Understanding the Ramifications of the UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements — analysis

Understanding the UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements: What Are the Immediate Ramifications?

Can Trump’s administration overturn the Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements? Why didn’t Putin veto it? Why didn’t China veto? What are the short-and long-term implications? A guide to make sense of the mess.

Barak Ravid | HaaretzOpinion - commentary -analysis

The resolution against Israeli settlements adopted by the UN Security Council Friday sent out diplomatic, political and media shockwaves. After thousands of reports, analyses and spins, here is a guide to make sense of the mess.

Is this the first UNSC resolution concerning Israeli settlements?

No. But it is the first to deal so specifically with the settlements in over 35 years. The previous such resolution, Resolution 465, was adopted by the Security Council in March 1980. That being said, since 1980, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has undergone dramatic changes, the extent of the Israeli settlement enterprise has grown dramatically, and international community’s focus on the settlements as a threat to the viability of the two-state solution has also increased markedly.   

Is this the first time an American president declines to veto a UNSC resolution on Israel-Palestine?

No. Since 1967, all U.S.A. presidents have allowed the adoption of Security Council resolutions. To this day, 47 resolutions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been adopted by the UNSC, all during the presidencies of presidents other than Obama. President George H. W. Bush allowed nine resolutions to pass during his presidency. During President Bill Clinton’s presidency three resolutions were adopted by the UNSC. In fact, this is the first time Obama refrained from using the U.S.A. veto in the Security Council when it came to Israel since he entered the White House eight years ago. Last time a resolution on Israel was brought to a vote at the Security Council in February 2011, a resolution also concerning the Israeli settlements, Obama vetoed it.

Did Obama break a decades-long tradition according to which presidents don’t make policy changes in the interim between administrations?

No. Quite a few presidents have used the interim period between the election of a new president and his inauguration in which they are freed from political constraints to carry out far reaching foreign policy changes, including with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. For example, President Ronald Reagan used this interim period in 1988 to begin a dialog with the PLO. In fact, President Clinton used this period to present the “Clinton Parameters”, which is about the guidelines for resolving key issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Does the resolution change the legal status of the settlements, which are already illegal under international law?

No. The Fourth Geneva Convention bans nations from the moving of populations into and the establishing of settlements in the territory of another nation won in war. An overwhelming number of countries have sided for years with the position that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal and constitute a violation of international law.

What are the immediate ramifications of the UNSC resolution?

The resolution adopted by the Security Council will have no practical ramifications for Israel. The resolution doesn’t include any coercive measures or define sanctions for those who violate it, except for a mechanism by which the United Nations’ secretary general will submit a report on the state of settlement construction to the Security Council every three months. The reason for this is that the resolution was adopted under the United Nations Charter’s Chapter 6, and thus is non-binding and only constitutes a show of intent and a recommendation. The resolution is a form of diplomatic message to Israel and sets the international consensus on the settlements and further isolates Israel with regard to this issue. In order for this resolution to become binding and to allow for coercion or the imposition of sanctions by the international community it would have to be adopted under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter.

In the long-term, what are the possible ramifications?

In the medium-to-long-term the resolution may have serious ramifications for Israel in general and specifically for the settlement enterprise. The reason for this stems from the two main clauses of the resolution.

The first clause states that the settlements have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” The International Criminal Court in The Hague is currently conducting a preliminary investigation concerning a suit filed against Israel by the Palestinians. One of the issues raised in the suit is the construction of settlements. International law takes form through different measures including Security Council resolutions. Thus, this decision, at this time, could influence the preliminary investigation and could provide cause for the ICC prosecutor to order a full investigation of Israel settlement construction.

Another clause in the resolution calls on the nations of the world “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” This is a precedent in UNSC resolutions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and actually calls on countries to cut ties direct and indirect with the settlements. This clause may create a path for countries, international organizations such as the EU, and corporations to impose sanctions on the settlements. The Foreign Ministry’s assessment is that the EU would have to pass a similar resolution in its institutions and base practical steps and legislation from it.

