US lets Security Council pass resolution against Israeli settlements

UN Security Council voted on Friday to demand that Israel halt settlement construction, but its resolution contains no consequences if Israel fails to comply.

Mahfouz Abu Turk APA images

The UN Security Council has voted by 14-0 with one abstention – the United States – to condemn Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The resolution passed on Friday demands that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard.”

It is a clear declaration that Israel’s settlement activities are illegal, but as I explained in an analysis on Thursday, existing resolutions – that have been unenforced for decades – already do that.

This resolution, like its predecessors, sets out no concrete consequences for Israel if it fails to comply. There are also key elements of the resolution – to do with the so-called two-state solution and the right of Palestinians to resist – that I argue actually erode Palestinian rights.

But supporters of Palestinian rights will at least welcome the Security Council’s renewal of its longstanding condemnation of Israel’s ongoing theft of Palestinian land. This will give impetus to initiatives that aim to end all business with the settlements.

Diplomatic drama

The vote came after 24 hours of extraordinary diplomatic drama and vitriolic Israeli denunciations of its biggest benefactor, the United States.

On Thursday, hours before the Egyptian-sponsored resolution was originally supposed to come to a vote, Cairo withdrew it.

This followed intense Israeli pressure on Egypt’s ruler Abdulfattah al-Sisi, including, as the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported, messages that the resolution “was not in keeping with the good relations and security cooperation between the countries and would do great harm to Israel.”

But the decisive factor appears to have been the intervention of US President-elect Donald Trump, who tweeted that the US should veto the resolution and phoned Sisi personally to oppose it.

Israel breathed a sigh of relief, and the Hebrew-language daily Yediot Ahronot ran a banner headline with the words “Thank you Sisi”:

Egypt’s military is highly dependent on about $1.5 billion in annual US military aid, support that only flows as long as Egypt continues to enjoy the favor of the Israel lobby.

But that was not the end of the resolution. Four other Security Council members – New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal – gave Egypt an ultimatum that if it was not going to reintroduce the resolution itself, they would bring it up for a vote on Friday.

Panic mode

This sent Israel back into panic mode. An unnamed Israeli official delivered a blistering attack on President Barack Obama and his secretary of state.

“President Obama and Secretary [John] Kerry are behind this shameful move against Israel at the UN,” the official told media. “The US administration secretly cooked up with the Palestinians an extreme anti-Israeli resolution behind Israel’s back which would be a tailwind for terror and boycotts and effectively make the Western Wall occupied Palestinian territory.”

The official was referring to the Western Wall plaza, formerly Jerusalem’s Moroccan Quarter, which is part of occupied East Jerusalem. The Israeli official called the resolution “an abandonment of Israel which breaks decades of US policy of protecting Israel at the UN.”

The attack is all the more extraordinary since last September Obama approved the largest aid package in history for Israel – an unconditional $38 billion over the next 10 years.

Also on Friday morning, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham threatened to work to block US financing of the United Nations if the resolution passed.

Malaysian representative Ramlan Ibrahim told the Security Council before the vote that the draft was made more urgent by Israel’s recent introduction of legislation to legitimize its land grabs in the West Bank.

US Ambassador Samantha Power told the Security Council after the vote that the body had “reaffirmed the established consensus that settlements have no legal validity.”

She pointed out that until today, the Obama administration had been the only US government since 1967 that did not see at least one resolution passed on the issue.

Power then claimed that the UN had a long history of treating Israel unfairly and admonished member states for criticizing Israel and applying what she called “double standards.”

For all the high drama of the vote, the situation on the ground remains the same: Israel continues to seize Palestinian land and build settlements, while the UN Security Council issues words on paper.

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Like a chronic habit thieves have of stealing, Israel will rave and rant and continue to plunder, all while crying victim. It was time Obama made a stand for the sake of human rights and helped the Palestinians, who have had no support for their deserving cause, and also time for him to signal to the rest of the world, that to condemn these criminal acts, was the only way to get out of this status quo. Israel is a criminal nation, that has no intentions of working for peace, why should they, when they have deadly weapons and the power to kill and steal lands whenever it suits them?

