The UN Security Council can end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Here’s how.

In the past 35 days, the Israeli military has killed well over 10,000 people in Gaza. It has reduced most of Gaza City and the extensive refugee camps that surround it to barren moonscapes of rubble. Meantime, Israeli settler extremists have gone on killing and land-grabbing sprees in the occupied West Bank, with great help from the Occupation Forces there. The currently sharp intensity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has considerably inflamed tensions along Israel’s northern border. And the high degree of the United States’ direct and indirect involvement in Israel’s war effort, which has included dispatching two aircraft carrier battle groups, a nuclear-capable submarine and other U.S. military forces and assets to the region, has further inflamed tensions in a swathe stretching from Western Iraq through Syria and right down the Red Sea to Yemen.

This madness needs to stop!

As do the series of intense and long-unresolved political conflicts that underlie all these tensions, with at their heart the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Until recently, the idea that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict might be headed toward any imminent resolution would have been quite fanciful. After all, for the past 50 years, Washington has completely dominated all attempts to broker or mediate any peace (or the absence thereof) between Israel and its various Arab neighbors. And increasingly over the past 30 years it has used that domination to bolster Israel’s position at every turn and to stymie any attempt to force Israel to comply with U.N. resolutions. As many Palestinians have commented about all the endless rounds of “negotiation” since Oslo, they seem to have been designed mainly to keep the Palestinians occupied.

It’s true that back in the 1970s and 1980s, U.S. leaders attempted to project some general semblance of “even-handedness” between the Israeli and Arab sides. But as the decades have passed since then, Washington came to abandon even any attempt to project neutrality. Today, the leaders of both the U.S. political parties are content simply to vie against each other for who can be most pro-Israeli.

Clearly, then, it is quite ridiculous for anyone else in the “international community” to think that Washington can be trusted to end the remaining strands of the Israeli-Arab conflict—that is, primarily, Israel’s conflicts with the Palestinians and with Syria—on a fair and sustainable basis. And yet, most people writing today in the English language (and plenty of other languages) continue to assume that that is the case: that a U.S.-led “peace process” is really the only viable way forward.

It is not. As I have explored in the various essays I’ve been writing over the past two weeks, it is time for the U.N. Security Council as a whole to grab back the responsibility for leading this important challenge in global affairs that it ceded to Washington several decades ago. Yes, I fully realize that Washington’s possession of a veto over UNSC decisionmaking is a considerable obstacle; and it will take wiser (and more powerful) heads than mine to figure out how to defang that threat. But I believe that in today’s world, that can be done.

My intention here is simply to spell out in a bit more detail than previously the series of steps the UNSC could and should take, very speedily once the U.S. veto has been defanged, to bring a decisive end to the ungodly turmoil that’s engulfing Gaza and—equally importantly—to pursue a clear and principled diplomatic path toward ending the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all... So that Palestinians, Israelis, Syrians, Jordanians, and the other peoples of West Asia can all turn their considerable skills and energies back to healing their societies’ many wounds and building better futures for their peoples.

After all, there is nothing written on tablets of stone that states that these peoples have to live in a state of unresolved conflict for ever and ever. The only interests that get served if that happens are those of the shareholders of military companies, certainly not those of any divine being whom I would ever want to worship…

So how might the U.N. succeed in a diplomatic quest that all the might of the American empire was unable (or more accurately, unwilling) to crack?

Here are the six steps I propose. My explanation follows:

The main (diplomatic) Line of Attack is left of the orange line. But the tasks right of it are also very important.

Step 1:

This is by far the biggest and will need quite a lot of preparation, since the UNSC resolution or resolutions that comprise it should also provide clear guidelines and timetables for what happens in the five steps that follow.

