Photo: Construction workers in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Such Israeli settlements have expanded in recent years. Photo: Annie Slemrod/IRIN - Photo: 2016

Behind Security Council Demand To End Israeli Settlements

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) – Within days of the outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly criticising Israel’s settlement activities beyond the 1967 line, the UN Security Council has adopted a landmark resolution by a vote of 14 in favour and with the United States abstaining, instead of exercising a veto.

Since the resolution 2234 was adopted on December 23, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pouring anger not only on the current U.S. Administration but also on outgoing President Barack Obama: “Friends don’t take friends to the Security Council.”

“Israel will re-assess its ties with the United Nations following the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building,” Reuters quoted Prime Minister Netanyahu warning on December 24.

Gary Willig reported in Israel’s Arutz Sheva: David Keyes, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister, made the accusation on Fox News claiming that Israel had “ironclad information” that the Obama Administration not only allowed the resolution to pass by going against the longtime U.S. policy of vetoing one-sided resolutions against Israel, but took part in crafting the resolution and pushed for its passage.

“We have rather ironclad information from sources in both the Arab world and internationally that this was a deliberate push by the United States and in fact they helped create the resolution in the first place.” Keyes said.

Explaining the reason behind Israeli President’s wrath, Itamar Eichner wrote in “While the anti-settlement resolution adopted by the UN Security Council has no immediate practical ramifications, it could open the door to lawsuits against Israel at the ICC (International Criminal Court), sanctions imposed for any Israeli move seen as violating resolution, and boycotts on settlement products.”

Eichner added: “The resolution makes Israeli citizens that are involved in the settlement enterprise in the West Bank vulnerable to lawsuits in courts all over the world.

“Jerusalem is also worried that the resolution opens the door for lawsuits against Israeli officials at the ICC: government ministers and senior IDF (Israel Defence Forces) officers who make decisions about construction in the settlements, the demolition of Palestinian homes, or the expropriation of lands could be accused of war crimes under the Geneva Convention,”

The Security Council resolution states that the establishment of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 have “no legal validity,” constitute a “flagrant violation” under international law and are a “major obstacle” to a two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

The Council was scheduled to vote on December 22 a draft by Egypt, which the country withdrew under strong pressure by Israel, according to newspaper reports quoting diplomats on condition of anonymity. But the vote took place on December 23 on a resolution put forward by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela – all non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Ban immediately welcomed the resolution. “The resolution is a significant step, demonstrating the Council’s much needed leadership and the international community’s collective efforts to reconfirm that the vision of two States is still achievable,” the UN chief’s spokesperson said in a statement.

In the resolution, the Council reiterates its demand that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard.”

The Council also underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.

The resolution calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, and for accountability in that regard, as well as for both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law, and previous agreements and obligations, “to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric”.

It further calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism.

The Security Council has also urged for intensification and acceleration of international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967.

“Accusing the White House of a ‘complete contradiction’ in both American policy and a 2011 pledge from the president to keep the terms of a Middle East peace agreement from being dictated by the United Nations, Netanyahu lamented the Dec. 23 vote by the Security Council to end the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories,” reported Quartz.

“Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments had disagreed about settlements, but we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue,” Netanyahu said. “We knew that going there would make negotiations harder and drive peace further away.”

President Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters that Prime Minister Netanyahu could have avoided such an outcome had he not allowed for and boasted about increased settlement expansion on his watch, reported Times of Israel.

“Netanyahu had the opportunity to pursue policies that would have led to a different outcome today,” Rhodes said on a media conference call December 23, after citing U.S. governmental figures on settlement growth in the West Bank and mentioning the Israeli premier’s past statements on his government’s allegiance to the settlement movement.

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Samantha Power said explaining the vote: “The United States has been sending the message that the settlements must stop – privately and publicly – for nearly five decades, through the administrations of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama.”

She added: “Indeed, since 1967, the only president who had not had at least one Israeli-Palestinian-related Security Council resolution pass during his tenure is Barack Obama. So our vote today is fully in line with the bipartisan history of how American Presidents have approached both the issue – and the role of this body.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 25 December 2016]

Related article: Ban Asks Israel and Palestinians To Make Peace

Photo: Construction workers in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Such Israeli settlements have expanded in recent years. Photo: Annie Slemrod/IRIN

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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