Will President-elect Donald Trump’s administration be able to overturn the resolution or pass an opposite resolution?

Theoretically yes, though in practice not really. In order to overturn the resolution Trump would have to pass an opposite resolution, which will in fact state that the settlements are legal and are not an obstacle to peace, get the support of at least eight members of the Security Council not including the U.S.A. and ensure that Russia, China, France, and the U.K. don’t veto it. This is unlikely to say the least. Minutes after the resolution was adopted Trump tweeted that after January 20th, things in the UN will look differently. Trump will be able to influence the work of the UNSC from here on out, but history proves that there is a significant chance that he too will find himself avoiding the use of a veto on the Israel-Palestinian issue.

Will the Trump administration or Republican lawmakers stop the U.S. funding for the UN?

Some senior Republicans, including Lindsey Graham, who is chairman of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, have already announced that they will take action to cut and even stop completely the U.S.A. funding of UN institutions in response to the adoption of the resolution. The U.S. has taken similar action with respect to the UN’s cultural arm UNESCO, when it accepted Palestine as a full-pledged member. The result has been that the U.S.A. has lost its vote in UNESCO and its influence on the organization has dramatically ebbed. This adversely affected Israel, which could no longer count on the U.S.A. to stop anti-Israeli measures taken by UNESCO.

If the relationship between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin is so good, why didn’t Russia veto the resolution?

The allegedly close relations between Netanyahu and Putin fall short when it comes to Russian interests and UN votes. Russia is one of the main supporters of the Palestinians over the last 50 years. During those years and today as well Russia has been voting against Israel in every possible international forum. It is possible that things will change in the future, but at least at this stage a Russian veto on a UNSC resolution concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict belongs to the realm of political science fiction and NOT diplomacy.

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  • guyaneseonline  On December 26, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Analysis: UN Security Council Punch Knocks Netanyahu Down From Hubris to Humiliation

    The prime minister recruited Trump against Obama but the gambit blew up in his face, just as it did in the Iran deal.
    Chemi Shalev | Haaretz
    The UN Security Council dealt a harsh diplomatic blow to the government of Israel and its cherished settlement project on Friday. The international community stood shoulder to shoulder against Israel; its closest ally abandoned Benjamin Netanyahu in his time of need. Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were declared illegal under international law. The June 4, 1967 borders were reaffirmed once again. A legal framework was laid down for punitive measures by the United Nations and individual states against settlements in particular and Israel in general.
    Resolution 2334 shatters the government-induced illusion that the settlement project has been normalized, that it passed the point of no return, that it is now a fait accompli that will remain unchallenged. In recent years, after President Obama desisted from efforts to advance the peace process. Netanyahu, his ministers and settler leaders had behaved as if the battle was over: Israel built and built, the White House objected and condemned, the facts on the ground were cemented in stone.
    You can have your cake and eat it too, the government implied: thumb your nose at Washington and the international community, build in the West Bank as if there’s no tomorrow and still get $38 billion dollars in unprecedented military aid.
    The so-called Formalization Bill recently approved by the Government of Israel, which sought to legalize outposts that Israel had once vowed to uproot, was one bridge too far, or, as the vulgar Israeli expression puts it, was like pissing from the high springboard: U.S.A. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power singled it out as one of the catalyzers of the Security Council move.

