RANJAN SOLOMON | 26 DECEMBER, 2016
NEW DELHI: The United Nations has 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, and had demanded a veto along with Trump.
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. Nothing new in this as Israel has always shown contempt for international law and UN resolutions.
Israel is now relying on Donald Trump, when he enters the White House, to help it keep up the illegal occupation. Trump’s 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 also recalled its Ambassador as an impulse reaction to New Zealand’s proactive stance on the resolution.
Israeli settlements are seen as a major stumbling block to peace efforts as these are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state. The United Nations maintains that the 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 office in New York reacted sharply: “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.”
Amnesty International has argued vigorously that Israel’s settlement policy is inherently discriminatory and has resulted in grave human rights violations including destruction of homes, forced evictions, unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions and collective punishment. Amnesty is now asking for mechanisms to be put in place which guarantee the resolution has teeth strong enough to get implemented.
The UNSC resolution is more than mere symbolism. 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. This is the only way forward to a just peace.
As the resolution 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 throughBoycott, Divestment, Sanctions (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 over confidence and arrogance, one can only hope for extraordinary actions to provide the stimulus for just peace to take root. And for the Palestinians to get back their homeland.
(Ranjan Solomon is Commentator,Justice for Palestine Affairs)