Step 1 consists of three major actions:

  1. A UNSC resolution mandating an immediate ceasefire in place in Gaza, along with a timetable (maybe 2-3 weeks?) for a speedy disengagement of forces to follow, at Step 4. This resolution would also need to establish a trusted, UN-administered monitoring mechanism. Luckily the UN does already have the skeleton of a “Truce Supervision Organization” in place in Jerusalem, tasked with supervising the still-in-place 1949 Armistice Agreement. The new ceasefire resolution should also specify the further diplomatic/political program of which it is a part.
  2. A UNSC resolution, which could be separate or part of the same ceasefire resolution, that spells out the urgency of attaining full implementation on all remaining fronts of previous UNSC resolutions 242 and 338, which called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from (all) lands occupied in 1967 on the basis of an exchange of land for full peace and recognition, and the establishment in the areas of the West Bank and Gaza that Israel occupied in 1967 of a fully independent Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem; that underlines the concern of the UNSC for all the losses suffered by the peoples of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank since 1967 and especially since October 7, 2023; and calls for the urgent release of all hostages and all political prisoners.
  3. The formation by the UNSC of an authoritative, P5-dominated standing committee reporting directly to the Secretary-General, that will supervise the full implementation of the other two resolutions. (Previous UN envoys working on this file who have operated as individuals, like Folke Bernadotte or Gunnar Jarring, did not have the heft they needed to be effective.)

Step 2:

This step sees these two actions:

  1. The UN-mandated ceasefire-in-place in Gaza goes into place, with full compliance by all parties fighting in Gaza, and the agreed monitoring mechanism for it is activated.
  2. The UN dispatches a massive humanitarian mission to Gaza. (It has an agreed policing component within it.) UN-OCHA should plan to deploy this humanitarian mission both by sea through a rehabbed Gaza Port and by land, through Egypt.

Step 3:

This step has two actions, undertaken by Hamas and its allies:

  1. Hamas and its allies release all the non-combatant and foreign-national hostages whom they hold and provide clear information about the status of all the combatant hostages whom they hold.
  2. Hamas issues a clear, authoritative statement of support for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, alongside Israel, and for an effective, fair, and forward-looking form of intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

Step 4:

This step sees three actions, undertaken almost simultaneously:

  1. The massive U.N. humanitarian mission arrives, and starts its work.
  2. All the fighting forces in Gaza start the disengagement process that was mandated in Step 1, under the supervision of UNTSO or whatever other UN monitoring force has been established by the UNSC. Under this disengagement, the Israeli forces withdraw to the east (southeast) of the 1949 Armistice Line and the Palestinian fighting forces withdraw to another country (perhaps Algeria?)
  3. The UNSC declares that Israel’s occupation of Gaza is now over and Israel has no further rights or responsibilities over the population, territory, or borders of Gaza, except its own responsibility for its side of the land border.

Step 5:

Only one action: The completion of a total exchange of all hostages and political prisoners between the parties, with the destination of the Palestinian political prisoners having been previously agreed.

Step 6:

These two actions:

  1. Certification by the Secretary-General or the Standing Committee that the disengagement of forces in Gaza is complete.
  2. Activation by UNTSO or an UNTSO-like body of a monitoring force throughout the whole of the occupied West Bank.

Actually, I can think of two other actions that ought to be included at Step 6, but I don’t want to completely re-do my “data-visualization table” at this point. One would be the UN’s convening of a big international conference to make the plan for the speedy final implementation of resolutions 242 and 338—which would include the final satisfaction through actual return or compensation of the Palestinian refugees’ long-recognized Right of Return. (That conference is on the top yellow card on the right on my table.)

The other action would be formulation of an urgent international plan for the rebuilding of Gaza and the building of a secure link between Gaza and the West Bank (as had been envisioned to some degree in the Bush II administration’s 2005 “Agreement on Movement and Access”, but never implemented… )

Anyway, there is a plan for you—or, for Antonio Guterres, though maybe he already has one that is better than this. Let’s hope so!

I guess my main point in working on this project has to demonstrate to people that this is a conflict that with goodwill and determination on the part of the Global Majority can definitely be resolved in a way that is sufficiently fair and forward-looking that it can build a sustainable and secure future for all the peoples of West Asia. They do not have to be locked into conflict and fear for ever and ever and ever. But too many people in the “White” world have succumbed over the decades to the fatalism that “this is an intractable conflict” or whatever. It is not.

Please, tell me what you think of this plan. And if you like the idea of it—the idea that the United Nations can indeed find a solution to this conflict and anyway should rightfully be the body that’s in charge of this diplomacy—then please share this idea as widely as you can.