    The resolution is a personal slap in the face for Netanyahu, a parting shot by a president that appreciated his Israeli counterpart less the more he got to know him. It was doubly embarrassing for Netanyahu because of the victory celebrations that his office had orchestrated only a few hours earlier, after Egypt had announced it was postponing its anti-settlement proposal. Netanyahu’s spokespersons, confidantes and supporters in Israel and the United States feted the Prime Minister’s tactical genius and magical influence over world leaders, from President-elect Trump to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. Within a few short hours, Netanyahu was left, not for the first time, with egg on his face. He fell from hubris to humiliation in one fell swoop.
    Just like his self-destructive moves to block the nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu was too clever by half. At his side, once again, was the architect of that failed gambit, Ambassador Ron Dermer. Just as they had gone behind Obama’s back to secure Netanyahu’s invitation to protest against the Iran deal in Congress and thus strengthened Obama’s resolve to fight them tooth and nail, the dynamic duo openly and brazenly tried to circumvent Obama once again by courting Trump, as if he was already president. Netanyahu now claims that Obama was part of an anti-Israel conspiracy and that he had planned to abstain in the Security Council all along; be that as it may, what is certain is that if Obama was having any doubts or second thoughts, Netanyahu’s shticks and tricks were enough to persuade him to leave the Israeli prime minister hanging by himself, high and dry.
    Netanyahu’s manoeuvres also left his BFF al-Sissi in the lurch: the Egyptian ambassador to the UN made a startling confession to the Security Council that his country had succumbed to extraordinary external pressures. One is left to wonder whatever happened to the dramatic diplomatic breakthroughs that Netanyahu has been touting recently. Where was Vladimir Putin, everyone’s favourite tyrant? What about China, which is increasingly putting its money into the Israeli high tech industry? What happened to the demise of the “automatic majority” against Israel, that Netanyahu had been projecting? How is it that despite the supposed sea change, when push came to shove, Israel was just as isolated as before? And when the president of the U.S.A. stepped aside, Israel was stripped naked, for the all the world to see.
    The depth of Netanyahu’s political embarrassment will now determine the ferocity of his response. The campaign against Obama was launched already on Friday night, as Netanyahu accused the U.S.A. president of “colluding” against Israel and his ministers returned to the bad old days of besmirching Obama as an enemy of Israel. Netanyahu, as usual, might even derive political benefits from his predicament: he is a master, after all, at deflecting the Israeli public’s attention away from his failures to the supposed enemies at the gate. The settlers might also reap some advantage: the usual Pavlovian reaction is for Israel to announce a “proper Zionist reaction” such as building even more settlements, rather than looking squarely at the deadly trap in which they have ensnared the country.
    Obama won’t be surprised. He’s seen this movie script before, several times over, but nonetheless decided to abstain. “Obama has made it clear that he’s a Jew hating, anti-Semite” said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, a prime representative of the no-holds-barred, in-your-face Jewish right wing that is in the ascendant now that Trump is about to become president. Klein’s strident vocabulary comes from the same dictionary used by Trump’s ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman, who was joined Friday by Trump’s other adviser on Israel affairs. Jason Greenblatt, who Trump appointed as chief international negotiator. A moment before U.S.A.-Israeli relations are taken over by Trump’s Jewish emissaries, some with pseudo-Kahanist views, Obama decided to remind the world what he thinks of both Netanyahu and the settlements, even though he knew full well that it would tarnish his legacy with many American Jews.
    Indeed, in many ways the Security Council vote is Obama’s last hurrah, the swan song not only of his presidency but of unequivocal American support for a two-state solution and opposition to Jewish settlements, a policy which, one must admit, Obama was better at formulating than actually achieving. Trump made clear immediately after the vote that “things will be different after January 20th” and Netanyahu quickly said that the day couldn’t come soon enough. But make no mistake: the Security Council’s deed cannot be undone. Whatever price Israel will pay for it will not change, with or without Trump.
    And before Trump is declared Israel’s saviour and a righteous gentile, it’s worthwhile pointing out that his reaction to the U.S.A. abstention was suspiciously restrained, on the one hand; but tweeted out at the same time that the president-elect was proclaiming a whole new policy on nuclear empowerment that bucked four decades of U.S.A. restraint and shocked the international arms control community. Even before the Security Council vote, Netanyahu couldn’t hide his jubilation at the impending transfer of power in Washington. He is certain that everything is hunky-dory, that he had survived the Pharaoh in the White House and that happy days with Trump are just around the corner.
    But the Security Council decision is a stark reminder of a helpful rule: When Netanyahu’s head is in the clouds, its best to check up on the bomb shelters.

