Five takeaways: What the UN Security Council resolution means

In a 14-0 vote and with the U.S. abstaining, the UN Security Council passes a resolution reaffirming the illegality of Israeli settlements. What does it all mean, and what comes next?

U.S. Ambassador to the UN speaks following the Security Council's passing of a resolution on Israeli settlements, New York, December 23, 2016. (Screenshot from UN Web TV)
U.S. Ambassador to the UN speaks following the Security Council’s passing of a resolution on Israeli settlements, New York, December 23, 2016. (Screenshot from UN Web TV)

The UN Security Council on Friday passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements, reaffirming their illegality, calling on Israel to cease all settlement activity, and rejecting any unilateral Israeli changes to the borders — including the annexation of East Jerusalem.

The big drama surrounding the vote was that the United States decided not to exercise its Security Council veto. The Obama administration, unlike previous administrations, had for the past eight years blocked all UNSC resolutions critical of Israel, and it was unclear how the U.S. would vote until the very last second.

What does it all mean? Why did it happen now? What comes next? Here are five quick takeaways:

1. This is far from the first UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, declaring that they are illegal, and calling on Israel to fulfill its obligations under international law vis-à-vis the occupied territories. With the exception of a few new references — to the French peace conference, for example — there is little new in the resolution. It does not introduce any new demands or interpretations of international law.

2. The key here is timing. This resolution came about because the Israeli government has become intransigent — it no longer even pretends to care about what the world thinks of its polices in the West Bank. The government is advancing a law to retroactively legalize the theft of Palestinian land. Senior ministers are declaring the end to the two-state era. Annexation of certain Israeli settlements is being seriously discussed. This was the Obama administration’s — and the international community’s — way of saying that it still cares. That despite far more pressing issues on the international agenda, the world’s position on Israel/Palestine remain steadfast.

3. In response to the threat of European (and American) pressure over settlements and Israeli policy in the West Bank, Israeli leaders have in recent years suggested that Israel does not need Europe — that it can build alternative partnerships and alliances with non-Western countries like Russia, China, India, and certain African states. This vote shows that although Israel might be able to find and develop common economic — and even strategic — interests with those countries, doing so will not make them look the other way when it comes to Israel’s settlement activities. The world’s position on Israeli settlements remains a consensus position — they are illegal and illegitimate.

4. The Security Council resolution is a clear statement that Israeli settlements and settlement activity are illegal, that the changes Israel is making in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal, and calls on the parties to continue working toward the two-state solution. What it doesn’t do is lay out any consequences if Israel continues to violate international law by expanding settlements, legalizing settlements it has committed to dismantling, or even if it annexes more Palestinian territory. In other words, who’s going to do anything about it?

5. One perceivable consequence of the Security Council resolution is that it might embolden the International Criminal Court prosecutor to decide to open a formal investigation into the Israeli “war crime” of building, expanding and populating settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. The prospect of Israeli political and military leaders facing prosecution for war crimes over their support and administration of the settlement enterprise is one of the few X-factors these days that could possibly alter the trajectory of Israel’s otherwise stable occupation of Palestine. It’s an unlikely scenario, but considering the clarity of international law on settlements — now explicitly reaffirmed by the UN Security Council — combined with the ICC’s desperate need to show that it does not only indict black African despots, it could be enough to move an investigation forward.

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11 responses to “Resource: Choosing annexation over development”

  1. itshak Gordine says:

    Review paid by the EU so trash

    • Ben says:

      This by you, is denialism of truly comic proportions. Of sublimely unintentional self-satirizing proportions.

      (In the psychology of human behavior, denialism is a person’s choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. Denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of a historical experience or event, when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality. -Wikipedia)

      And there is always this odd, Herr Sturmer video-style anti-Semitic smear clinging to these “paid by EU” slanders. And the right wing never tires of doing this. Are the hard core settlers ever capable of shame? I haven’t seen it.

      • itshak Gordine says:

        Bla blah: Like many Israelis, I am wary of studies and projects funded by Europe. Those who receive help from generally hostile entities have almost no public in Israel (Breaking the silence, BDS, etc.). Their “works” only serve to feed the speech of associations or people hostile to the State of Israel. But at least it occupies them .. Meanwhile we build everywhere in the Land of Israel.

        • Ben says:

          Note the absolute, pure disregard for whether the report is TRUE or not, in this as in any other report, it’s all about what can be gotten over on others.

          Note the absolute regard for whether the right wing public reads it or not, the degree to which the truth can be squelched or not, the absolute disdain for the truth.

          Note the equation of “hostility to Israel,” (aka “anti-Israel”) with any opposition to unrestrained settlements and their associated constant human rights violations.

          Note the “what can we get away with?” gangster mentality.

          One cannot argue with people like this, one has to bring principled state forces to bear on them from outside the cult. And this, by the EU is what Haley just loathes.

          At the same time that Halevy feels entitled to all sorts of massive EU subsidies and massive German funding for Israel’s defense and all sorts of things, he begrudges the EU sending school bake sale amounts to tiny shoe string human rights organizations or truth-telling newspapers and communities the Israeli behemoth treats with great brutality. And he ruthlessly smears the motives of the people doing it, even deploying anti-Semitic insinuations to do it.

          FYI, the person I am replying to here lives as a settler in the West Bank. He types his replies to me from a settlement in the West Bank. And yet he, like the Judge on the Israeli High Court (Noam Sohlberg) who is also a West Bank Settler, poses as some kind of neutral arbiter, some kind of unbiased arbiter, of what constitutes “hostility.” You can’t make this stuff up.

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Ben:
            The EU is a joke and it is slowly coming apart.
            Most EU reports are nothing more than waffly irrelevant rubbish.
            Judea and Samaria will stay Israeli long after the EU is a forgotten memory.

          • Ben says:

            The Report, and Shenhav-Goldberg’s account of it, are anything but waffly and irrelevant. Remember, denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of a historical experience or event, when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality.

          • itshak Gordine says:

            If you are not happy with Israeli politics, come to Israel, become a citizen and get into politics. Otherwise your abundant verbiage is useless. You are bleating in the desert.

          • Ben says:

            This is amusing coming from a settler who does not actually live in Israel but in illegally occupied territories outside Israel. Yet is accorded the right to vote inside Israel while people living for generations a half-kilometer down the road from him are not. Simply based on ethnicity. A settler who eagerly practices a form of apartheid. But this same settler living outside Israel gets steamed about anyone else from outside Israel having a say about it.

            As I said above, this is the mentality of gangsters everywhere. “Leave us alone, what business is it of yours, everything is fine here, we can handle it, this is ‘our thing.'”

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Those people livimg half a km down the road NEED TO GO HOME.
            Their reletives in Amman are waiting for them !

          • Itshak Gordine says:

            You are definitely losing your nerves. someone who may never have set foot in Israel who allows himself to make false accusations. We are hundreds of thousands of Jews in Judea and Samaria. We have made it a developed, green region, with a high quality of life and a very high birth rate, with the blessing of the US government and most of the Jews around the world who are sending us their youth.

          • Ben says:

            Oh, I’ve set foot not just in Israel, I’ve set foot outside Israel, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Why don’t you tell me what settlement you’re sending these bouquets of propaganda from, settler, and I’ll tell you if I’ve been in your settlement. Or outpost.

            Is that you swimming in the Anar Springs here?
            https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-this-place-is-only-for-jews-the-west-bank-s-apartheid-springs-1.7767344

            It’s ridiculous to be having tit for tats here with brutal hard core ideological settlers spouting sugar-coated propaganda lies in the forum of a Magazine meant for much more intelligent purposes.