On Tuesday, the dozens of us who tuned in to watch the United Nations Security Council’s 8,183rd meeting (yes, that’s the real number) were rewarded with a great breakthrough in the long hoped-for dream of peace between Israelis and Palestinians!
Just kidding. With the exception of the truly remarkable American ambassador, Nikki Haley, it was a bunch of self-satisfied bureaucrats engaged in a farcical insult to the United States and Israel in particular and liberal democracy in general.
As different countries’ ambassadors spoke, I checked their ratings with Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. For reference, the United States scored an 89 of 100 in 2017. Israel scored an 80. China scored a 14.
The Ambassador from Russia (Freedom House rating: 20) — a man representing a country reportedly currently using chemical weapons against Syrian civilians — expressed concern about the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. Not the ones in Syria, though. They’re (ahem) fine.
The Ambassador from Equatorial Guinea (Freedom House rating: eight. That’s not missing a “y.” It’s just eight.) referred to the need for justice and fairness. Not for his own people, though. They’re also (ahem) fine.
The Ambassador from Kazakhstan (Freedom House score: 22) was very concerned about cuts to the budget of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, an organization that has been called “the greatest obstacle to peace.” Worth noting: the Kazakh government isn’t concerned enough to contribute to UNRWA’s budget, but, rest assured, they’re concerned.
As the parade of kleptocracies, paper tiger strong-men, and penny-ante dictators rolled past, one could be forgiven for laughing a little. But only a little. Interspersed among the knaves and ne’er-do-wells were some of the greatest democracies in the world. All of them mouthing the same empty pieties. All of them still married to the same disastrous fantasies that have failed for 25 years.
They all thanked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his courageous dedication to peace despite the fact that he is a Holocaust-denying dictator who incentivizes terrorism and claims Jews have no historical connection to Jerusalem. Thanking a man for utterly failing to prepare his people culturally or institutionally for a future of peaceful coexistence is an odd way to promote peace. And thanking him after he’s already left the room to avoid hearing the presentation of the Israeli ambassador is an odd way to promote dialogue.
The British Ambassador urged the Israelis and Palestinians to abide by previous agreements, which, he said, have brought us closer to peace. The Swedish ambassador claimed that the root cause of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is what he called “the occupation” of Palestinian territory. The French ambassador claimed more than once that the conflict is the oldest in the region. All of them took issue with Ambassador Haley’s correct assertion that the conflict is not the lynchpin of strife in the Middle East.
But none of these positions stand up to any reasonable scrutiny. One only needs to look around to see that we are not, in fact, closer to peace then we were in the 1990s. Jewish homes in the disputed territories are not the cause of the conflict. And one would expect the heirs of Francois Georges-Picot at least to pretend to some sort of proper historical context.
But, alas, there are talking points to reiterate. An ossified thought process that freezes the world in 1995 and pretends that the last two decades simply didn’t happen.
The only way to make peace is to face the conflict as it is today — not as it was then. If the great democracies of the world — the United States being the lonely, Churchillian exception — cannot accept that the Oslo process has died, we will remain hostage to Peace Process Cartel wishful thinking.
Jonathan Greenberg is an ordained reform rabbi and the senior vice president of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him @JGreenbergSez.