Why UN resolution on settlements would be bad for Palestinians

UN draft resolution marketed as opposing Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land actually lays ground to eventually legitimize them.

Mahfouz Abu Turk APA images


After 24 hours of delay and diplomatic high drama, the resolution was adopted on Friday by 14-0 with one abstention – the United States.

Original article

The UN Security Council is set to vote Thursday afternoon on a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem.

I hope the resolution fails, but let me explain why.

The resolution, promoted by the Palestinian Authority, introduced by Egypt and supported by France, contains parts that are fine, even laudable.

It ostensibly reaffirms previous Security Council decisions, such as resolution 465 which invalidates Israel’s claims to have annexed Jerusalem. It also confirms “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force.”

It recalls “the obligation of Israel, the occupying power,” to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians under occupation, and the 2004 International Court of Justice decision against Israel’s wall in the West Bank.

The draft clearly condemns “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.”

It demands a halt to “the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions.”

These elements are positive but not new.

Since there are already plenty of resolutions on the books which use almost identical – and often stronger – language, why is a new resolution needed?

All that is needed is for action to enforce existing resolutions – such as sanctions on Israel.

But this resolution, like its predecessors, takes no action. In a masterful example of empty diplomatic phrasing, the draft only commits the Security Council “to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions.”

This leisurely “examination” has been going on for half a century now while Israel continues to violently steal and colonize Palestinian land.

Undermining Palestinian rights

What is even more worrying is the rest of the resolution – read in whole, it is a clear attempt to legislate into international law the so-called two-state solution.

In September, I warned that a resolution of this kind would undermine, not support, Palestinian rights.

This draft does not contain a single reference to Palestinian rights, especially the right of return for refugees. It makes no mention of Gaza, which has been under a devastating and illegal Israeli siege for over a decade – a blockade enforced jointly with Egypt, the resolution’s sponsor.

Rather, it expresses “grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines,” as if two states, not restoring Palestinian rights, is an end in itself.

I have explained previously how the tricky phrase “based on the 1967 lines” is designed to allow Israel to annex its vast settlement blocs.

Take the older resolution I mentioned, 465 from 1980. It demands that Israel “dismantle the existing settlements” – all settlements built since the West Bank was occupied in 1967.

The draft now under consideration only calls on Israel to dismantle “all settlement outposts erected since March 2001” – the implication is that most of the existing settlements, particularly the large blocs, will remain forever.

So while being marketed as a move against settlements, this resolution lays the ground to legitimize them, albeit under the framework of a “negotiated” peace agreement.

No right to resist

There are many other negative elements to this draft, including its affirmation that Palestinians have a duty effectively to police themselves on behalf of their occupiers by confiscating so-called “illegal weapons” and “dismantling terrorist capabilities” – Israeli-style language that demonizes an occupied people.

It supports “existing security coordination” – the collaboration between Israeli occupation forces and the Palestinian Authority that is broadly opposed by Palestinians.

All this is a clear attack on the internationally recognized right of all occupied peoples, including Palestinians, to engage in legitimate resistance.

Which other occupied people has been required to ensure that its occupiers can colonize and subjugate them in tranquility?

Two pro-Israel positions

Notably, the draft warns against “a one-state reality” – language designed to stigmatize and forestall discussion of alternatives to the failed “two-state” vision of ethno-racial territorial partition – namely a single, democratic, non-racial, non-sectarian state with equality for all citizens.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that the US veto the resolution, claiming it is anti-Israel.

The French ambassador in Tel Aviv reassured Israel that its concerns are misplaced. “The tendency in Israel to say ‘the whole world is against us’ is wrong,” Helene Le Gal told media. “We say all those things against the settlements because we are with Israel, not against it.”

The clash between Netanyahu and the French over this draft is a confrontation between two pro-Israel positions.

Netanyahu represents an unabashedly racist Israel which is no longer interested in claiming that it wants peace nor that it is willing to give the Palestinians their rights under any conditions.

France represents a pro-Israel bloc of Western countries which are equally committed to Israel’s right to continue to be racist, but which believe this can only be guaranteed if some bantustan option remains open to the Palestinians.

This resolution is about rescuing Israel as a racist state that ensures its Jewish demographic majority through a battery of racist laws. Meanwhile Palestinians, shorn of their fundamental rights, will be consigned at best to a bantustan given the title and trappings of a state.

President-elect Donald Trump has weighed in on Netanyahu’s side, urging a US veto.