  • Clyde Duncan  On December 28, 2016 at 12:58 am

    Netanyahu Is Out of Control – Zvi Bar’el | Haaretz

    After issuing threats against the UN, the United States of America, Senegal and Ukraine, all that’s left for Israel’s prime minister to do is impose sanctions on Antarctica | Opinion

    If Peter Sellers were still alive, we’d have to invite him to serve as Israel’s prime minister. For a farce like the one concocted by Benjamin Netanyahu deserves, at the very least, an actor as funny and talented as the one who brought us “The Mouse that Roared” in 1959.

    This hilarious film about the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, which declares war on the United States, was born of author Leonard Wibberley’s imagination. He undoubtedly never dreamed it would serve as inspiration for a real-life story line written by the prime minister of the Jewish state, who has decided to march at the head of the battalion just like Commander Tom Thumb in Arik Einstein’s song from “In the Land of the Dwarfs,” armed with a sharp pin in his hand.

    The imitation even surpasses the original, because Netanyahu’s war spans four continents, from America through Africa and Australia to Europe. All that’s needed to make the lunacy complete is to impose sanctions on Antarctica.

    From now on, every Senegalese mother who benefits from Israeli drip irrigation will know that you don’t mess with the Zionists. The enlightened states of Europe will know that from now on, they’ll have to beg for visits by the ministers of tourism and regional cooperation, the ministers of transportation and science, and especially the strategic affairs minister. The era of indulgence is over. What daring, what pride. From now on, it’s us against the world.

    The giddiness didn’t begin with the sanctions Israel plans to impose on countries that sponsored or supported UN Security Council Resolution 2334. Its roots lie in what Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly in September.

    “The UN, begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce,” Netanyahu exhorted the sparse audience in the hall. “The United Nations denounces Israel; the United States supports Israel. And a central pillar of that defense has been America’s consistent support for Israel at the UN.”

    Three months have passed, and suddenly, this farcical institution has become Israel’s biggest enemy. The “Oom Shmoom,” as former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion derisively dubbed the UN, the body whose decisions Israel traditionally crumpled into paper balls, has been magnified by Netanyahu to such an extent that it has ballooned into the greatest strategic threat facing Israel, while the United States is now a bunch of gangsters led by a Black Muslim.

    Anyone who needs a reminder is invited to read Paragraph 9 of Security Council Resolution 2334, the one that caused the storm. That paragraph details the previous resolutions and agreements that Israel has turned into confetti:

    Resolution 242, the Quartet’s Road Map, the Arab peace initiative, the French initiative, the Fourth Geneva Convention and the laws of occupation.

    So what’s eating him? If the UN is an irrelevant institution whose decisions can be mocked, one that isn’t capable of resolving conflicts and can do nothing but cluck its tongue in the face of mass slaughter in Syria or South Sudan, one with no more power than the Arab League, what is Netanyahu so livid about?

    Well it seems that even Netanyahu, during those interludes when rage isn’t blinding him, understands that the UN, the institution that gave Israel its international legitimacy, is more than the sum of its parts. It is neither Senegal nor Ukraine. When it imposes sanctions, leaders are put on trial and countries are liable to collapse. Or alternatively – as in the case of Iran – to sign a nuclear deal or, heaven forbid, a peace treaty.

    Therefore, a country that declares war on members of the Security Council is either a superpower or a joke.

    And Israel, despite the fancy dress, isn’t a superpower. Its prime minister has gone out of control, and it has become a country that shoots wildly in all directions, thereby destroying any chance of mobilizing an international coalition to deal with its real threats. Israel is telling itself a story of heroism against the UN while acting as if this were a second Masada.

    In Israel, the Titanic’s orchestra continues to play. But now, it’s accompanying that famous and accurate song from “In the Land of the Dwarfs,” which describes how after Commander Tom Thumb, “the cavalry come / riding on fleas / They fill the air with / whistles and the sound of songs / The drummer pounds with force / on half a nutshell / And sings: How good it is / to go out to war together! / La la la la.”

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