Why UN Resolution on Settlements Would Be Bad for Palestinians
The vote on the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, scheduled for Thursday afternoon, has reportedly been postponed. This came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put pressure on Egypt, the resolution’s sponsor.
The Obama administration had reportedly planned to abstain, meaning the resolution would likely have passed if it had come to a vote.
It is unclear when, or if, it will be voted on.
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.
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 US should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council on Thursday.— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) December 22, 2016
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.