UN Security Council Condemns Israeli Settlements, US Abstains
December 24, 2016
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Zaid Jilani / The Intercept
For the first time in 36 years, the United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution criticizing the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, calling them an obstacle to the two-state solution, and calling on Israel to reverse the expansions of the settlements. The vote was unanimous, 14-0, with only the United States abstaining.
UN Security Council Passes Resolution Against Israeli Settlements
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(December 23, 2016) -- For the first time in 36 years, the United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution criticizing the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, calling them an obstacle to the two-state solution, and calling on Israel to reverse the expansions of the settlements. The vote was unanimous, 14-0, with only the United States abstaining.
The resolution was initially scheduled for vote on Thursday as an Egypt-sponsored measure, but Egypt withdrew it in the face of Israeli lobbying, and a push from US President-elect Donald Trump. The identical resolution was raised today by Malaysia, Senegal, Venezuela, and New Zealand, and finally got its vote.
Israeli officials again scrambled to try to block the resolution, suggesting the US owed them a veto, though that ultimately did not happen. Egypt voted in favor of the resolution despite blocking it yesterday, insisting that the delay was just a "procedural" matter and that Egypt supports Palestinian statehood more than anyone.
US Ambassador Samantha Power insisted that abstaining from the vote was in keeping with long-standing US policy, saying that they agreed with the language of the resolution, and that's why they didn't veto it. She also railed against the United Nations in general for not being sufficiently pro-Israel, saying the legitimacy of the UN is at stake in allowing such resolutions.
Israeli officials have indicated that the resolution will not effect any of their policies, and that they will continue with the expansion of settlements, irrespective of what the UN vote says.
Obama Allows Toothless UN Resolution
Against Israeli Settlements to Pass
Zaid Jilani / The Intercept
(December 23 2016) – The Obama Administration on Friday finally allowed the UN Security Council to call on Israel to halt its settlement expansion on Friday. The resolution essentially re-states US policy that settlement activity in the West Bank is illegal and counterproductive, and that Israel's security must be protected.
The US did not support the resolution, but it did not utilize its veto power either.
In a press call Friday afternoon, White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes explained that the White House abstained on the resolution because it "expresses a consensus international view on Israeli settlement activity."
"We thought that we could not in good conscience veto a resolution that expressed concerns about the very trends that are eroding," Rhodes explained. "A two-state solution."
The resolution is toothless -- it does not, for example, authorize any form of sanctions to compel Israel to respect international law. Yet prior to its passage, a long list of both Democrats and Republicans called on the administration to veto it, including President-elect Donald Trump, New York's Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and Wisconsin-based House Speaker Paul Ryan:
The administration's abstention reflects a larger reality: President Obama did more to shield Israel from international pressure at the United Nations than any of his predecessors.
This was the only Security Council resolution calling on Israel to respect international law that Obama ever refused to veto. Under George W. Bush, six similar resolutions were allowed through. Under H.W. Bush, nine resolutions critical of Israel were allowed through.
At the same time, Obama awarded Israel with its largest military aid package ever -- signing a memorandum of understanding in September that would give it $38 billion over 10 years.
The pressure to veto a toothless resolution shows how constricted US policy on Israel-Palestine has become in recent years, even though the American public appears to favor tougher UN action on the issue.
A recent Brookings poll finds that nearly two-thirds of Americans favor UN resolutions demanding a halt to settlements and that a majority of self-identified Democrats support some form of sanctions towards Israel to bring about peace.
Meanwhile, Israel has elected one of its most right-wing governments in history -- with a set of cabinet ministers who openly disdain the two-state solution and plan to escalate settlement building. The president-elect plans to appoint an ambassador to Israel who favors continued expansion on Palestinian land and actually helped fund settlement work as a private citizen.
The US could use its economic, military, and diplomatic ties as leverage to halt settlement expansion and demand that Israel respect the human rights of Palestinians. But in a political system where politicians from both major parties -- seeking favor from megadonors who demand a stridently pro-Israel policy -- react in outrage to simply asking Israel to respect international law, such a solution remains off the table.
Just ask Sheldon Adelson -- the pro-Israel casino magnate who helped bankroll Trump.
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