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5 thoughts on “The UN Security Council can end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Here’s how.”

  1. This is an excellent blueprint.

    A useful additional or separate action in the near future would be for Congress to include an appropriations rider similar in effect to the 1983 Boland amendment to the Defense appropriations bill. It could gain more support by making it a conditional provision, i.e., funds (for Israel) provided in this section are available 30 days after the Secretary General of the UN certifies that the xxx conditons have been met. Or something along those lines.

    Onward, through the fog.

  2. Disengagement must be only a step followed by reconstruction. Who will pay for that? Will Israel and Egypt be required to provide full access to materials and labor required for reconstruction. Underwriting the cost should be a significant deposit made by the US and Israel, supplemented by contributions from all the countries that provided arms to either Hamas or Israel. US/Israel should be required to make an annual payment into the reconstruction fund going forward for the next ten years it is likely to take to restore infrastructure, housing, hospitals, etc. (For example, the US could be required to deposit to the fund the equivalent of all the funds it has given Israel in the last ten year for the next ten years.) There will also need to be a demilitarized zone between Gaza and West Bank and Israel.

  3. Check and Check; most of the rest of the world, led by the Russians and Chinese will prefer to work through the United Nations. They have expressed the desire to work through legal means, if it is possible. I was looking at the prospects for 2024 elections bearing in mind the extensive enabling (UN vetoes, weapons, money) done by American Presidents and Congress. Here is a good faith effort to exactly record some of the words of V. Ramaswamy at the last debate:

    “….Israel has the right and responsibility to defend itself. I would tell him (meaning Bibi) to smoke the terrorists on his Southern Border. I would tell him as President of the United States, I’ll be smoken (VR employs country slang like I once did) the terrorists on our Southern Boarder. That’s his responsibility and this is our responsibility. That’s how we move forward….”

    “….but I want to be careful to avoid making the mistake from the neocon establishment of the past. Corrupt politicians in both parties spent trillions, killed millions, made billions for themselves in places like Iraq and Afghanistan fighting in wars that sent thousands of our sons and daughters, people my age to die in wars that did not advance anyone’s interest, adding several trillion dollars to our national debt.”

    There is plenty of ambiguity in these words, but not so much that there is not also a clear meaning. I know of no other candidate thinking anything like this with regard to Israel, and certainly none that is saying it out loud for all to hear. This man is not getting the attention that he deserves.

  4. Why do you only publish comments that agree with you? I posted a comment pointing out that your proposal is fundamentally just Occupation 102, replacing the British Mandate with a UN one.

    October 7 was Palestine’s answer to anyone attempting to thwart their self-determination, however I’ll or well-intentioned.

    It it patronizing and colonialist to insist Palestinians are not capable of ruling themselves. It is not Palestine that requires intervention to control their lives, it is the aggressors whose behaviour requires control. Perhaps you could put your post-war efforts into controlling Israeli behaviour. Because as both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have both very clearly stated in recent days, the domestic interference you propose (which is very different from humanitarian and diplomatic support) is NOT WELCOME. Here is a quote from a Hamas press statement published 25/11/2023 making the point very clearly.

    🔻 We welcome the continuation of all efforts to end the zionist aggression on our land, people, sanctities, and prisoners, and the complete lifting of the unjust siege on the Gaza Strip, and enabling our people to exercise all their legitimate national rights in establishing their independent Palestinian state with its capital, Al-Quds, and the right to self-determination.

    🔻 We renew our absolute rejection of all positions calling for the participation of international forces in managing Gaza, and we affirm that these malicious plans will shatter on the rock of our people’s steadfastness.

    🔻 We say to all those who discuss the situation of Gaza after the occupation’s aggression: Save your time, effort, thinking, and dreams, for Gaza will be the Gaza of glory, as it has been throughout history: Palestinian, proud, standing tall, expelling all invaders.

    I hope you have the integrity – and humility – to both respect Palestinians expressed wishes, and to publish this response. Freedom of opinion is not free when it is suppressed, and it does not reflect well on you or the Quakers to continue your censorship of dissenting views.

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