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For all its emotional worth for the Palestinian side, Ali Abunimah is right that this resolution is mainly symbolic, and worse - it cements Israel's legitimacy by assuming the goodness of the two-state solution, for one of those two states, as we know, is the Jewish state in Palestine.
And as Abunimah wrote in his earlier article, it legitimises all the earlier settlements!
I think this is cosmetics for Obama's legacy.
The relatively liberal Israelis know that to save Israel they have to call it quits roughly within the 67 borders. So the official Israeli rejection of this resolution shows once more that what the Israeli majority wants is all of historic Palestine (plus a bit of Syrian and maybe Egypt, eventually) to be run as One Undemocratic State.

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I agree that this Resolution is not a step forward as previous Resolutions passed have never been enforced and this is no different. And I agree that the only way to enforce a just solution is through sanctions against Israel. So if the US is Israel's prop why is it that all the other nations of the world can't stand up to ONE bully. Furthermore I find it nonsense that the buildings of the settlement cement Israeli ownership. Where in the Geneva Conventions that buildings constitute ownership on stolen land? This is Israeli storytelling. Israelis can't get along with anyone and so yes, they need a land of their own which they can call 'democratic' (for Jewish people). The mistakes of the past have put them in Palestine creating the worst threat to world peace. I think perhaps under the circumstance of Israeli intransigence a one-state solution is not viable. Israelis must leave Palestine and they must leave the homes, markets etc as PART-reparation for the horrors they have caused. Israelis must be confined to their clearly defined borders (no more land grabs in Lebanon and Syria and Palestine right to the Jordan River). It's time the world took on the two bullies.

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There are people celebrating this vote, or rather, America's abstention. They seem to regard the resolution's passage as a turning point heralding an end to Israel's impunity before the law. Personally, the whole performance strikes me as a bitter farewell joke from a departing President Obama. I suspect Palestinians on the whole will feel the same way. The Obama administration set its face against them at the outset and served the basest aims of Zionism with extraordinary devotion and consistency. This hollow resolution is a fitting capstone to the period in office of one of the most two-faced, violent and hypocritical administrations in recent U.S. history. Across the board, Obama's greatest achievement has been to prepare the way for Donald Trump to succeed him.

It didn't have to be this way.

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It didn't have to be if we had all voted to make sure Trump didn't get in. Obama did what he could, his congress was more interested in hosting Bibi and keeping their seats than supporting him. At least he's given the ball another kick on the way out.
By the way, he made it very clear from day one that if citizens had his back he would have theirs. What did he get? Obstruction from the right and heckling from the left, like you!

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To John Costello,
Call it 'heckling' from us if you will when we point to the facts of Obama's 8 pro-Israel years: Start with his buddy Rahm Emanuel, then check out his speeches like this one in Jerusalem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... then look at the record of looking the other way when more and more of the West Bank was in effect annexed, more Palestinian land robbed, and when Gazans were mass-murdered in 2012 and 2014 (and individually murdered in between times), and look at his final parting fact of the 38 billion in aid over 10 years.
You write as if the poor US President has no power whatsoever. Rubbish. Obama is a Zionist through and through who cares about 13 million times more for his career than he does for 13 million Palestinians. Like all before him, in office he in fact made things worse.

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Please see another post I sent Kay O for some explanation of my view. Otherwise I'll try to address some of your charges.
Rahm Emanuel probably left as Chief of Staff because Obama would not compromise on his plan to restart the peace process, that would - ostensibly - lead to Palestinian statehood. I don't know that but the timing of his departure matches up perfectly with John Kerry's appointment and immediate and intensive efforts in that regard. As for aid packages, military and otherwise; before the recent arms package Israel had the ability to incinerate all of its neighbors 15 times over, now they can do it 16 times. For that reason, you will completely ignore the fact that Obama just made Israel more vulnerable to international condemnation, sanction and prosecution than it has been during a 50 year process of US bolstering of its impunity.
As for his legacy; as long as a majority continues think 'deplorably', like yourself, you might as well write it. If it were up to me it would be the tale of the first Black President getting the keys to a 30 year old, 2nd rate sedan, badly in need of body work and with a broken axle. The tale would go on about he actually got it on the road, where he was continually pulled over for driving while black and chastised in neighborhoods that found his presence objectionable on the grounds of what he had to do to get on the road, where he was routinely pulled over.... well, you get the picture. Oh, that's right, you don't get it.

