Roadmap.
Richard D. Heideman, Senior Counsel of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, P.C., is a Washington, D.C.- based international human rights attorney who represents victims of terrorism. Among his books on the subject is the recently published The Hague Odyssey: Israel’s Struggle for Security on the Front Lines of Terrorism and Her Battle for Justice at the United Nations.
*Editorial originally published in Long Island Jewish World on November 29, 2013
Copyright © 2013 · Richard D. Heideman. All Rights Reserved.