Israel punishes the world after UN vote

On Monday evening I appeared on Al Jazeera English to speak about Israel’s reaction to Friday’s UN Security Council decision.

Resolution 2334, passed by a vote of 14-0 with the United States abstaining, reaffirmed that Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem, are illegal.

While I previously expressed strong reservations about the resolution – because it does not go far enough and could undermine some key Palestinian positions – I told Al Jazeera that Israel’s panicked reaction is significant.

It is a sign that Israel interprets the UN move as a severe blow to its unrestrained colonialism on Palestinian land and as an indication that it is becoming seriously isolated.

I also argued that Israel’s attacks on President Barack Obama, and its open alignment with President-elect Donald Trump, are evidence of the fracturing of the pro-Israel bipartisan consensus in the United States.

Boosting BDS?

The resolution demands that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem,” but it imposes no specific consequences if Israel fails to do so. In that sense it is as toothless as all its predecessors.

But without the fig leaf of a peace process to hide behind, Israel clearly fears that patience is running out and that this resolution will boost Palestinian-led efforts to hold Israel accountable – particularly the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, told CNN that the resolution “encourages boycotts and sanctions against Israel.”

But Israel, already in a weak position internationally, seems determined to antagonize the world as much as possible.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the foreign ministry portfolio, has ordered that “working ties” be limited with 12 of the 14 countries on the Security Council that backed the resolution – the two others, Malaysia and Venezuela, have no diplomatic ties with Israel.

This means, in effect, that Israel is imposing diplomatic sanctions on the likes of China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France.

Israel has already canceled a visit by the prime minister of Ukraine, prompting Kiev to summon the Israeli ambassador for a dressing down.

Test for new UN chief

Netanyahu also ordered the foreign ministry to “reevaluate” ties with the UN and has reportedly cut a total of about $8 million in funding to five UN institutions “that are particularly hostile towards Israel.” It is considering withholding another $48 million in membership dues.

Israel is also reportedly considering halting visas for employees of UN agencies and expelling Chris Gunness, the spokesperson for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees.

It would be an unprecedented step for Israel to expel the spokesperson of a UN agency.

“We’ve heard nothing official and therefore I have no substantive comment,” Gunness told The Electronic Intifada.

Gunness has long been a thorn in Israel’s side – he has been one of the few international officials willing to speak forthrightly about Israel’s violations of international law and to call for accountability.

If Israel expels Gunness and is met with impunity and silence by the UN and world governments, it would be the first clear sign that the resolution passed on Friday is indeed toothless.

Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the resolution, but standing up to Israel’s bullying will likely be the first major test for his successor António Guterres, who takes over the helm at UN headquarters on 1 January.

The spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did not immediately return a request for comment.

Vitriolic

Israel is also threatening to punish the world by withholding its supposedly superior technologies.

“The era is over in which countries benefit from Israeli know-how in high-tech, in security and so on, and from the prestige of a visit to Israel and involvement in the Middle East without providing diplomatic repayment,” Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul-general in New York and a former leader in the West Bank settler movement tweeted.

Sami Peretz, a commentator for the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz ridiculed Dayan’s statement, warning that limiting exports “would be much, much worse than any harm ever caused by the BDS movement.”

Israel has been particularly vindictive toward New Zealand and Senegal, which co-sponsored the resolution along with Malaysia and Venezuela.

Haaretz reported that New Zealand acted with strong backing from the UK, and despite Netanyahu’s threats to its foreign minister Murray McCully that advancing the resolution would be tantamount to a “declaration of war.”

Netanyahu ordered the cancellation of aid projects in Senegal, including a drip-irrigation project that Israel marketed as part of the “fight against poverty in Africa” – a fight that is apparently only worth engaging in if it suits Israel’s propaganda priorities.

But the most vitriolic response has been reserved for Israel’s closest allies and benefactors.

Echoing Netanyahu himself, Ambassador Dermer has been touring television studios personally accusing President Obama of being behind the “ganging up” on Israel at the UN – something the US administration vehemently denies.

Notably, however, Israel has not shown the courage of its convictions by refusing the record-breaking $38-billion military aid package Obama recently agreed to give it.

Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman likened France’s efforts to hold an international conference in coming weeks to build on the UN resolution to the Dreyfus Affair, the notorious 19th century trial and persecution of a French military officer that is seen as a seminal example of modern European anti-Semitism.

“Ridiculous”

Netanyahu is defending his measures as “a wise, aggressive and responsible reaction, a natural response that makes it clear to the nations of the world that what took place at the UN is unacceptable to us.”

But his reaction is causing disquiet even among hardline supporters of Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies.

Dov Weisglass, a former senior advisor to the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is notorious for saying a decade ago that Israel would restrict food to Gaza “to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

Now Weisglass is calling Netanyahu’s reaction to the UN resolution “ridiculous.”

“The attempt to create symmetry between us and the rest of the world and to punish the 14 countries that voted against us is actually making the Palestinian dream of isolating Israel internationally into reality,” Weisglass said.

Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, also expressed misgivings. She argued that rather than canceling diplomatic visits, Israel would be better off trying to explain its position to the world.