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To John Costello: John, why do you have that aggressive, insulting tone? Whoever disagrees with you 'just doesn't get it'. Come on, just do the debate and leave the personal stuff, please.
And let's be careful not to make this about Obama. It's about Palestinians' rights and Palestinian self-determination.

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Blake Alcott: “I think this is cosmetics for Obama's legacy”.

tom hall: “Personally, the whole performance strikes me as a bitter farewell joke from a departing President Obama.” “The Obama administration set its face against them at the outset and served the basest aims of Zionism with extraordinary devotion and consistency”. “Across the board, Obama's greatest achievement has been to prepare the way for Donald Trump to succeed him.”

Blake Alcott: “Call it 'heckling' from us if you will when we point to the facts of Obama's 8 pro-Israel years”. ...” then look at the record of looking the other way when more and more of the West Bank was in effect annexed, more Palestinian land robbed”. “You write as if the poor US President has no power whatsoever. Rubbish. Obama is a Zionist through and through who cares about 13 million times more for his career than he does for 13 million Palestinians. Like all before him, in office he in fact made things worse.”
Blake #2: “And let's be careful not to make this about Obama. It's about Palestinians' rights and Palestinian self-determination.”

Blake, I apologize for intimating that you don’t get it. Perhaps it was the fact that you seem to carry right on with the same ad homonym harangue against Obama regardless of any urging to view his position from a broader perspective. That was the gist of our debate, to which I believe I brought more than “rubbish”. Assuming the man doesn’t care, calling him a Zionist and a murderer doesn’t really add anything of substance, from my perspective. I could go on about how such emphasis on Presidents is, ironically, the flip side of authoritarianism but I wouldn’t want to offend you by intimating that you’re in any way conditioned to think along those lines.

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"...if we had all voted the right way" Do you mean if we had voted in Hillary Clinton? Pipeline Hillary? Most-favoured recipient of Saudi jewels Clinton? Killery whose first action as President would have been to invite Netanyahu to the Whitehouse? Nuke-wielding, beloved of AIPAC Hillary? That Clinton?

I hope not.

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....."Shame on you, Barack Obama."

After all BO has done to increase Palestinian suffering, he now fakes a move to leave an honorable legacy. Shame on you, Barack Obama.

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Your condemnation of Barack Obama is misplaced. He spent as much political capital as possible trying to realize the moribund, phony peace process. He got zero support from his own congress and endured multiple humiliations by Netanyahoo, as he actively campaigned for Obama's opponent in the 2012 election.
Obama has done what he must do, even the drone program is something he was forced to undertake simply by virtue of the nature of the blowback, if he hadn't. You and the so-called "Left", in general really need to get a grip on what you're talking about when you talk about the USA. You're living in a dreamworld. Obama was catapulted into a very, very real one and one that he has far, far less control over than you imagine.

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Please just stop. I am so tired of people on the Left making excuses for this fool Obama. He had 8 years to make a difference! Why didn't he use his political capital when he could have? He was extremely popular upon his first election. No excuses. He has been a cruel hoax. And because he did nothing, this abstention has been successfully portrayed as a huge betrayal of Israel. Had Obama applied more pressure on Israel at the beginning, the neocon and Christian Right would not be having such a hissy fit and would not feel such confidence about a big reverse in US policy, though in truth, there will be only a continuation of the pro Israel policies, just with greater honesty.

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Obama did expend some political capital on the I/P peace process and did so from the viewpoint of securing Israel as a Jewish majority State accepted within the ME. It is true that all he got for his troubles was humiliations from Netanyahu and co. Obama has implicitly accepted the legitimacy of ethnic nationalism; he just saw that Israeli/Palestinian status quo is not sustainable from the Israeli point of view. Israeli Zionists - whether of the right or left - appear to genuinely believe that one day they will be able to formerly annex most of the W/B and transfer out enough Palestinians to little bantustans in Areas A & B. Gaza remains Gaza. Its pretty much just an internal argument within the Zionist camp on how far territorial Zionism can go. A little difference of opinion. Let the Zionists engage in their internal squabbling.

