UN Security Council demands end to Israeli settlements

Palestine Updates 4

       – US abstains in demanding Israel to halt settlements on Palestinian land –

                                         A settlement under construction in East Jerusalem

The UNSC last night voted 14-0 to demanding Israel to halt settlements on Palestinian land.

The US declined to veto the resolution in a rare decision. It defended its decision to refrain from vetoing the resolution arguing that the step was taken only “after all negotiating options to pursue a two-state solution were exhausted”. Expectedly, Donald Trump slammed the abstention with disdain for international democracy and suggested “things will be different after Jan 20th”. Washington’s abstention is a huge rebuke to Israel, which has traditionally been a staunch US ally.

Secretary of State, John Kerry stated: “One of our grave concerns is that the continued pace of settlement activity – which has accelerated significantly since 2011, when we vetoed the UN Security Council resolution that condemns settlements –  puts at risk the two-state solution, as does any continued incitement to violence.” The US has described expansion of settlements as  “trends that are eroding the foundation for a two-state solution.”

The UN Security Council was put forward at the 15-member council for a vote on Friday by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat described the resolution as a “day of victory for international law, a victory for civilized language and negotiation and a total rejection of extremist forces in Israel…The international community has told the people of Israel that the way to security and peace is not going to be done through occupation … but rather through peace, ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state to live side by side with the state of Israel on the 1967 line.” The resolution declared that said Israel’s settlements on Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, have “no legal validity.

Israel’s reaction was along predictable lines: “Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms”, said Netanyahu.  What’s new” Israel has always shown contempt for international law and UN resolutions. They are pinning their hopes of keeping up their illegal occupation when the Trump administration makes its entry into the White House. Trump will obviously feel that he is alone and swimming against the current. His arrogance and cynicism on the rights of Palestinians will only win him contempt from nations and people around the world who seek justice. Israel has thrown its tantrums by withdrawing its Ambassador from New Zealand. One wonders what principle it affirmed in this decision!!

Israeli settlements are seen as a major stumbling block to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state. The United Nations maintains that settlements are illegal, but UN officials have reported a surge in construction over the past months. Some 430,000 Israeli settlers currently live in the West Bank and a further 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.

Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York, reacted sharply to the resolution: “At the close of a shameful year for the Security Council, where divisions repeatedly blocked the adoption of key resolutions to protect the most vulnerable, today’s decision to finally pass a resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements is a welcome step…This is the first time in almost four decades that such a resolution has been passed. Amnesty went further calling for the Security Council to guarantee that the resolution is respected.

At the end of the day, it can be accepted that the resolution is more than mere symbolism. It spells hope in an otherwise dismal situation. Israel’s isolation is growing and contempt for its failure to take the peace process forward is drawing ire from the international community. The resolution formally enshrined the international community’s disapproval of Israeli settlement building will surely spur further Palestinian moves against Israel in international forums.

As the resolution, which had more symbolic value and is unlikely to change the situation on ground between Israel and Palestine, was adopted, the Council broke into a huge round of applause as envoys of the permanent and non-permanent members lauded the decision.

The resolution will absolutely fortify the stand of those who are calling for Israel’s isolation through the BDS and other moves which, they hope will compel Israel to give up its occupation or face the brunt of being a pariah state. With the BDS movement gaining momentum and erstwhile allies frustrated with Israel’s overconfidence and arrogance, one can only hope for extraordinary actions to provide the stimulus for the demise of the apartheid state and a just peace to take root.

In solidarity

Ranjan Solomon