image of jerusalem 2016

Israeli Settlements, Palestinian Lands!
UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016)

27 December   |   2016   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

“The Security Council,

Reaffirming its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242(1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 452 (1979), 465 (1980), 476 (1980), 478 (1980), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 185o (2008),

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,

Reaffirming the obligation of Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and recalling the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice,

Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, 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,

Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the Two-State solution based on the 1967 lines,

Recalling the obligation under the Quartet Roadmap, endorsed by its resolution 1515 (2003), for a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and the dismantlement of all settlement outposts erected since March 2001,

Recalling also the obligation under the Quartet roadmap for the Palestinian Authority Security Forces to maintain effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantling terrorist capabilities, including the confiscation of illegal weapons,

Condemning all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction,

Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,

Stressing that the status quo is not sustainable and that significant steps, consistent with the transition contemplated by prior agreements, are urgently needed in order to (i) stabilize the situation and to reverse negative trends on the ground, which are steadily eroding the two-State solution and entrenching a one-State reality, and (ii) to create the conditions for successful final status negotiations and for advancing the two-State solution through those negotiations and on the ground,

“1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

“2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respects all of its legal obligations in this regard;

“3. Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;

“4. Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the Two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the Two-State solution;

“5. Calls upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;

“6. Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism;

“7. Calls upon both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law, and their previous agreements and obligations, to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, with the aim, inter alia, of de-escalating the situation on the ground, rebuilding trust and confidence, demonstrating through policies and actions a genuine commitment to the two-State solution, and creating the conditions necessary for promoting peace;

“8. Calls upon all parties to continue, in the interest of the promotion of peace and security, to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues in the Middle East peace process and within the time frame specified by the Quartet in its statement of 21 September 2010;

“9. Urges in this regard the intensification and acceleration of international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967; and underscores in this regard the importance of the ongoing efforts to advance the Arab Peace Initiative, the initiative of France for the convening of an international peace conference, the recent efforts of the Quartet, as well as the efforts of Egypt and the Russian Federation;

“10. Confirms its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement;

“11. Reaffirms its determination to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions;

“12. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the present resolution;

“13. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

* * * * * *

After much deliberation at the United Nations let alone between governments, and following a critical few moments when some observers thought that the Security Council will blink away from addressing this thorny issue, Resolution 2334 was adopted on 23 December 2016 with 14 votes in favour and one abstention. And the 14 votes (four permanent and nine non-permanent members) that supported the much-edited Resolution became less important - although Israel censured them via their ambassadors in Tel Aviv - because the focus was on the United States that broke its longstanding tradition and did not use its veto to firewall Israel from this Resolution.

Having toiled for well over two decades on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, can I claim to be enthused by this moment of history? Did this latest UNSCR define in some way the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

My simple answer is NO - and certainly not for the short or even medium terms! So here are my four bullet-point observations about this Resolution that has been hailed and maligned by different parties:

  • It has certainly not escaped anybody’s notice that New Zealand and Senegal were the main non-permanent members of the Security Council to ‘push’ this Resolution. For me, this is key because Egypt was the initial sponsor. However, it succumbed to external pressures and withdrew the draft. This is another example of how Egypt has alas been dwarfed politically. It was once the leader of the whole Arab World. In fact, both Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak had somehow managed to maintain a fig-leaf of support for the Palestinian cause. Now, Egypt is fast becoming an apostrophe in international politics. Not only is such Egyptian irrelevance deleterious to the interests of the region, it will impact intra-Arab relations too. More so since many of the GCC have constantly striven to support Egypt with lavish financial aid. Mind you, what is equally galling is that whilst Israel was excoriating the countries that voted in favour of the Resolution, hardly any Arab country thought it appropriate to express their support for New Zealand and Senegal or for the other eleven countries.
  • The press has highlighted that Israeli Prime Minister was furious with this Resolution. I would go a step further and add that he carefully stage-managed his hysteria with cynicism. After all, although the illegality of settlements was last discussed thirty-eight long years ago in 1979, it has nonetheless remained a constant policy of all US [Republican and Democratic] Administrations. So the arrogance of Benyamin Netanyahu in expecting - demanding - the same insulation time and again whilst creating new peace-unfriendly facts on the ground is simply staggering. But this arrogant expectation is compounded further by an even bigger arrogance that he, and his right-wing allies, perpetuate about the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The way in which they colonise the lands that do not belong to them and then build outposts or settlements on them is not only self-righteous but also unlawful. It is like a thief stealing one’s home, and then bullying the rightful owner of the house that s/he has no right to reclaim the house … because it belongs to the thief after all. This is a form of political banditry.
  • But my lack of enthusiasm has little to do with Arab inertia or Israeli histrionics. It has much more to do with the fact that this Resolution will not make a whisper of a difference to ordinary Palestinians who are being gradually dispossessed of their lands whilst their cause is being mothballed by many Arab and world leaders. The UN is replete with Resolutions - both at the Security Council and General Assembly - condemning Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. And yet none made a difference over the past 50 years (my starting point remains June 1967) or helped create a two-state solution. The formula of land-for-peace, so much mooted and pilloried in UNSCR 242 and subsequent Resolutions, let alone at the potholed Oslo process, remains unenforced - and perhaps also unenforceable. In my opinion, this latest Resolution will not either, since it has no implementation mechanisms in its 13 clauses. Besides, Israel has said it will ignore it. Except perhaps that it is yet another chapter in the International law arsenal that could be invoked in some far and unpredictable future.
  • The core of the tragedy though is that the Palestinian territories that are being peopled with illegal settlers is gradually making the two-state solution harder to implement on the ground. Today, there are well over 430,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank. Another 200,000 Israelis live in east (largely Arab) Jerusalem too. So given the land-grab policies of successive Israeli governments, both Labour and Likud, and the blackmailing power of some coalition members within the Israeli cabinet, we could end up with the option of a unitary/one-state solution that pre-supposes equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians. I cannot imagine this being acceptable to the majority of Israelis, nor to an overwhelmed Palestinian Authority for that matter. Conversely, Israel will have to rule over - and subsidise - 3 million Palestinians under the obligations defined by the Geneva Conventions, and this will become a recipe not only for economic and social disaster but also for inevitable apartheid-like practices.

I find it an example of post-truth populism (yes, both those quaint expressions go together quite well in this context) when some Israelis - not least politicians the likes of Yuval Steinitz or Miri Regev - start questioning whether the USA is indeed a friend of Israel when it provides the Jewish State with $38 billion of aid spread over 10 years! Moreover, I am a tad uncertain of the hurried social media claims that President Obama instructed Samantha Power to abstain simply to spite PM Benyamin Netanyahu. Rather, I would argue that he calculated aloofly that President-Elect Donald J Trump would destroy any residual hope for a two-state solution anyway and so decided to salvage his own legacy with this last-minute manoeuvre.

So am I enthused by UNSCR 2334 (2016)? Sadly, no, as I truly believe that the time will come soon when PM Netanyahu will have to come clean and choose between settlements and the two-state solution. It is pointless for him to express outrage and suggest that this Resolution was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Even unfettered chutzpah has its checkpoints! Surely he cannot have his cake and eat it forever. Or can he?

Occupation of land and the Two-State option are antithetical. However, being a lifelong pessoptimist, I would hope to be proven wrong if only for the sake of my Palestinian and Israeli friends’ futures. So perhaps the redeeming grace of this UN drama is that it will make those choices starker for all those sitting on the fence.

However, the proof of the pudding remains in the eating, and I do not see anyone eating the pudding … yet!

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2016   |   27 December


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