But even if we accept that the US decided not to veto as a means of maintaining some respectability for the 2SS or to slap down Likud, this internal fighting amongst Zionists does give some impetus to civilian movements like BDS. It does give heart to those who would boycott the O/T, and then its just a small step to boycott, divest from companies that profit from the occupation. There will be no western govt sanctions against Israel - but BDS, and all attempts to outlaw it will eventually contribute to the unmaking of the Zionist enterprise.

The USA (and Liberal Zionists) will never place value on the rights of Palestinians. Surely its a question of when the US and Liberal Zionists find Israel just too high maintenance.

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I agree with the expert and careful analysis of the UN Resolution
in yesterday's EI which highlighted points which most of us would
not have decoded by ourselves. Unfortunately, neither
yesterdays article nor in the article above provide the numbers of the
original text of the Resolution provided. Such information is
always extremely helpful for those who want to read the resolution
ourselves.)

Unfortunately, no Palestinian group is at present in the position
of being able to conquer goliath Israel. We are not in a position
to demand what is needed. Palestinians have no allies either
among neighboring nations in the Mideast or elsewhere.

We can express the needs, photograph what is in fact happening.
We are not in a position to demand conditions.

(As a contrast, note the Government of Syria which has a coalition
to fight its war. )

As a result, I tend to agree with Rhone Fraser's comment to A. A.'s
article of yesterday which he entitled "WHY THE RESOLUTION
SHOULD BE ADOPTED", posted Fri, 12/23/2016.

"The battle" in the title above is not over. We cannot demand
unconditional surrender, though it is more than deserved.

I would like to read the statements of major participants
in their press releases (if available).

This basically symbolic peace of paper represents a small
tightening in the establishment of world opinion about Israel.
As opposed to the opinions of Sen. Lindsey Graham or the Senate's
Minority Leader, NY Senator Carl Schumer.

Though it may feel good, it is patently unhelpful to demand
the impossible. Doing this remains a failure of dissenting
voices.

A special appreciation to "RF" in his comment of yesterday.

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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Ali’s points about this new resolution are well made and duly taken, especially the overarching one, that it seems designed to enshrine the “two-state solution”. And his point that previous ones were even stronger condemnations of Israel’s early stages of ethnic cleansing are also good. However, his acknowledgment of the value of this righteous stand by the departing Obama administration is unduly tepid.
True that although it probably can’t be undone, it can continue to be ignored and it doesn’t address the broader question of Palestinian rights in Israel and the Diaspora. Still it comes at a time when BDS is poised to benefit from a resurgence of the issue, which he acknowledges and a hopefully, expansive debate about international law and its value, in light of western nationalist movements and the ascension of Trump and what appears to be license for total contempt of that law, its institutions and the UN.
Sure, the past had roads we should have taken and one would like to believe our race ethical enough to abide by what hasn’t been justly resolved but the fact is we aren’t, as a whole, up to it, so we have to rely on what’s carried on the breeze and hope it fans the fires we are building NOW.
Palestinian rights will continue to be an issue regardless of what solution is “enshrined”.

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While Ali is correct re the usefulness of this res it is not the end of this game.There is a meeting of Foreign Ministers in Paris on Jan 15th and it is reported that a further UNSCR will follow that before Obama leaves office..This res will deal with how the conflict will be resolved .. Netanyahu is even more concerned about that possibility.See Haaretz . Sorry , do not have the link.

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I've re-read this Resolution and found what its worst thought is. It's its 5th conclusion in which it "Calls upon all States ... to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;"
That's the whole point - there is no distinction. All of Palestine is 'occupied Palestinian territory'. The 'occupation' is of Palestine, not of the West Bank and maybe Gaza Strip. Almost all Zionist settlements except maybe old Tel Aviv and a dozen early colonies are immoral and illegal settlements, set up by British and Zionist force and trickery. There is no distinction between the territory called 'Israel' and that called the 'West Bank' and 'Gaza Strip'. It's all Palestine and belongs to the Palestinians.
That's the perfidy of this resolution, which is out to save Israel, nothing else.

