Saturday, December 24

Outgoing President Obama's "Parting Shot" at Israel

A U.N. Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlement construction in areas Palestinians want for an independent state was delayed Thursday, hours after President-elect Donald Trump, several other prominent Republicans and Israel slammed the motion and called on the Obama administration to veto it. [1]

The U.N. Security Council on Friday passed a resolution demanding that Israel cease Jewish settlement activity on Palestinian territory in a unanimous vote that passed when the United States abstained rather than using its veto as it has reliably done in the past.[2]

On Friday, in a dramatic departure from longstanding US practice, Barack Obama's government stepped aside and allowed the UN Security Council to censure Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a violation of international law.[3]

The international community considers the establishment of Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories illegal under international law.[1][2][3][4][5] Israel maintains that they are consistent with international law[6] because it does not agree that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the territories occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.[7] The United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice and the High Contracting Parties to the Convention have all affirmed that the Fourth Geneva Convention does apply.[8][9]

The passing of this resolution was a great disappointment for PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his team. They seem to take for granted that the US will automatically veto any anti- Israel resolutions drawn up in the UNSC. This time it just did not happen.

Many Israeli pundits view this as a “parting shot of vengeance” against Israel from outgoing President Barack Obama, whose dislike for PM Benjamin Netanyahu is no secret. All those who PM Netanyahu had regarded as close friends of Israel in the Security Council supported the anti-settlement resolution, which they viewed as a large obstacle to the Two-State Solution. Israel will re-assess its ties with the United Nations following the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday [4]. The fact that the Jewish settlements in the West Bank are expanding as well as the establishment of new settlements is destroying the Two-State Solution. This is what the Security Council members believe. This reflects the worldview on the Two-State Solution.

Having mentioned this, we must bear in mind that while this is true, and it was not in Israel’s long term interests to encourage Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas occupied soon after the Six Day War of June !967. It was a war that was thrust onto Israel by Egypt, Jordan and Syria with the objective of destroying Israel. It was not a war against the occupation as there was no occupation. They regarded Israel’s establishment as the occupation since 1948. The memories of UN Security Council members are short and possibly non-existent. Israel’s biggest mistake in the aftermath of the Six Day War was the encouragement of settlements in the areas occupied. The neighboring Arab States never, recognized Israel’s right to exist and this had nothing to do with the occupation of territory after the war. Perhaps Israel should have declared the areas occupied after the war a closed military zone (and not an area for Jewish settlement) for the purpose of using these occupied areas as a bargaining chip for negotiations for peace and recognition of Israel’s right to exist leading up to a peace treaty. However the Arab countries were never prepared to recognize Israel’s right to exist whether they had occupied territory or not as was proved in the years from 1948 until June 1967.

The biggest problem for Israel is an existential one and this has been the case since its establishment in 1948. Now that facts have been created on the ground and there are over 400 000 settlers, many of whom are second and third generation Israelis who have grown up in the occupied territories and forcing them to move out is just not a practical option. How can it be achieved, especially when there are no partners and the peace process has become moribund? The scenario for an end to the the occupation without peace partners and with Hamas, ISIS and Jihadist extremists on Israel’s doorstep coupled with the general instability and slaughter in Syria and Lebanon..We all wish that the occupation would end. The occupation is unacceptable morally. Unfortunately, the reality is different and if the occupation goes, the alternative for both Israel and the Palestinians will be far worse. The conflict has become more radical and the element of religion has become part of the conflict which is not only a dispute over land. We must also take into account the various players, including the Islamist terrorist groups such as Hamas, ISIS (Daesh), Salafis, Islamic Jihad and others. The right wing Jewish terrorist movements are also a factor that cannot be overlooked. This resolution that was passed on 23rd December 2016 by an overwhelming vote in the UNSC is not a realistic resolution and under the present circumstances is not feasible. Boycotting Israeli settlements in the occupied territories will not change the situation on the ground for the better as Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, especially the former by their own admittance, want to see Israel destroyed.

The basic thinking of the Security Council members in supporting a Two State Solution is morally justifiable but it is not practical for the reasons mentioned in this article. The big question is how to negotiate the end of the occupation and with whom. Unfortunately as circumstances are today nobody - certainly not the US and the UNSC members, have any answers or solutions. This resolution against the settlements in the occupied territories is an exercise in futility and naivety and will achieve nothing apart from elevating the ego of the Palestinian Leadership against Israel.

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