All attention now is on whether the outgoing US administration of President Barack Obama will veto this resolution, as it did a similar one in 2011, or abstain, allowing it to pass.

If Obama allows it to pass it will be the final act in his long record of undermining Palestinian rights.




I searched for the text of the draft resolution, but did not find the original one. Please help and share. Thank you, regards, W


If this resolution is not good for Palestinians, why then are the Israelis trying hard to stop it? There are many world leaders who are weak and only pay lip service to the Palestinian cause. Free Palestine, free the Holy Land five


After reading your article properly, I now understand why the passing of the resolution is not in the interests of Palestinians.


Sean, Ali's argument is very good and also very academic. It presupposes that past resolutions are relevant in the real world. I'm not sure why he clings to past findings since he doesn't accept the ultimate verdict; that there should be two states, side by side.
The only thing I can come up with is that he's against anything that might actually build hope for a two state solution, because he is absolutely committed to the ideal that there should be one state, with one citizenry, regardless of race, faith or ethnicity.
A laudable ideal but in the real world it's viewed as impossible by most Palestinians, who view Israelis well beyond negatively and as a roadmap to the ruination of anything like a homeland for Jews, by Israelis and many, if not most diasporic Jews as well.
The value in this resolution is in its presence in the here and now. Despite efforts to tone it down in the mainstream press it is still here and still alive and available to those who want to run with it.
But, if Bibi and sadly our Ali, have their way, we will be back to Bibi establishing facts on the ground, ASAP while one-staters retain their confidence that their ideology's power lies in its inevitability. At least that's my only guess as to why they would look this gift horse in the mouth.


You Ali have been studying this issue more carefully than I have, but I am still not convinced that a veto against this resolution will help to address the issues you raised.

I think this resolution passing will fulfill the original 1945 mission of the United Nations which was intended as a tool to end colonialism. The Zionist settler state wants to negotiate their own justification of their 68 going on 69 year long military occupation and we need an international body to hold Israel accountable. A resolution condemning their settlement construction is better than no resolution.

This resolution is the strongest measure of accountability against this occupation since the 1948 occupation, and we need this resolution. This resolution is as necessary as the charge of genocide against the U.S. government in brought by Paul Robeson and the Civil Rights Congress in 1951 and the charge of crimes against humanity by the U.S. government brought by Malcolm X and the Organization of Afro-American Unity in 1964.

Settlement construction during the Obama administration continued despite the prospect of these strongly worded resolutions however without them, the international community that stands against Israeli military occupation has no voice, and this would be silencing the generations of leaders such as Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, and countless others who are part of an international community who openly disapproves of Israeli settler colonialism. The resolution should be supported. -RF.


I agree UNSC Res 2334 is bad, since it 3 or 4 times says the West Bank settlements are wrong also or mainly because they endanger the (allegedly desirable) two-state solution. That is, they endanger the survival of the Jewish state in Palestine. The only other argument the resolution gives against them is that they are illegal.
But Ali Abunimah writes somewhat misleadingly that the 'draft under consideration' calls for the dismantlement of only those WB settlements built after 2001. The actual resolution only mentions the year 2001 so when "recalling" UNSC Res 1515 of 2003 which called for this limited dismantlement.
On the positive side Res 2334 in its 4th paragraph clearly calls all WB settlements (since 1967) "in violation of international humanitarian law" and in its 1st conclusion says they all have "no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation under international law".
Of course it should have demanded the dismantlement of all WB settlements, period. But if they are all illegal, wrong, bad, then this does imply some consequences because the UN will not say explicitly "They are illegal and wrong but that's OK, business as usual." So the Res is bad for 3 or 4 reasons, but its outright condemnation of all post-67 settlements is not one of them.
It does not, as Ali claims, imply that they "will remain forever". The Res is bad because it is Zionist. It aims at preserving Israel and blocking a one democratic state solution.


Thank you, Ali, for your clarity. I think you are absolute right on all counts. I listened to Kerry's speech and was appalled at the omissions. Many people will think it an admirable speech, and I think the man was sincere, but his lack of knowledge and understanding makes things worse, not better. The US just gave Israel a promise of 38 billion dollars, instead of sanctions, they continue to support the IDF (the strongest terrorist group in the world via their military might) and call Hamas a terrorist group when in fact Hamas in battle avoids killing civilians ("The 51-Day War") unlike the IDF. Yes, one state with freedom for all....how can any reasonable person not approve that?