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so we simply turn the tables on Israel. The mighty Palestinians and their huge alliance will lay siege to Tel Aviv and bottle up any remaining "Zionists" in their kibbutzim.
I think we're going to need Trump for this one though, so if it goes nukular we stand a chance.
Will you approach him with this Blake?

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First off, thank you. These articles have challenged my entire thought process on the vote and resolution itself. While the media has primarily focused on the negative effects this will have on Israel or the success of the vote for Palestinians, it is so important to put everything into context and see what this would actually mean for our people, the Palestinians. That being said, I need to ask the obvious question: What would have been the best outcome?? In your first article, you articulated that this vote failing could have been better for Palestine, and then stuck by that line here. Great, but then what? What should be the actionable steps here? Drafting another resolution with more intense language? You wrote that “This sent Israel back into panic mode.” Is this not a good outcome? What could have been done to further the cause, and what can be done now to move forward and make this more than some symbolic, ineffective resolution?

I wrote some thoughts on this topic in my blog, and referenced your articles. Would be great to hear your thoughts! Check it out: https://palestineroots.wordpre...

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It's perhaps ironic that any attempt to limit sanctions to the West Bank settlements and their products will ensure the fullest application of those measures over the entire nation of Israel. The process of de facto annexation is now so complete that neither in economic nor political terms can a useful distinction be maintained between Israel and the Occupied Territories. The latter are fully absorbed and integrated within the Zionist state and cannot be plausibly separated. Netanyahu understands this reality. He's done everything possible to bring it about. Pressure exerted on the colonies is a dagger aimed at the heart of the state itself.

The oft-repeated notion that the settlements are designated bargaining chips, to be surrendered in the event of a peace agreement, is entirely fanciful. These installations- cities, really- are the core constituents of the state. Israel's complete inflexibility, so baffling to many, stems from this fundamental principle. Israel stripped of colonies would lose its raison d'etre. It wouldn't be Israel. Because Israel is first, foremost and in its final conception a purely colonial enterprise.

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I agree that Israel's concept of nationhood is dependent on 'Greater Israel. However, this is not the 19th Century or even 1916 or Sykes-Picot or, perish the thought, post-WW2 Western guilt. I would venture that this concept is Israel's Achilles Heel and that without capitulation to world opinion will be the downfall of Israel. They don't see it because they are blinded by ideology and enabled by the US. 'All or Nothing' is no way to build a nation. Dream scenario: Israel wakes up and says, 'OMG, we have become the Monster. Or, in Pogo's words, 'I have seen the enemy and it is us.' It's a question of time. All empires fall. Not to compromise is fatal.

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Thanks to "Rania" and other commenters for your constructive criticism of
UNSCR 2334.

It is not a question of what Palestinians WANT or deserve. The issue is
to make the best use of what we have gotten.

As Ali and others have noted the so-called "two state solution"
has long been dead. The homicide was lead by the USA with most of
the west in complicity. As Noam Chomsky once noted, it is
HYPOCRISY to criticize Isreal alone after having given billions
which will be used in large measure against the Palestinian
people.

Is Netanyahu running for election in 2017?? If Israel
cannot be criticized {lectured" in his words!), who gave
Israelis the right to criticize their main patron,the US.
Or Iran? Does Israel have any nuclear weapons? No?
(???)

There can never be any two-state solution until and
unless Israel disarms. UN recommendations for
a Mideast Nuclear Free Zone have always passed
the General Assembly to die (with the US veto)
in the Security Council.

There are of course many other issues. And yes,
Zionists are "entitled" to nothing at all in
Palestine. Nothing. But despite this, they have
acquired their own exclusively "Jewish" nation
just as other colonial powers have: by force,
murder etc.

And with support from the US continuing.

As I have observed, Palestinians lost, have
to allies to come to their aid, no coalition as in the
case of the Syrian Government....

Promises about inheritance in the Bible are not fact as
the Bible is not an historical record. There was indeed
a Richard III in England but although he may well have
been unhorsed in battle, one cannot prove that he
shouted "Ak horse! A horse!My kingdom for a horse!"
The lack of historical proof does not detract from a
deep appreciation of the play as literature. (See
theologians Thomas L. Thom;pson, THE MYTHIC PAST
and Niels Peter Lemche, THE ISRAELITES IN HISTORY
AND TRADITION.)

===Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA