UN Security Council condemns Israeli settlements

The historic resolution passed after the US abstained.

openDemocracy Opendemocracy
23 December 2016
Jewish settlement of Beit El. Tsafrir Abayov/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.

Jewish settlement of Beit El. Tsafrir Abayov/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.A United Nations Security Council resolution, condemning the construction of Israeli settlements in the Palestine Occupied Territories as having “no legal validity", has passed 14-0, after the US abstained. It demands that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory”.    

The Obama administration’s choice not to veto the measure is a strong rebuff of Israeli policy and traditional US-Israeli diplomacy: the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said “one cannot champion settlements and the two-state solution”.

The resolution came after an extraordinary personal intervention by president-elect Donald Trump to steer the draft measure away from a vote (originally sponsored by Egypt) – both Trump and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and the vote was postponed. But other countries on the Security Council – New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal – put the resolution up for a vote anyway.

The Trump administration has strongly indicated that it will take a very different line on Israel.

As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2016

You can read advice to the president-elect from Sam Bahour – an American citizen and Palestinian who has lived and worked under Israeli military occupation – over here: “the US must finally start to hold Israel accountable as the military occupier that it is. A good start would be to revoke the $38 billion military aid package, and link that money to future Israeli concrete action to dismantle its military occupation. That $38 billion would go a long way for your much-toted infrastructure upgrade project to help “Make America Great Again.”"

In September, Stephen McCloskey took a trip to the West Bank, which has witnessed a worrying contagion of conflict over the past year, while the construction of settler colonies continues apace. In Hebron, McCloskey witnessed the impact of settlements on Palestinian commerce, with dozens of shop fronts welded shut by Israeli military to accommodate settlers in the city: “a once bustling market place was eerily quiet as we watched fresh Israeli flags being hoisted by the military on to buildings that once housed Palestinian families”. You can read about his visit here.

And for some important historical context, our fascinating interview with professor Derek Penslar, former professor of Israel Studies at Oxford University, offers a possible explanation for why Jewish nationalism is so divisive and garners such controversy: "In terms of political movements and geo-political structures in the twentieth century, Zionism represents one-stop shopping: it is a nationalist movement with a strong socialist component embodied in Labour Zionism. Counterpoised to Labour is a right-wing version of Zionism that has at times flirted with fascism. The Zionist project combines colonialism, anti-colonialism, and postcolonial state-building. The entire twentieth century, wrapped up in one small state.” You can read the entire interview here. 

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