“We need to get rid of this false term, the phrase ‘occupied territory.’ This is Israel’s territory — the Land of Israel,” Hotovely said in reference to the West Bank.

Hotovely may not have noticed that Israel has been trying to do that for decades, with elaborate marketing and propaganda schemes. The vote in the UN showed that all Israel’s efforts to convince the world that it has the right to steal as much Palestinian land as it pleases have come to nought.

Experience shows, however, that it is Palestinians who will feel the real brunt of Israel’s revenge: Israel is already vowing to build thousands more settler homes on Palestinian land in direct defiance of international law.

The question is whether world governments, having provoked Israel’s rage, will have the courage at last to hold it accountable.

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Comments

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“The era is over in which countries benefit from Israeli know-how in high-tech, in security and so on, "

Does this mean that far fewer nations will be sending their police depts to learn "crowd control " methods (Israeli style).

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Considering that the resolution is unencumbered by an enforcement mechanism, and that Donald Trump's new appointments demonstrate an unprecedented level of fealty to Israel, the panicked reaction from Netanyahu is somewhat encouraging. He seems to have recognised that increased support from the incoming administration cannot offset the effect of popular revulsion for Israel's crimes. Although Palestinian suffering will probably escalate in the short term, any and all actions taken by Israel to "punish" other nations and expel UN officials will hasten the isolation necessary to bring about real change. Still, the threat to suspend trade with countries like France, China and the UK is absurd. The fact remains that Israel needs the world. The world does not need Israel.

They're beginning to feel the pinch, and they don't have an answer.

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What we need now are countries, with enough gonads to put BDS through the security council and pass it . Enough already , and Israel should stop playing the victim .

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Totally agree. Hopefully, there will be more miraculous gonads. I have looking for a satirical take on Israel's ridiculous response to the US 'betrayal'. So far haven't found one. Not even from the Land of Satire, which sadly seems to have turned into the Land of Shill. The US, Britain and Canada--the enabling three. Where is Jonathan Swift when we need him?

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Nice thought but highly unlikely that many western politicians will develop gonads let alone a backbone
any time soon. There's not much that stops a politician from the usual inane rambling but any mention of Israel does the trick. Having seen them tight lipped and incompetent for so long , particularly in the UK, it makes me ashamed to be british. How can we slaughter thousands in one country for none compliance with a UN resolution yet reward another country with unlimited support for precisely the same thing?

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"World governments having the courage"...now that will be a day we will never forget. But, as soon as the bullying from Washington starts all over again, is that day near at hand?

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Whether Netanyahu's reaction to SCR 2334 is primarily prompted by his fear that the resolution is a real blow to Israel's settlement project and that the days of impunity may be coming to an end, or that his behaviour is just an extension of domestic politics, keeping the other right-wing nutcases at bay, one thing is clear; Israeli politics are verging on the unhinged. This is stuff you would expect to see in a political farce and then think it was a tad too exaggerated.

Ali raises a good point. It is the Palestinians who will bear the brunt of Israeli rage and all who voted for the resolution should not quietly leave them to their fate. The resolution (as I understand it) does initiate reporting obligations re settlement construction to the SC (quarterly?) which does raise the possibility of further SC action if Israel defies SCR 2334. OK, Trump will veto - but this will not be an entirely painless or cost-free for the USA - it will be, at the least, an unwelcome wedge between the USA and the EU.

Given that the real challenge for the USA is the rise of China and how to deal with its increasing economic might, why would the USA really want to piss off its other allies in the EU just for an intransigent client state like Israel. Maybe support of unrestrained Zionism is a luxury that the USA cannot really afford anymore.

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The reason that Netanyahu, et ilk, became unhinged after passage of the Security Council resolution may have more to do with their fear of imprisonment for war crimes than with concern for Israel. The Security Council resolution would bolster a future prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Israel's "settlement" activities in the Occupied Territory of Palestine. This is frightening for Netanyahu and friends because the ICC focuses its prosecutions on heads of state and other high-ranking officials actually responsible rather than scapegoating low-ranking officials. At the same time, the ICC is under heavy fire for not prosecuting anyone other than African national leaders; prosecuting Israeli officials offers the ICC a method to regain some public trust.

The ICC Prosecutor issued her 2016 Report on Preliminary Examination Activities on November 24, 2016. https://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdoc...

According to the Report: " The UN Security Council and International
Court of Justice, among others, have regarded the annexation of East
Jerusalem as a violation of the jus cogens norm prohibiting the acquisition of
territory by military force. " [Para. 116.] The report goes on to list an enormous number of alleged crimes associated with Israel's occupation and colonization of East Jerusalem and the West Bank that the Prosecutor's office is investigating. [Para. 130-134.]

In the above context, the later-issued Security Council resolution condemning Israel's settlement activities as "a flagrant violation of international law" in my view nearly urges the ICC to take up the settlement issue, reassuring the Court and its Prosecutor that there is widespread current international diplomatic support for doing so.

So Netanyahu and friends have solid reasons to fear mightily the fall-out effect of the Security Council resolution at the ICC. They may fairly soon be dodging arrest warrants.

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