The deterioration to the current low point is a combination of a Palestinian strategy to favor an internationalization of the conflict over direct negotiations with Israel, along with serious mistakes made by the Obama administration and the Netanyahu governments.
The root of the problem is a wrong perception of reality by US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Obama administration failed to examine the validity of its basic assumption for advancing a solution to the conflict and understanding the dynamics between the sides, particularly the inability to detect that in the Israeli public opinion Jerusalem does not equal Judea and Samaria and that there is no willingness to take security risks. The decision to ignore President George W. Bush’s letter to Ariel Sharon in 2004 was puzzling, as was placing most of the blame on Israel while ignoring the Palestinians' part in the ongoing stalemate.
Israel, on its part, is paying a price for Netanyahu’s problematic and erroneous perception of the American system in recent years, and more so of the international system. The gap between the prime minister’s address at the UN General Assembly, in which he expressed his to desire to see an end to the automatic majority against Israel, and the sweeping vote against Israel at the Security Council points to a serious perceptual distortion. Especially as this is not a move that can be ascribed to the anti-Israel nature of the UN institutions, but a sweeping vote by our best friends, including our new “ally” Russia.
But despite the anger and frustration in Israel, it’s more important to look to the future rather than engage in an analysis of what happened and in remorse. Feelings of insult, betrayal and anger are not the basis for a sound and effective policy. We should therefore suspend the diplomatic response until Donald Trump enters the White House. Radical moves will only deepen our diplomatic isolation. In this context, Netanyahu’s attack on the countries that supported the resolution is a reckless and unnecessary move. We should ask ourselves whether the Israeli interest is to encourage a self-boycott, which will be, absurdly, more effective than any move made by the BDS so far.
Instead of lashing out at the world’s leading countries, we should work to stop the snowball effect and prevent additional moves that the Obama administration may allow until the end of the president’s term. Looking towards January 20, we should prepare the long-term Israeli strategy vis-à-vis the new administration in Washington based on three assumptions: The Trump administration will be much friendlier towards Israel; a return to negotiations is impossible due to the Palestinian rejectionism, even before and particularly after Resolution 2334; the status quo is not good for Israel.
We should therefore initiate a change that will maintain the horizon of the two-state solution, but will lead to it in the possible way under the current circumstances. In other words, to move towards a separation from the Palestinians in a controlled, cautious and patient manner that will protect the Israeli interest to be a Jewish, democratic, secure and righteous state, which will restore its diplomatic and moral standing in the world.
Based on these assumptions, we should present to the Trump administration an Israeli proposal for practical action. Israel should move to a proactive strategy, centered on agreements with the United States regarding a distinction between the settlement blocs and isolated settlements, where Israel will freeze construction. On a wider scale, Israel should prove its commitment to a two-state horizon in the future through a series of self-initiated activities for changing the current trend.
The US is our most important ally, and sometimes the only one. Israel should not be dragged into a Republican-Democratic conflict, and it is critical that it regains the support of both parties. It’s important to restabilize the trust between the countries, and particularly between the leaders – trust which has been violated by both sides in recent years.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin is the executive director of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).